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Todd McDonald
Posts: 48
Location: Mid-Missouri
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Hello all,

I've been lurking around here for some time but finally decided register and post. Quick background on me as it relates to this subject. I have been in the real estate business for 7 years, and have been working on an idea of creating an off grid real estate development. The idea keeps growing and maturing as I bounce it off of people I know, but I've never run into anyone around here in Mid-Missouri who is into permaculture (especially on a large scale) that I could discuss this with. On the other side of the coin, anyone I know that is into real estate development thinks this is a complete waste of time. There is a wealth of knowledge here about community and I had considered posting this topic over on those forums but seeing as this forum seems to be about how people can acquire land I thought it was a better fit here.

Here is my idea:

I purchase a large piece of property, say 100 acres, and begin installing earthworks. Build dams, swales etc. Plant food forests and establish polyculture meadow areas for paddock shift grazing. Build a road or two. Then sell 1 to 3 acre home lots for people to move on to and build homes. Build what you want. Straw bale, cob, Wofati, log home, conventional stick framing, just about whatever you want to try is acceptable here. In my hypothetical 100 acres, I would only sell off say 30 acres as lots to be developed and the remaining 70 acres, mostly pasture, food forests and ponds, would remain in a Trust and owned jointly by the lot owners on the development.

On your own acre build what you want, plant what you want, its your land. The 70 acres in the held in the community trust would be available for any resident to harvest from the food forest, fish the ponds etc. The 70 acres could be managed by an elected board, or other??... There are many counties here in Mid-MO that don't have zoning or building codes where this could be possible.

There is A LOT of details to work out here both financially and management wise but I think its definitely worth exploring. This would not be an intentional community. You OWN your lot and have a voice in what happens on the land trust. I can think of all kinds of advantages and potential problems but my big question is this: If such a place existed would anyone be interested in buying a house lot there. Also, does anyone here know of any communities, villages etc that are similar to this?

 
August Hurtel
Posts: 57
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Hey Tom,

I don't know if you are still around, but in general, if you tried your approach, you'd find trouble with government- and perhaps financing.

At geofflawton.com you can find a food forest suburb, which is interesting, but also shows a bit of a problem- an awful lot of fruit lying around on the ground and no animals.

So, based on what I've seen in the past few years, I would design a development that governments and finance types would understand, use permaculture design, but not really say much about permaculture- except to a few. Here is what I mean:

I'd market it to people who like buying local. I'd look to have about 200 people, only about 20 of which would be doing any farming/ranching. I would have the bulk of the residences in a somewhat dense area, probably within a food forest- certainly have garden space available should people want it, but expect most who come to live there will have upper middle class jobs and can't really involve themselves much. I would expect their children may get involved though.

I suspect the big trick is how to build homes and infrastructure that government, finance, and prospective homeowners will understand. With many of the non-traditional designs people can't even get financing to buy them.

 
Todd McDonald
Posts: 48
Location: Mid-Missouri
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Thanks for the reply August.

Regarding government issues, I would be creating the development in one of the counties here is mid Missouri that does not have building codes or zoning. After doing some asking around it appears that their main concern is with septic systems. So if I can keep them satisfied in that area I should be ok.

I figured that financing would be the largest obstacle. I've talked to several lenders, real estate agents, and appraisers about this and they all agree that this would be a very tough issue. Conventional stick frame construction would be easy to finance. When you start talking strawbale or log home construction it gets much harder. When you go to Mike Ohler style, PAHS, Wofati just forget it. There are people who will want the traditional construction and I anticipate having these homes grouped together in one area and then there are folks who will want totally off grid, mortgage free, alternative housing. Finding the balance between these two will be important.

Where I currently live there are 117 houses that jointly own a 15 acre park. The park is entirely managed by the citizens in the neighborhood. I envision similar arrangement for ownership and management of the food forest and pasture areas in the permaculture development. Some people in my neighborhood are very active in the management of the park but most are apathetic, they pay their dues and leave it to the few doing the work. I would expect a similar outcome in the new development. Are there any other permaculture developments in the USA other than the one in Davis, CA?? I would love to see some more examples.

