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The Otis test

 
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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.












 
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Paul: I respectfully disagree.

There are 40 Otis's now to 1.

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...
 
paul wheaton
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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.

 
paul wheaton
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This thread is about "the otis test" as it relates to PEX and PEP.  

If you want to ask for free land, I suggest you do so in a different forum.
 
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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 guess I answered my own question?
 
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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.

It can go a lot of ways!
 
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I have questions...

How would a transfer of of an estate take place? It appears that potential recipients would be groomed by the credentialing authority and through a website be selected by the elderly farmer to what? Are they to be added to the last will and testament and then come and help out, or is it more, they will come and live in/build a second residence and over time prove to the elderly landholder they deserve to inherit the property?

In the example Otis has been portrayed as a curmudgeonly older male whose age is approaching 80 years old. Otis in the example has a negative opinion on pretty much everyone local and especially his children who moved away 40 years prior. The relationship with the children is not fleshed out (are there grandchildren?). Are they present at holidays, visiting with spouses and children, seems likely considering they want to/expect to inherit anything unless they are truly estranged from Otis, seemingly irrevocably?. Also, where is Otis’s wife (Opal)? Did she some time in the depart the mortal coil, or has she run off with a piano salesman? In any event, the assumption is the property is unencumbered by liens or additional names on the deed. Also, Otis has 200 acres, so does he have any hired help? Are there existing agricultural

My observations of elderly folks is they get selfish in their old age. After all, they often hold all the cards financially and are subject to being taken advantage of. Along comes the heir apparent (let’s call him Pepe) who is trying to impress upon Otis that Pepi is worthy of inheriting Otis’s property. This puts Otis in the catbird seat holding the whip hand over Pepe. If after 5 years of toil by Pepe what happens if Otis suddenly:

- Decides to marry Orly, the 35 year old waitress at the Waffle Shop who also has three kids.
- Reconciles with the children and decides to leave the property to them after all.
- Pepe does something to piss off Otis so that Otis no longer wants Pepe around.
- Otis has a fall and breaks his hip, landing in an expensive nursing home.
- Pepe injured himself seriously and cannot work or evening stay on the farm.
- Otis succumbs to dementia and fails to pay his taxes, toppling the property into foreclosure.
- Pepe marries Orly, enraging Otis who fancied her.
- Otis dies before finalizing the transfer of the property.
- The children show up with a lawyer and challenge Pepe’s rights to the property, demanding that it be sold and divided up.

You get the idea. Even in cases where all the parties Intended that the inheritance happen, events occur that prevent it from going through. I know a number of people who expected to inherit property (deservedly so) and ended up not getting the land. In one case the relation literally provided elder care to the owner for years, cleaning and fixing the house and helping dress and even bathe the elderly individual and ended up written out of the will. I’m not a lawyer, but have been the admin on a few estates and have spent some time pondering these issues. Each state has rules specific toland transfer and these can differ a lot from state to state. In my experience, the only way to lock down the transfer of land is to put the recipient on the deed while alive. There are different ways to have multiple people on a deed, as a co-owner who will inherit the other owners portion (I.e. not part of the estate) or where the co-owners portion can be willed to someone else (tenets in the entirety versus tenants in common). Deeds and wills can be larded with rules and such, but generally these extra-ordinary types of additions are often struck off in probate (have seen this). Trying to reach out from the grave to influence what happens to your property after you die is a heavy lift, ask any estate lawyer. There are trusts that can be established at some considerable cost and even then the trust can often be broken if it has any mistakes or circumstances dictate a change. It will be difficult for Otis to control what Pepe does from the grave and Pepe may just decide a change is needed and sell up to developers a year after inheriting the property. If Otis ends up in an extended stay in a nursing home/hospice, it is entirely possible the state could attempt to seize the property to pay the bills.

One way a land transfer could work that gives some security to both parties would be where upon agreeing to take on Pepe as his heir is where Otis adds Pepe to the deed as a 5% owner, perhaps in exchange for a payment. That way if things go south Pepe is not left empty handed if he isn’t able to inherit and the land is sold. Over time by agreement Pepe’s share increases incrementally until it reaches 50% and Otis decides Pepe will not murder him in his bed, Otis executes a will leaving his half to Pepe. This arrangement still subject to possible abuse by either party, but it does give Pepe a little bit of power. Putting someone on the deed is a huge step for someone like Otis and honestly, given his description I would place the odds of him doing it at around zero. Otis would want maximum control over his situation right up to the end. Honestly Otis comes across as a lonely, bitter man whose real purpose in making this sort of arrangement is to poke in the eyes of his kids and anyone else who wants his property.


 
paul wheaton
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Excellent points.  

I think that when we get within a year or two of a match being made, everything you just wrote will be of powerful value as the paperwork is drawn up.

