Commercial Permaculture Farm Design

Below is a link to a design for a commercial permaculture farm I recently designed for a local client.


  • Zone 6
  • North Facing Slope
  • 4 acres
  • Currently cut for hay
  • Loam soil


  • No flat land
  • Soil not good for earthen ponds, also no good sites for a pond
  • Contamination coming from busy roadside
  • Client would like a profitable farm, without the use of chemicals


I really enjoyed working on this design, and I feel that if implemented, it can offer many avenues for profit and charity. I used large swale systems, but not very deep to limit the edge effect (maintenance). The swales will help to slow, soak, and spread the water and nutrients that enter the site, and grow healthy trees. The plants along the road on the first swale and part of the second were specifically chosen for their phytoremediation abilities in dealing with the contaminants coming from the roadside.

I chose a large variety of plant material, with at least one nitrogen fixer per productive tree. I never had a productive tree of the same variety next to each other. This will help with the goal of no chemicals. Also, the fruit and nut trees that were chosen were done so as trees that can produce a good crop without chemicals. Furthermore the varieties were chosen for their uniqueness, as I wanted this farm to offer an unparalleled experience with fruits and vegetables not commonly found at grocery stores. I do not feel it is a good strategy to try to compete with the common fruit and vegetable producers.

The area between the swales could be grazed with moveable electronet fencing by poultry, sheep, or goats. The bottom corner of the property is wet and fertile, so I chose a large bamboo grove here. This is denoted with a (1). The bamboo will provide building materials, stakes, and edible shoots. There is a nut tree grove in front of the bamboo grove. This made sense because the site is already growing a few walnuts in this area nicely. Also, as this is a long term proposition, and rarely tended, this area is far away from the market in zone 4.

The market will be a simple structure that will be heated. In front of the market facing south will be a lean to underground greenhouse, similar to Mike Oehler’s style of greenhouse. We will probably have to put a fence in front of the glass so people don’t walk on the greenhouse. Yes, I know its common sense not to walk on glass, but you never know.

Behind the market is a terrace garden where herbs, veggies, berries, and vines will be produced intensively. This area will be heavily mulched, sprayed with compost tea and tended regularly. This is definitely zone 1. Again, diversity abounds.

Beyond the terrace garden to the right is a square plot that will house the laying chickens and bees. I have selected tree, shrubs, and groundcovers that will be very beneficial to the bees and the chickens. The chickens will be moved along a round access track that will simply be mowed. The entire square plot will be fenced, with half of it already fenced. We will not move fencing for the chickens. They will free range, but the coop will be moved every few days. In my experience chickens will stay relatively close to the coop, so we can essentially move them around without having to constantly move fencing. Bedding and manure from the chickens can easily be used in the zone 1 terrace garden. The bees will be kept naturally in Warre hives with a shelter over top facing southeast.

Potential Revenue Sources

1. Bamboo products

2. You pick orchard

3. Fruits and vegetables sold at the roadside market

4. Tours and permaculture education

5. Eggs

6. Maple syrup

7. Plant sales

8. Compost tea sales

9. Honey

10. Honeycomb

11. Splits & Nucs

~ Phil Williams

Phil Williams is a permaculture consultant and designer and creator of the website  He is also the author of numerous books, most recently, Fire the Landscaper and Farmer Phil's Permaculture. His website provides useful, timely information for the experienced or beginning gardener, landscaper, or permaculturalist. Phil's personal goals are to build soil, restore and regenerate degraded landscapes, grow and raise an abundance of healthy food of great variety, design and install resilient permaculture gardens in the most efficient manner possible, and teach others along the way.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at

Just the finishing touch I need on my Costa Rica properties.  See and click onto Costa Rica Retreat,  Photo Gallery, videos, etc.   Looks awesome, as my daughter would say.   I also plan to have an overview with a drone shortly–should be great fun and very useful.  Ken

Thanks Ken. Your Costa Rica property look beautiful. I envy your endless growing season. 

The area between the swales could be grazed with moveable electronet fencing by poultry, sheep, or goats. The bottom corner of the property is wet and fertile, so I chose a large bamboo grove here.
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