Regarding animal systems, I don't want to be as densely populated as Village Homes in Davis. There needs to be open grazing area and I would hope that one person, maybe two, would decide to raise meat and sell it to the rest of us. I would hope that one person would take on dairy as well. I'm definitely not expecting 100+ farmers to move into the development.

The idea is a neighborhood where there is food forest forage if you want to go outside and pick it. There is meat raised right on the property so you know exactly what is in it if you want to buy it. Grow your own kitchen garden if you want, if not, trade or buy from a neighbor.

I want to live in this neighborhood. Does anyone else?
 
Lina Joana
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This does sound like an awesome idea!
The closest I have heard of (other than the Davis community) is the Ecovillage/intentional housing communities. What I have heard about those is that, as you said, there is some trouble with upkeep of the commons - that trying to keep animals in common, in particular often doesn't work. Ditto with community gardens - if you try to base it entirely on volunteer labor, it doesn't work out, as life catches up with people and some don't do their share, etc.
So, as you mentioned, the solution is probably to have a few farmers move in and grow food to sell to the rest of the community. What if you took it a step farther, and have a mandatory CSA as part of the buy-in to the community? If you had an experienced farm team to produce a full diet CSA, it would be a pretty awesome deal; people would have a high quality, local diet and the farmers would have a 200+ person CSA without worrying about marketing or travel costs, which would translate to savings for the residents.
Good luck, I hope you can work out a way to make this happen.
 
Kristie Harper
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Todd,

I think your idea is AMAZING... right along the lines of what we've tried to do..., but independantly. We are in Brunswick MO, straight from the West Coast (Seattle and Oregon). We came for EXACTLY the reasons and the dreams that you expressed. We bought 5 acres from a family who conventionally farms, but was interested in giving us the opportunity to try our thing. We built a small Straw Bale cottage (again... NO building restrictions WHATSOEVER). Long story, but I'd love to talk. We were ALONE, made many mistakes, have a family of... 9, going on 10, and after "camping" in our cabin for the summer, had to buy a place in town to Winter in (heat, running water, etc.) Not what we envisioned, but as we were here, we decided to do what we could with it. We've developed it as much as we can, created a small Plant Nursery/ Produce stand, but now need a LARGER home and LESS projects (so as to not ruin the rest of our children's childhoods). We are selling both our 5 acres (probably back to the original owners- negotiating at the moment), and this place in town... you can see my posting for it JUST ABOVE YOURS on this site! Check it out. I just compled geoff lawton's Online PDC this spring (which added a LOT of missing pieces to all of our book learning and experiments), and eventually, we like to do EXACTLY what you are talking about. For now, my husband is working full time at Budweiser (wasn't exactly what we'd envisioned in our "self-sufficient" dreams, yet dreams can be funny things...) and we are buying a house 30 min north of here with a TINY lot that we are going to PACK OUT with Permaculture, and enjoy the SMALLNESS of the projects for a season. Later, or as it fits in with our family endeavors, we'd like to actually DO what makes real sense to us... Permaculture on 5+ acres or so (yet, we'd MUCH RATHER be doing it in COMMUNITY and COOPERATION, since you can accomplish a LOT more!), Straw Bale build, etc. And I DO know of some other people who'd probably be interested at this time, or in the future. Our mind was to create community here, Permaculture Education, etc. We've just had to take a slight detour. A side note, we chose this place out of all the US for several reasons- 1. SEMI humid- down south you cross a line in both agricultural land formations (it's more like ranching land), and HUMIDITY. We like it here and the seasons are PERFECT! Also, as you mentioned, non- existant building codes (on a larger scale, you'd have to make sense of the septic to be acceptable here). 3. Growing seasons- amazing, RAINFALL and water for crops, land prices, etc , etc, etc. We all should talk!
 