 
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Interesting predicament you've got Otis in, James. I don't doubt these concerns. In fact, I imagine Otis, the generous sort he's ended up, will portion the property/farm/land as a business to the partners the business takes on; relations aside.

Initial partners, in my scenario, would likely be a landowner and investor with assets similarly equal. They would run their relevant enterprises in accordance with their partnership and the business. Farmer partners, would be brought on earning share in accordance with their assets, which are expected to be experience, strong back, family and years to bring the vision forward, and similar goals as the partners. Farmer partners would enter a sort of tenure track program as associate farmer partners in various farm enterprises under an arrangement similart to Salatines Memorandum of Understanding. The difference being that associates track assures them both profit share and voice share.

I'm still working it out, and all ideas are appreciated. I received this series from my local Ag Extension. It goes into how the landowner partner and investor partner could structure the partnership as a business and make way for associate farmer partners to join.
https://vimeo.com/332514796
- David
 9 Partners
Soil, Water, Climate
Landowner, Investor, Farmer
Community, Student, Sponsor
https://hudsonvalleyfarmlandfinder.org/find-a-farm/property/9-partners-farm

 
Travis Johnson
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Maine is an interesting study in this. We have the oldest population in the nation, and due to a lack of jobs, our younger population is leaving. This leaves us in a huge conundrum...what to do with the elderly, and the land they have since, Maine is 95% privately owned.

Generally what people do is...NOTHING.

No will, no estate planning, nothing. As my wife's grandparents say quite elegantly, "We'll let the kids fight over it. We are dead so what do we care?"

Some people have tried to come up with a system of land transfer, but it is a 100% scam. It is called FarmLink, where they try and unite the Landowner with a younger farmer, but it was put into place by lawyers and politician's, and so this is what happens. The young farmer buyer gets put on a waiting list that they have to pay annually for, and stay on there, and stay on there, and stay on there, because the ratio of available land to get, compared o those on the waiting list to get it, is pretty lopsided.

But it is no better for the landowner. Not only do they have to pay an annual "fee" for their land to be in the program, the FarmLink program can sell development lots off the land, to help off-set costs. Yeah, that was what the annual fee was supposed to do, but what it really does is allow the FarmLink program to sell off the most desirable pieces of land in 2 acre increments...what you and I call development. They get away with it because they say it is for "farm hand housing." But it is not, its selling off house lots.

All this has made a lot of people very skeptical, so I am not sure what the answer is, but I see a lot of land being logged off right now, and big acreage being sold off.
 
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Farmlink sounds awful. Our Hudson Valley Farm Finder is largely an unmoderated list put on by American Farmland Trust and local conservancies. Their thinking doesn't go beyond indebting young farmers with land/farm owners with lease agreements that from my opinion are without much efficacy for stopping the brain drain of farmer knowledge and skills to the next gen nor do lease arrangements - in this regard - keep or put farmland into ag production at scale over the long term.

That said. They are considering adding a tab for "Investor Partner". Partnering is a slow row to hoe.


 
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David McGhee wrote: They are considering adding a tab for "Investor Partner".



"Investor Partner" looks to me like one is supposed to have a handful of cash going in.
 
paul wheaton
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I think if folks wanna talk about what a legal agreement might look like, that is an excellent idea.  Maybe start a new thread?
 
David McGhee
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@Travis; What's up with that? Given the conditions, I'd expect they would have a good partnership model. Come to think of it maybe not. It was a Mainer who retored, "Parnership is the only ship that won't sail."
@James; I've grown suspicious, after having my farm dreams posted there for a year now. In fact, I've been vocal to them that their "Farmer to Farm" links are prolly doing more harm than good.

Right, Tyler.. Investor partners' resource is cash or land of equivalent value. In my model, somewhere equivalent to $500,000, if it's the case where we buy property and build out a small-midsize operation in the Hudson Valley east.

But, without detailing here please catch up with me, as Paul kindly suggests, elsewhere.  I started this thread 7 mos ago link below.  
https://permies.com/t/103150/experiences/Otis-Seeks-Olivia-East-Coast

Can we explore how partnerships can work to transfer property for Ag/conservancy purposes without farmer indebteness to wasteful lease scenarios. Think Salatines Memo of Understanding but with farmer share in profit and voice. Considering the 9 Partners model. My focus is currently to define the Investor Partners and Landowner Partners.

I'm trying to do so in a way that illustrates my personal goals as a framework from which I can think about building partnerships from a more general description. For example; I feel that in general, investor partners and landowner partners should remain low 3-5(at most) each with equal resources (cash/land/animals/structure/...) In my example we'll each need about $500,000 between 2-3 people.
- David
 9 Partners
Soil, Water, Climate
Landowner, Investor, Farmer
       Community, Student, Sponsor
https://hudsonvalleyfarmlandfinder.org/find-a-farm/property/9-partners-farm

btw,
Olivia remains equally elusory.



