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Brainstorming how to Permify religious buildings/grounds

 
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This is a Spin-off thread from the Torah Prohibition on Mixing Seeds thread.

Springboarding from B.E. Ward's idea:

My latest idea has been to start what I would call an 'Internal Spin Market Garden'. Basically form a small group of us that would go out, build, and tend small plots on parishioners' properties (raised or otherwise). The yield would then initially be split three ways.. 1/3 to the needy, 1/3 to the property owners, and 1/3 to be sold within the parish. The funds from that last 1/3 would go directly to the church. If it turns out to be successful enough, another chunk of the yield could be split off to sell to established CSAs, restaurants, or at farmers markets.

A way to sort of 'permie-up' the process a little would be to encourage owners to allow us to plant small-scale fruit and nut guilds on their properties as well.

 
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Thanks Tina.. you were one step ahead of me! I was just about to do the same thing based on the recommendations from the other thread.

A little background..

I was trying to figure out a way to satisfy the following:

1) Bring beyond organic produce to the parish.
2) Help feed the poor.
3) Make it flexible for churches that lease their property (or are established in a strip mall, etc.).
4) Raise funds.

Any input to steer it is appreciated! I have some additional questions or concerns of my own, which I can add down the road.
 
Tina Paxton
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You are very welcome! Hopefully, we can get a good discussion going on this.

My goals are similar to yours:

1) Bring beyond organic produce to the local church and those it feeds through the Food Pantry.
2) Help feed the poor--both directly through food distributions but also through teaching them how to do likewise in their yards.
3) Raise funds.

My thoughts are:

1) Since I'm still working on "permifying" my own property, I don't have a lot of 'street cred' to pitch yet. My hope is as my place gets established, I will have something to demonstrate and a place to demonstrate it. My Pastor is very interested in what I'm doing and would love to do similar with the church/parsonage grounds. But, again, it is a matter of selling the concept to the congregation. Man-power is the other issue to work out.

2) While providing food to the hungry is important, I want to break the chain of dependency by teaching them how to produce food for themselves. Gardening sustainable is part of that. Raising rabbits/chickens/quail is the other. BUT, raising animals is not cheap if fed commercial feed. Establishing small livestock that can be feed from the property is critical. That is an aspect I'm working on as well.

3) My church and many others that I know of run on empty bank accounts. It would be great to have a way to generate some new income streams.


Now, you mentioned a concept called "Spin". Please explain this concept to me and how it might work in this context.
 
B.E. Ward
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Tina Paxton wrote:Now, you mentioned a concept called "Spin". Please explain this concept to me and how it might work in this context.



I'm certainly no expert in SPIN, but this is from what little I've gleaned so far.

SPIN is Small Plot INtensive.. basically it's a way of making a farm out of a bunch of small plots, rather than one big piece of land.

http://spinfarming.com/whatsSpin/

I found the idea really interesting when I hear Diego's first interview with Curtis Stone a while back. Diego's latest 'b-reel' episode is actually a lengthy presentation Curtis gives about his business.

http://www.permaculturevoices.com/podcast/from-lawn-to-productive-profitable-mini-farm-presented-by-curtis-stone-b015/

Basically it boils down to the fact that many churches either rent their buildings, or they're located in green-less strip malls. The prospect of 'permifying' their church grounds just isn't in the cards.

Beyond the upside of that sort of.. geographical flexibility, there are other positives I can think of:

1) Rather than just asking people for money, churches (or this organization set up as a non-profit in benefit of the church) can actually provide something that most people are buying from stores anyway - and it'll likely be healthier and fresher than anything else.
2) It's a tangible way to help needy people. Around here, most poor folks are living in apartment complexes or trailer parks, and not necessarily on their own land.
3) It can open all sorts of doors for volunteering and personal involvement that people might not even be thinking of right now.
4) Unlike a CSA or selling at a farmers market, there's no real requirement to produce a regular yield. If there's product, it gets distributed and sold. If not, we wait till there is. Pretty simple.
5) People who are already small gardeners can get involved. How many of us end up with extra tomatoes or lettuce and end up giving them away to neighbors? Now there would be a real distribution network set up to help those that really need it.

And there are obviously some downsides when it comes to operating this sort of model for churches:

1) Most people might be interested in a raised bed or two, but probably not ripping up their whole lawn for production. That's why what I'm proposing here is sort of a mini-SPIN.
2) With the distributed nature of the plots, tending and harvesting is likely going to be harder than it would be with one piece of land.

But, in good ole permaculture fashion, some of these problems can become solutions. I think once some people see how much of a difference they're able to make just by turning some unused land into healthful production for their church and community, they'll want to go bigger. I also think some will want the training to tend and harvest their own beds.