August Hurtel
Posts: 57
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In one of Jack Spiriko's podcasts, he sent a question to Geoff Lawton. I think it was about the infamous 14th chapter in the Permaculture manual. In any case, one of the things Lawton said was that a lot of (esp. Americans) people talk about community but they don't have any surplus with which to create community. There is this sort of backwards assumption that through community we can create surplus, but we need surplus to build it.
In other words, you have to make sure you've got something profitable first; otherwise you might end up with a bunch of people enduring the Harper family experiences at the same time, unable to help each other.

I've thought of another possibility- the finance types understand condos, townhouses, apartments, etc... Presumably, if it fits the land, you could build a large structure for most of the housing. This would keep the rest of the land available for agriculture. I think it is also easier to implement certain design principles in large structures while still remaining understandable to bankers.
Whenever I think about these things, I tend to think about Christopher Alexander and his pattern language, and imagine building out the equivalent of a city block. The building would only go four stories high, and I expect the outcome would look much like some street in Europe that has been around for centuries.
 
Michael Bushman
Posts: 144
Location: Sacramento, CA
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Look and see what Tumbleweed developer Jay Shafer is doing with his new Sonoma County Tiny House subdivision. While it isn't permaculture, it provides an interesting template.

I am working on doing something along the lines of some sort of interesting real estate co-housing/intentional community/time share but to me, the major problem with doing this stuff is that it attract INDIVIDUALS and while in the abstract, we all share a common viewpoint, that is only in contrast to society as a whole. There are major divisions, if you have animals, can you eat them? MAJOR issue for a lot of people, although that is more of an issue here in California but to make your proposal work, you are going to have to draw people from the metropolitan areas.

You need to weed out the people who think this is a cheap and simple lifestyle and are doing this to avoid work. Gardens need weeding, animals need husbandry, etc. Even building a cob house takes money and a lot of labor.

Also, you are going to sink a lot of time and money into infrastructure before you start. All of that raises the buy in costs, not a bad thing but something to think about, doing work share or having them put skin in the game financially is a thought.

Tragedy of the commons! Can someone harvest fruit, can it and sell it? Same goes for dairy or meat animals? Not a deal breaker but one that needs careful consideration ahead of time.
 
August Hurtel
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Breaking down things into business units Mark Shepard style would help too. If the commons are Commons, Inc.- probably a holding company for the real estate, which in turn rents out land to the farming concerns, then you have metrics via which you can determine what is functioning well and what isn't.
 
Kirsten Simmons
Posts: 33
Location: Atlanta, GA
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Lyle Estill (http://lyleestill.com/) did something along these lines before he got into biofuels. I don't remember the exact details, but I think he was selling 10 acres home sites in a larger zoned neighborhood. He ended up having issues with some of the people who had bought space and had to extract himself from the project. Shoot him an email and ask - he'd probably be happy to talk through the pitfalls with you. (Our families have been friends since the 90s, and I was in middle school when he went into this particular endeavor - hence the lack of details on my part.)
 
Daniel Kern
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Mark Shepard is a successful permaculture real estate investor. He talks about some of his strategies here in a podcast titled The future of agriculture. It is well worth a listen if not 2 or 3. Mark Shepard is truly changing the concept.
 
Kristie Harper
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Todd,

Just to qualify my interest in your endeavor:

I would NOT be interested in renting, I would NEVER be interested in "condos or apartments... in the country" (even the suggestion seems CRAZY to me, that any permaculture minded folks would actually want to live in "condos" in the country??).

Of course there would be issues (life is full of them), but individual ownership in a well-defined (basically) Pernaculture HOA would minimize most of the issues- I buy, if I don't like it, try to sell. If I can or can't sell easily, that's my problem (do analysis before the purchase).

