Otis is a man that I made up. He is actually an average of several dozen people that I have talked to.
Otis was born in one of two houses on this 200 acre property. The old house. Otis built the newer house himself about 40 years ago. He inherited the property from his mother about 35 years ago.
Otis has three kids. They moved away more than 40 years ago. They are not insterested in working this land. They are, however, very interested in inheriting the land and selling it.
Otis knows his time is coming. Otis wishes that he could will his land to somebody industrious. Somebody that would do something with the land. Otis knows of some people - but they already have land, so they would just sell this property, no different than his kids.
Otis has the 200 acres, two houses, a good barn and a dozen outbuildings. He has a reliable tractor, a reliable truck and about $80,000 in the bank. He had to let the animals go because he couldn't really care for them properly anymore.
He has put a lot of thought into willing his land to somebody industrious. He doesn't trust college kids - what have they done? What have they built? Even the kids with an ag degree. The high school kids he has met in the area seem to be developing a deep relationship with phones and video games. He can't remember the last time he has even seen a high school or college age kid put up a cord of wood.
There are some kids in the local 4-H, but they seem barely able to pull off their 4-H functions. None of them could manage a full property.
Otis is willing to will all of his posessions to somebody truly industrious. Somebody where there is some way to really KNOW that they are industrious. But he's giving up. Just let everything go to his kids. His life will be sold to the highest bidder so his kids can have money.
I was on the phone with Mike Oehler, author of several books including "The $50 and up underground house book". He knows his time is coming soon. He is asking me for the name of anybody that could be even slightly industrious?
About fifty years ago, Mike bought 45 acres in the panhandle of Idaho. Just a few hours away from me. During his time on the property, he had lent a helping hand to a woman with a property adjacent to his. When she died, she left her 7 acres, house, cars and everything to Mike.
Mike's property now has about eight of his specialty design structures on it - including he latest effort "The ridgetop house".
Mike's book business is doing pretty good and he has two more books ready to roll.
Mike would like to will everything, including the book business, to one industrious person. He wants them to come out and prove their industriousness for a few months. Over the decades, there have been about 60 people that have come to Mike's place with the idea of building something rather permanent - to be a long time or permanent part of Mike's empire. They are all gone. Mike has told me a lot of the stories. True comedy. Some ended up leaving because Mike would not do what they told Mike to do, and some because Mike ran em off. My favorite story is the woman with the knife that was there for all of one day, running off with the cook after sexing up all the workers and threatening them with the knife - and the next day everybody decided that they needed to get away from such a potential threat. Oh wait .... I'm getting a bit off topic.
Back to our conversation. This is probably the eighth time that Mike and I had this conversation. Each time he thinks that if he can just say it to me in a louder and more angry voice that THIS time he will get somebody. As is, I did share Mike's message with a lot of potential folks. One fella from my place went up to Mike's and stayed about two months before Mike died. Groundhog day 2016 - especially fitting for a dude that is so into digging.
The last will made it so everything went to Mike's niece. She sold the property and is trying to keep up on selling Mike's books. I haven't heard a peep about the last two books - so I guess they are still unpublished.
Reading between the lines a bit: Maybe two months in the winter wasn't enough time for Mike to be impressed by this guy at his place. At least impressed enough to change his will before he died.
I have heard from dozens of people offering land like this. When I share the stories, I hear from lots of folks that say "I'll take the land!" but I am not aware of their accomplishments.
This thread is about "the Otis test". For a lot of PEP stuff, I am trying to satisfy many things. And one of those things is "do I think Otis will be impressed?"
I can see Otis getting online (that alone could take some doing) and seeing a list of 12 people that are PEP4 certified and looking for what they will do next. And there is a list of 12 more that will probably be PEP4 certified in the next six months. He needs to see evidence that they have done some real work - according to the standards of Otis. For any one person there is a list of what they have accomplished. And he can see pictures of them doing it and the final product. PEP4 certification means that they built their own house with their own hands and lived in that house through a montana winter. They have grown and preserved enough food to feed themselves and several others - not just a meal or two, but a full year of food for several others. They have put up firewood, sharpened tools, built furniture, ... they even have a lot of experience with plumbing, electrical, welding, excavators and whole bunch of interesting stuff Otis has never heard of (that stuff must be good stuff, because dozens of people appear to have experience with it).
Otis needs one person and found two dozen. Success.
Mike needed proof of one industrious person. So here there would be proof of two dozen. He could change his will immediately rather than trying a person out for a year or two.
Completing PEP4 is no guarantee of getting Otis's plot. But I do promise that there are thousands of Otises that are looking to will their land to somebody with experience like what is completed in PEP4.
I actually worry more about the opposite problem: People not finishing PEP4 becase they have been connected to their Otis.
I suspect that ten years from now, there will be 40 Otises for every person actively pursuing PEP4.
I know of two men who could have had hundreds of acres and a working dairy farm, all for the taking. One guy lost it because he drank WAYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY too much, and the other guy quit after working on the farm for 30 years.
The biggest issue is knowing how to talk to these landowners. With Maine having the oldest population, what you describe is everywhere, and I tried. I applied for a non-profit that worked linking farmers, but they just could not see that a fancy agricultural degree is not going to link those who want to farm, with those who currently have the land. There is a saying, "You can buffalo the fans, but you cannot buffalo the players", and so land is being developed instead of farmed. I'm a farmer; I can talk to farmers on their level, but the non-profit went for something ineffective...the kid fresh out of college with teh degree. Now thereis a list of about 600 people wanting a farm in Maine to about 20 landowners willing to sell.
But all this is why I support your efforts for Pex/Pep; it is a good thing. A real good thing...
A sincere thank you to all of Permies Forums for making Christmas special to Katie and I, and our four daughters. Thank you!
Travis Johnson wrote:Paul: I respectfully disagree.
There are 40 Otis's now to 1.
By reading the rest of your post .... do I understand that the point that you are disagreeing with is "10 years from now" vs. "now". So I was saying in ten years and you are saying that it is the way now?
If so, I agree with you - but we don't have anybody working on PEP4 yet - mostly because we are just now hammering out the details.
I think on potential hiccup with this test is, if you wait for people to get to PEP 4, building your own house, land, food production, etc. - most of these people already have what Otis is offering, and so have no need for the property(unless it's adjacent to their own plot.)
If I already completed PEP 4 on my own homestead in Montana and am satisfied, what can would I do with another one in Tennessee? Sell it, unfortunately.
It seems like completing PEP 3 should be difficult enough to prove one's potential to Otis, and PEP 4 is necessary to become an Otis yourself.
Unless you are planning on PEP4's to be completed through more temporary means, like PDC's, workshops, internships/ANT Village, and the like.
I'm thinking every Otis probably has his or her own standards for people they are looking for. Some may want someone with a PEP 3 or 4 because they don't have time to teach/vett them more. Some Otises might just want a PEP 1 or 2 person, becuase they plan on teaching them some, and just want to see that the person has the basic skills to clean up after themselves and not break a tractor and knows how to wield an ax and hammer. I've been sorting through hundreds of Land Share and Internship threads over the past few months, and I've seen people all along that spectrum. The permacultre Real Estate forum also has some people who really just want to find one special person--pronto--to inherit their land.
I think the value of the PEP program is that every Otis can have different standards and hopefully find people with them. And, some Otises might want to have a school or host interns, and want to prove that they are, indeed, qualified with a PEP4 and able to train people, and that their land is worth inheriting.