Anyway.. this is just what I've come up in my brainstorms so far.
 
gardener
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Very inspiring! Prepare for some rambling, you really got me going with this idea!

My church is Unitarian,and as such care for the earth is one of our principles. We are currently exploring the possibilities of a rain garden to channel the water from both our building and the sympathetic but unafilated magnet school next door.

Our building hosts an excellent kitchen,as do many local churches.
When i was under employed,I began baking bread during services, and selling to the parishioner.We cut up the steaming crusty loaves and shared them during coffee hour.
Got to the point I was selling 30 plus loaves at $4 or more, each.
Profits went to the church. Cost about .50 cents a loaf to make, including gas for the oven.
Had to stop when I got full employment, but I still bring fresh baked bread as an offering, when I can. Half goes to the coffee hour, the rest is set out to be taken in return for any donation or none at all.
Profits are higher than ever ,as our friends with means give twenty dollars, not for the loaf, for the Community.
We raise money to,among other things provide bread to the people of our sister church in Transylvania,a comunity where bread is the staple food(think thick black rye) .
Bread is kinda important to us.

I am building a portable rocket fired black oven. I would like to burn yard waste and bake with local ingredients.
One of my "brothers "(found family) is Richard Stewart of Carriage House Farm. He grows and GRINDS grain. He raises bees and harvests their honey.
Basically he has everything I need for baking,and he is local and strives for sustainablity.

The grounds of the church are difficult to address. The older people who have always and continue to see to the upkeep, like vegetables - in gardens. The grounds are filled with flowers and shrubbery,only accidentally edible,if at all.

I love the idea of farming the yards of the congragents. I would like to add it to my plan to share and multiply the resources of congragations.
Dale Hodges seems to do this sort of thing alot. It's a "Stone Soup" approach to community building that I love. Maybe it could be my livelihood ....
 
B.E. Ward
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William,

You bring up a *really* good point that I had started to explore a little, but haven't really hashed out anything concrete: the famed 'value-added' products. Look at the success you had with bread. And think of all of the products that could be made hyper-locally for the benefit of an organization like a church. Bread, honey, candles (our church uses a lot of them), mead, jams and jellies, etc. etc. Add some animals and you've got even more potential. A lot of these are, again, things people already buy at the store. And it begs the question: "If you could buy that loaf of bread for $1 more, know exactly what's in it and where the ingredients came from, and know it's made for the benefit of your church and the poor in our community, would you buy it instead of the store-bought loaf?" I bet the answer would be a resounding yes for most folks.

You also touched on using some of this for your livelihood. That's one other aspect I've sort of roughly started to formulate.. not really a direct "How could I make this my livelihood?" sort of questioning, but more of trying to see how many functions could be stacked on a non-profit basis in this sort of enterprise. What I have so far:

1) The Internal SPIN Market Garden team itself

Tasked with building beds (some of them raised), tending to them, harvesting the yield, sorting it, and selling the designated 1/3.

2) Nursery/Greenhouse

Propagating plants internally could save some big money and provide a stable source of new plants, especially when it comes to establishing those hoped-for small fruit/nut tree guilds.

3) Education

Ideally, the concept takes off and people want to learn more about gardening (particularly permaculture). That education could lead to less work for the ISMG team, as people would be able to tend and harvest their own plots.

4) Consultation

Like #2, if people want to do more to their properties after seeing the difference it makes, this would be an individual or team who would provide the brains to offer a plan.

5) Value-added products

The aforementioned baking, honey, candles, etc. etc.

6) Marketing, selling, and distribution

When the system is established and mature, there would likely be enough work to put at least one person in charge of making sure everything is harvested or made, accounted for, then distributed properly. This could eventually morph into a group that staffs a farmers market booth or markets directly to restaurants.

Of course, now I'm getting way ahead of myself, but it's interesting to ponder all of the directions this sort of thing could go - all for the economic and social benefit of a church.
 
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My church is all in on a large garden as long as it costs them nothing

It looks like some initial fundraising will be required for any operation for the initial infrastructure. I'm thinking that things like greenhouses for growing seedlings, storage for roto-tillers, planters, other equipment and composting operations could be done on church grounds where there is space.

If a group of local churches got together, then these resources can be shared in a sort of clustered hub. The actual growing can be done in the yards of church members who volunteer their backyards.

A single church might be able to raise a few hundred dollars, but a group could raise enough to get the operation running properly.
Church-Spin.png
[Thumbnail for Church-Spin.png]
 
Tina Paxton
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Fundraising idea: State forestry services sell trees by the 50 or 100 lots really cheap. Buy popular trees (around here a great one would be Crape Myrtles), pot them up and sell them. Depending on the size, it might be better to grow them out a season or two and then sell for a higher value.