 
Travis Johnson
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I think Paul has the right idea, I am just not sure how to work something so that the most vulnerable (the aged landowner) does not feel so cautious, they end up doing nothing.

I know in my life I could have had an entire farm granted to me. And before me it was another kid I graduated with. For him, he had the issue of having a drinking problem so it fell through, and for me, I already had a farm. Ultimately the farm was sold to some Amish, so no harm, no foul by any means, but I can say with 100% honesty that I could have had several hundred acres more given to me had I wanted it.  I pay enough taxes now, and grew up on a dairy farm...no thanks.

As for me and FarmLink, I went toe-to-toe with their attorney and won. I asked her outright why landowners had to pay an "annual fee", and it eventually came out that it was to pay their salaries, them being politicians and lawyers.

I also put some hard questions to her on why any land deemed ForeverFarm could be taken by eminent domain as our local high school did. They could have taken the land on the right side that was in house lots, but because it was more expensive then protected farmland, the state took the farmland by eminent domain from a 4th generational farm. I told her right the they her piece of paper could not protect the farm at all, and she concluded that I was right. It was true...to her credit...that the state took less land then what they wanted, but they still took it.

These are the issues we need to figure answers too, if we are to allow aging landowner's to feel comfortable with farm transfers.

Even on my own farm, I have navigated the murky waters of a 9th generational farm transfer. It was sticky because my Brother and Sister did not want the farm, but they did not want me to have it either. In the end we struck a deal that benefited all parties, but it also took 10 months to hash out.

I type all this to say, I have lived this, and on many fronts. It is tough.
 
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@Travis, The alternative will be tougher on those after us. I believe you may feel similarly. Thank you for sharing your story.
9 Partners is about me bearing as much burden as I can - now - rather than passing it on.
- David
 
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As I age, I find myself searching for options of what to do with my homestead.  I have made no real progress.  My will still says everything goes to various local charities, but I am not satisfied with that.
 
paul wheaton
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John F Dean wrote:As I age, I find myself searching for options of what to do with my homestead.  I have made no real progress.  My will still says everything goes to various local charities, but I am not satisfied with that.



John, do you think you are "an otis"?  
 
John F Dean
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When I read your post, I saw, to a point, the mirror image of my situation.  I say "to a point" because  while my wife and I are not totally satisfied with our present plans, we are not satisfied with any of the alternatives we en encountered  which is why I began a thread on succession planning.  While this thread addresses a related issue, it does not address my issue.  I am presently quite active and healthily. I fear I may be in the early stages of being an Otis, but I will never get there.  I am able to pull it together and overcome my Aspergers (no joke) for a few hours a day, I could never tolerate someone around me all day, every day.  What about my wife you ask ....she has Aspergers too.
 
Tyler Ludens
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John F Dean wrote: I could never tolerate someone around me all day, every day.



I couldn't either (natural hermit) but I'm not convinced that is necessary to finding a compatible permie.  I have designated an area for a "Gert" which is not especially close to our house (it is across a large garden area).  I wouldn't expect to speak to our Gert except to say "good morning" most days.

https://permies.com/wiki/60288/Podcast-Permaculture-Millionaire
 
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I'm imagining an Otis may not have to ever meet the permie that they will their land to.  They can meet them vicariously by watching them post their BBs and complete their badges.  After watching enough progress they will probably take a shine to a few permies and maybe put them all in the will (in order of preference).

That's one awesome part of PEP.  In the past, an Otis would have to meet many aspiring permies and get mad at most of them due to issues and get sick of trying to find an heir.  With PEP the prospective heirs are proving themselves on-line and you can come in later and chose.
 
John F Dean
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Hi Mike,

Interesting approach, and you have my attention.
 
Mike Haasl
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Thanks John!  I can imagine that a few years from now, there will be dozens to hundreds of permies that are working on their Wood or Iron badges and have accomplished a lot in their spare time.  But they won't have a place to live and will be possibly chained to a day job and rent and all that.  

Hopefully alongside that will be dozens to hundreds of Otises who are picking their favorites and will have a wonderful surprise in store for them someday.

Stay tuned
 
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I think this amazing 88-year-old land steward/owner is a type of Otis.

https://faircompanies.com/videos/50-years-off-grid-architect-maker-paradise-amid-norcal-redwoods/

See the end of the article for his search for a couple to join him in his beautiful 400 acres.



 
Just the other day, I was thinking ... about this tiny ad:
Food Forest Card Game - Game Forum
https://permies.com/t/61704/Food-Forest-Card-Game-Game
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