You'd have to determine what this whole land prep would cost you. Price the individual lots. Offer an incentive for a prepay type thing. Yes, it's very complicated, yes, people are crazy (but you have to live with them SOMEWHERE...) So far, the basic rules our country has set in place are workin fairly well. Societies DO function, and they function best, not as communes (move to Russia if that's what you're looking for). An HOA further defines the rules of the privately owned/ run subdivision- if people have a problem with those eating meat, and meat eating is allowed in the HOA (if you DO decide to go vegitarian with the HOA, we will DEFINITELY not buy), they either deal with it or don't buy there.

It sounded to me from your description, that your aims were EXACTLY the type of thing WE are looking for. Individual ownership, community participation, a call to people who are not focusing on another job (not that they don't need one, or have one, but focused on real LAND ENDEAVOR in a primary way). Geoff Lawton's last videos in his PDC talk a LOT about community, what happened in Davis (where suburbia took over the Perm Subdivision, and people wanted to participate in the city more than on the land, turning the place into upper class residence maintained by hired people,... or "retirement homes" for the rich). We want REAL LIFE with real families... young, old, who invest in community. WE ARE ACTUALLY LOOKING FOR A DIFFERENT KIND OF VILLIAGE to live and participate in. Geoff also talks a LOT about the specialization of community (diversity and specialization being fundamental to the fabric of society- so you have the weaver, the artisans, the fish processor, the meat providors, dairy, healthcare, builders, etc)... that's where the beauty gets really rich. This is in HIGH CONTRAST to the concept of SELF SUFFICIENCY. Self sufficiency rejects community and tries to do EVERYTHING ALONE. (Actally there is a community in Los Brazos de Dios, Texas that has created a really amazing culture- they grow all of their own food, have pottery, music, blacksmiths, artisans, grist mill, etc. They have a HUGE festival once a year- they've put out a great video on it- that draws 20,000+ people, and they very much embrace the idea of interacting with their greater community around them. I believe they are Menonite. The only thing I personnally don't like about the culture, is that the women wear really frumpy clothes. Their culture is so rich in every other area, but I don't get that? There may be more as far as belief that I'm not into, but their festival looks AMAZING!. Anyway, I also wouldn't want a culture that mandates religion... I apreciate our American liberty and think it generates... Life).

I would NOT gear it to Suburbian Living. Anyone who really wants to do this, isn't interested in that. I think the idea is more of "Purchasing into an operational farm subdivision/ village". Anyone trying to go this direction is ALREADY trying to save $ for the endeavor. We are ALREADY investing- many have taken PDC's, many have tried and are trying various perm endeavors. Anyone who's started trying already, will quickly come to the conclusion that they wish they had community... SOMEONE who's already built a pizza oven, rather than getting the info from a video & nobody to ask questions of. But, people interested, but who'd rather own their own thing completely, would be drawn to buy nearby, and that would compliment the whole villiage aspect.

As far as management of co-op resources, this is the greatest obstacle I can see. Not sure how to manage who takes the lumber or who harvests the orchard for sales, etc.

As far as financing, in rural Missouri it's a possibility to purchase a farm with a main farm house (might work better for financing? Would that go as a conventional loan? Farming Loan?) and use the established structure as a "community center". Others who buy in, have to figure out how they are going to build their own home. That really shouldn't affect the main financing at all. They pay you for the lot, and each have the problem/ challenge of their own housing (like we already do). When it's independantly owned, they can do whatever they want (within the HOA guidelines), and they can start small, owner finance, bank finance a regular build, borrow from friends or family, etc.

That's my two cents.
 
Michael Bushman
Posts: 144
Location: Sacramento, CA
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High density or condominiums ARE counter intuitive but it a solid idea and here is why...

Some places, like California do not allow alternative buildings or at least they are very difficult to gain permission for. Putting in utilities like septic tanks and the like are expensive for an individual but shared out over a number of units, the cost becomes more affordable.