From my situation I could see doubling or tripling the number of starts (trees, bushes, perennials) I propagate and see the excess for funding the ministry start up costs. If I can get others interested in helping, great, but I expect (from painful experience) that I'll be birthing this ministry alone. One possible asset is the fact that the church currently has a 501c3 for a community ministry that was abandoned by the persons who birthed it so I could likely take over the 501c3 and be one step ahead.

 
B.E. Ward
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Wow.. Nick.. did you get that from somewhere? Or just work it up yourself?

You bring up a really good point about creating small (dareIcallthem) guilds of churches working together on something like this. Just one reason why this would be a good idea: you increase the size of your available growing land and increase the chances of being able to bring high-value perennial plants like berries and fruits into the equation.

Tina.. I think you're on to something. And beyond that sort of reselling of forestry service trees, I think a nursery, even for non-edibles, is a great idea and something that could be done concurrently with (or separately from) starting small plots. Some of the folks that Diego has on his show (and Jack Spirko) like to repeat how cheap and easy it is to operate a small-scale nursery.. and how it offers really high margins.
 
Nick Kitchener
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I just whipped it together in Visio.

FWIW here are the basic elements of spin:

Beds are 2ft wide by 10 to 12 ft long.
Each bed can be expected to produce $50 per crop. Using succession planting, you can increase this to $150 per bed.

Here is some terminology:
http://www.spingardening.com/common/pdfs/SPIN_Lexicon.pdf
 
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Tina Paxton wrote:Man-power is the other issue to work out.



Really, this might be your easiest issue.

I was a temporary book keeper for a church and they were gearing up for their annual firewood splitting day & I was kinda jealous. Seemed like a great way for the congregation to bond and do go works, the firewood going to needy and emergency situations. I think any manpower needs could be handled the same way.
 
William Bronson
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Wow, great concept, great illustration!
We already give our compost to a program that employs the indigent growing food for the soup kitchen and for sale. Mind you, we are kinda distant from that work,only a few dedicated individuals are directly involved.

I am wondering if approaching an existing entity with a list of homeowners willing to offer their land for use would be a place to start.
We have many colleges with programs that might be interested.
 
Nick Kitchener
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A thing with spin is that it is very labour intensive. But that's why it makes for a good business because you can work it full time and earn a decent wage.

With volunteers things can be different, and you often rely on them turning up whenever they feel like turning up. Maybe s system like this is more likely to succeed if at least one under employed or unemployed person was engaged as the Jesus Nut of the operation
 
Tina Paxton
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Nick Kitchener wrote:A thing with spin is that it is very labour intensive. But that's why it makes for a good business because you can work it full time and earn a decent wage.

With volunteers things can be different, and you often rely on them turning up whenever they feel like turning up. Maybe s system like this is more likely to succeed if at least one under employed or unemployed person was engaged as the Jesus Nut of the operation



Hehehe....I'd never heard of a Jesus Nut. At first I thought you were meaning to say Jesus Freak but went to the link and learned something new. Very interesting analogy. Yes, when dealing with volunteers, there needs to be at least one full-time person overseeing the ministry because volunteers tend to be on their own schedule and very "fair weather and after my coffee". I've been meditating on this discussion overnight and have concluded that I can't think in terms of making my church the center...it would need to be a hub as it is just too small with too few parishioners to be the center. The good thing is, I'm in the Bible Belt and so there are lots of little churches around here, most with decent amounts of land around them...

I would love nothing more than to see an opening to go full-time ministry. It's been a long time dream of mine to have my home function as a sanctuary of sorts and the center of an extended outreach...who knows, perhaps I'll see a way to get there from here through this discussion.

Now...if I could find a way to draw the homeless folks out of the woods and into helping with gardening, I'd have a workforce...(not sure where that thought came from but thought I'd toss it out there since it came to me)

 
Nick Kitchener
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Build woofer facilities and they will come

An important aspect of spin is that you require walk-in refrigeration to store produce you harvest early in the week for distribution or sale later in the week (typically on the weekend).

Even if a church has no land, there is opportunity there for either hosting things like this, or using the existing kitchen facilities to process harvest, of add value like in baking bread, or pies. If the church is so small that it doesn't even have a kitchen, then there is a space for meetings, and a car park for grocery pick-ups or other distribution tasks.
 
Tina Paxton
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What does a "woofer facility" consist of??

