Friday, September 23, 2011

How Permaculture Saves Money: Plant a Fruit Tree!

Planting a fruit tree can save, and maybe even make you, money!

Permaculture can save you money!  There are many ways this is true.  I plan on using posting examples of this from time to time.  The first example I want to use is by planting a fruit tree.  Please hang in there if some simple math causes you to glaze over... it will be worth it.

Initial cost of the tree: $26.50 (Williams Pride Apple Tree, full-sized)
Seller states this is an apple that is highly rated for flavor.  Large red fruit with a sweet rich spicy flavor.

Cost of fruit in a grocery store: $1.50 per pound
No, you cannot get this excellent tasting apple in stores.  This is just an example price, about average, for apples in the produce department.  Many are cheaper, and some are more expensive.

Years to begin producing: About 5 years to begin and up to 10 for maximum average production
Quantity of fruit produced: 100-400 lbs of fruit per season after it is about 10 years of age
Years of productive life: 35-100 years
Note: You can buy a dwarf apple tree that will begin bearing fruit in only 3 years; however the amount of fruit produced is less and the tree doesn't live as long.

Net total of fruit produced:
     Minimum: 100 lbs a year for only 35 years = 3,500 lbs of apples
     Maximum: 400 lbs a year for 100 years = 40,000 lbs of apples!

Cost of fruit produced (in today's prices):

     Minimum: 3,500 lbs of apples x $1.50 per lb = $5,250
     Maximum: 40,000 lbs of apples x $1.50 = $60,000!

So, am I saying that we will be rich (monetarily) if we plant some fruit trees?  No.  While, it is fun to run the numbers and see what the theoretical potential of a scant $26.50 investment, it would be highly unlikely to earn $60,000 dollars from one apple tree.

However, it is very possible to save $5,000 by planting one apple tree over the course of its productive years.  If we never had to buy an apple again in our life, how much would we save?  If we sold all the apples, we could make a little extra money as well.  If we produced value-added items (applesauce, apple jelly, apple butter, apple pies, apple juice, apple cider, etc.) we would be able to make even more, but it would also cost us some of your time.

Now what if we had early, mid, and late-season apples (apples that matured through the growing season)?  What if we also had pears, persimmons, plums, peaches, medlars, cherries, paw-paws, walnuts, etc.?  We would have the ability to significantly cut our food costs, and this is just from trees!  We would have healthier food as well.  If we incorporated all of this into an Edible Food Forest, then we would substantially cut our time as the system helps to govern itself.

This is just one reason I am such a huge proponent of Permaculture.  This food cost savings is why Permaculture is sweeping through the developing world.  When the majority of your money is going to buy your and your family's daily food, a well designed Permaculture system can be like winning the lottery.  But don't be so arrogant to think that we in the western world don't have to worry about food costs.  Our food costs are beginning to significantly rise as well, and many experts believe this trend is going to continue and worsen in the next 5-15 years!  (Read more in this post about the soaring costs of food.)

The best time to plant a tree is today!  Get out there and do it.  Don't just read about it and plan and plan and plan.  Just get it done!  It will be worth your time and money to do so.  Trust me.


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