Now I would MUCH prefer a grouping of tiny homes, perhaps some cob or straw bales as well but most counties in California put almost insurmountable obstacles in the way. I can see an Italianate villa with a small number of units as quite attractive and feasible concept. Easier to finance, easier to approve, uses up less land and depending on how you build, less resources, can be quite energy efficient, etc.

I had NEVER thought of that approach till this thread but I am putting a proposal together on 40 acres in the Sierra in an area that gets 15 to 20 inches of rain and has water rights to the creek and irrigation canal on the property and unless I can find a wedge to force through tiny homes/alternative building process, a "condo" is what it will be.
 
August Hurtel
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Thanks Michael,

I needed a little validation today.
 
Kristie Harper
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I am from the West Coast. There is a MASSIVE CULTURAL GAP between these areas in America. People who have not lived here in Missouri, or Tennesee, or rural mid-west/ heartland seriously can't begin to understand how things REALLY are out here as far as NO REGULATIONS. We spent 5 years trying to figure out if what we'd heard was true, before making the plunge and comming here (and I can't tell you how many hundreds of friends, family and strangers acted like we were going into "no man's land"- like civilization had missed the middle of the country and we were going to get stuck out here where they haven't heard of cars yet, or Costco or... And countless people telling us "you're going the wrong way on the Oregon Trail", and "there's a reason your great grandfather WALKED the Oregon trail from Missouri when he was 12, and it took him two years to get here..." To which I replied, "I know exactly why he came... cheap land, and that's why I'm going back. The West Coast is overcrowed, land prices are horrific, and we're not even allowed to try building a house unless it's EXACTLY like somebody else says we can. I think the West Coast has become very un-American in that sense, stiffling creativity and Pioneers. It NEVER would have been settled with the rules that exist there today, and we were longing for some place like this where we could at least TRY. And try we have, and try we will, and this country (as my daughter chimed in) is "really pretty". In fact, what do I love about it as compared to Oregon (and California and most of Washington)? The Summers are green... Mm'hm... that's right, GREEN. And the Winters are brown (instead of the other way around) and the Winters are "short", as my (daughter added, who is reading while I type). The water comes at the opposite time of the seasons...just when you'd need it for growing. That creates some amount of humidity in the summer season, (which is the perfect amount in central/ northern Missouri- semi-humid as opposed to down south, Alabama, Georgia, Florida). Also, 4 distinct seasons, which we had in Oregon, but NOT Seattle. AND, we have found this area to be EXTREMELY family friendly, which is NOT the case in Seattle, or Portland. Even in Kansas City, we'll have people stop and talk to us all about their large extended families and how they were part of 8 or 10 or 7 or... 16 kids!!

And it's ACTUALLY TRUE that there are no building codes... NO INSPECTORS EVEN IF YOU WANTED TO BE INSPECTED. I'm not sure how to get this across to an Oregonian or Washintonian or Idahoan (?) or Califonian. Really, Utah, Nevada, Montana, New Mexico (I think they are pretty regulated even) Texas, etc... all FULL of regulations. So much so, that you can't even concieve of it. Not so with the mid-west/ heartland/ and I don't know how far toward the East Coast. True, as we investigated, when there are "no building codes or regulations" you fall under "international code", but in real language, that means "NOTHING". There is no International Inspector searching Google for the lastest mid-west construction. Maybe someday, but right now, it is as it's stated, "You can build what you want when you're outside of a city". Even in some small towns it's the same. These towns are dying. There is no mayor or city counsel, or if there is it's one neighbor and then the other one down the street. We are moving, and in a town of 800, they will have a hard time finding a replacement for my husband on the City Counsel. It IS A CULTURE SHOCK if you're from the West Coast. It DOESN'T mean "uncivilized" though, as you'd probably imagine (if you're from CODE LAND, you can't even concieve that NO CODES doesn't mean NO SOCIETY). There are beautiful homes, friendly neighborhoods, hardworking farmers, drug addicts, struggling business persons, little league and the rest. Culture didn't miss the mid-west. People originally left because there was "free" or "cheap" land westward, and this place was pretty much spoken for. They moved west for opportunity. It's just funny that now, people need to move back for the same reason. Why is land becoming avialable here? The children of the farmers are not carrying on the "family farm". The "family farm has become the "industrialized monocrop", and it's not so family any more. Farming really isn't profitable (nor is it creative or interesting), and the kids who grow up in it would MUCH RATHER do something else! So, land is becoming available, and the prices are good... Ready for Permaculturists (from the West Coast and anywhere else) who have a vision to restore and regenerate and create thriving life from the land. It's almost not possible to have this conversation with people who are used to the Regulations, because they are prohibitive. You have to put on the mindset of Missouri to understand what will fly here and why.