Walk-in refrigeration...ummm, not something I'm likely to find inside the average church around these parts. Welllll....actually...let me think outside my box and say that there are a couple of Catholic churches big enough to have walk-in refrigeration and a Presbyterian church or two that also may...

Yes, it would be good to catalog each asset a church has be it land or parking lot or volunteers or walk-in refrigeration...
 
Nick Kitchener
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Somewhere to sleep, bathe, eat etc...

A church might not have a walk in, but they might have room to host one.
 
Tina Paxton
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I'm getting bogged down in thinking how it might fit in my specific situation which doesn't service well with brainstorming...sets a boundary that doesn't need to be there at this stage.

One thing I was wondering is "the sales pitch". As we saw over at the Torah thread, the audience determines the sales pitch. Pitching to a Unitarian church congregation is going to be different than to a Seventh Day Adventist than to a Pentecostal, etc. Not only the ideology of the denomination but both the local congregation AND the local church level of affluence. Have you given thought to how to present Permaculture Philosophies to a religious group in a way that matches Permie ideals to the religious ideals of the group? The more liberal/mainline churches may not be as much of a challenge as the more conservative/fundamental groups who tend to be much more hardline doctrinally.
 
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I take the lazy approach. I wait for the religious folks to knock on the door and then I make a deal with them. I'll let them tell me all they want about their faith as long as they give me equal time to "preach" permaculture. Sometimes they agree and we have a nice conversation. most times... not so much.
I had a JW here not long ago and he was preaching about all the ill of the world ( famine, wars, displaced people...). I tried to give him tangible solutions to resolve thees problems by doing some permaculture stuff. I even pointed out that we could reduce local hunger by transforming their huge lawn into a legacy food forest. He seemed somewhat interested and we had a few more meeting on my front porch where I elaborated on my ideas. Then he just stopped coming around. One thing that seemed obvious was that he had the expectation that somebody ( a higher power) was gonna take care of it and he didn't really want to DO anything.

So I guess it has everything to do with what type of congregation you're dealing with. Some are more receptive than others.


 
Tina Paxton
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Craig Dobbelyu wrote: One thing that seemed obvious was that he had the expectation that somebody ( a higher power) was gonna take care of it and he didn't really want to DO anything.



This can be a problem with both congregations as a whole or individuals. I know folks within my religious circles who figure they don't need to 'prep' or seek self-sufficiency. Their POV is that God is going to save them from "the bad stuff". Then there are those who think that "being green" or "organic" is equal to idolatry (worshipping the earth or the creation rather than the Creator). It is a matter of figuring out a) are they "teachable" and if they are b) what scriptural approach is best to address their misunderstandings. If they aren't teachable, then it is a waste of breath to try.

Craig Dobbelyu wrote: So I guess it has everything to do with what type of congregation you're dealing with. Some are more receptive than others.



Yes, indeed. I think it helps to have a basic idea of what their foundational beliefs are before approaching them but also to realize that there will be a range --those who live and die by their denominational tenets of faith, those who live and die by the Bible, and those who don't really know either of those very well and don't care to.
 
Nick Kitchener
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Yes the congregation is important. the church I attend is a very missions oriented one and we have a sign above the door as we exit which says "You are now entering the missions field".

Like any organisation, 80% of people are going to do absolutely nothing. No different in my church, but at least there is a concious and active push to see service in our immediate community as a missions work.

Since we have quite a few people (especially younger folks) who are looking to serve overseas at some point, I'm thinking something like this could be pitched as a boot camp for training and acquiring practical skills they can take with them in more exciting places
 
Tina Paxton
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Nick Kitchener wrote:Yes the congregation is important. the church I attend is a very missions oriented one and we have a sign above the door as we exit which says "You are now entering the missions field".

Like any organisation, 80% of people are going to do absolutely nothing. No different in my church, but at least there is a concious and active push to see service in our immediate community as a missions work.

Since we have quite a few people (especially younger folks) who are looking to serve overseas at some point, I'm thinking something like this could be pitched as a boot camp for training and acquiring practical skills they can take with them in more exciting places



Gotta love the 80/20 rule (80% of the work is done by 20% of the people -- and that is optimistic!).

The idea of targeting the younger folks with a missions mindset is a good one. It reminds me of a young family who were itinerating and spoke at our church last year. They are based on Africa and decided to help the people they minister to get started in chickens (a "teach a man to raise chickens and he eats eggs for a lifetime kinda thing"). Well, the people kept asking for more feed and the missionary was shocked...he didn't realize how much food chicks eat! Had they had some training beforehand in permaculture they would have been better prepared. Younger folks are not quite as indoctrinated...or mis-indoctrinated...as the older folks are (and I say that as a 51yo...)
 
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