I looked up the Tiny Village concept in Sonoma, Ca. and it's just what I'd expect out of Sonoma... EXPENSIVE! I looked up the price calculated for one of those tiny cabins, and they wanted $450 just for the PLANS! Then finished out, they were up to... $31,000! If you look at the price we are asking for our house here, business and 3 lots (almost an acre), you'll find it's... $30,000! West Coasters would expect it to cost that much just for one city lot, and on the West Coast, it should...but here, there is a house that needs cosmetic additions, but is solid, and developed grounds and a little Plant Nursery/ Produce business, and that's the real market cost. We can't talk apples to apples here with the West Coast because of the CULTURAL GAP- not necesarily the quality gap, but a value gap. I suspect that if more people on the West Coast knew the well- kept secret of Missouri, it might quickly become overcrowed here (as it has in Southern Oregon). I'm not sure I want the word out to the general public. But to the Permaculture crew... it's really the perfect opportunity. If you're not tied to family or location... this is the place to be!

This is NOT the place for Condo's or Apartments. You really have to see this place first, and experience it. Then the context will hit you. You can save on the West Coast and purchase here for a FRACTION of the cost. Why was our Straw Cabin unsuccessful? Well, first off, we're not done yet (with permaculture), and second, we had family turmoil, and third... we just didn't understand how to do it. We are on our way there. It's still in our hearts, we are ACTIVELY learning all the time, and are growing together as a family. That's the WHOLE POINT of the freedom to TRY. How CAN you ever really figure it out if you can't put your hands in and make some mistakes? We are not under EDUCATED. We are under EXPERIENCED. And getting more preparded for a go in the right direction. This would be the beauty of community. And it's the beauty of being a human... trial, error, trial, error, trial... someday, sucess! (See Albert Einstein for quotes.) I do know this, we are equiping our children with understanding as we gain it ourselves, and that.... is worth EVERYTHING. Our children see the sense of Permaculture and the work required. They see the chemical spraying vs what ought to be done with the land. They understand it's having an effect on the life of America. In all of these things, we need to have a vision beyond our own selves. What will life be like for the next generation, and how can we improve that.
 
August Hurtel
Posts: 57
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I view a larger structure as a possible design solution. I would have to see the land, but in many cases it could be the best possible design solution to maximize available land for agriculture and recreation, minimizing construction expense, being able to put in large works for thing like passive solar, and having everybody be able to take advantage of the lower operating costs from day one.

I did not view this as advocacy for condos or apartment complexes. I do not particularly like them. They are poorly designed and tend to be aesthetically displeasing. But people have been building alternative designs since seventies (at least) and we have a huge problem of not being able to get mortgages for them, so they sit on the market. I only mentioned condos in that context- if financial types qualify the large structure as something they already know how to deal with, then the whole real estate development has a chance to exist and grow.

It would seem to me best to have this possible design solution as an available option, up until a serious analysis of a particular acreage is made.
 
Rose Gardener
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How about buying a ghost town as a start? Like this: http://www.ibtimes.com/seneca-california-your-own-private-ghost-town-sale-craigslist-1471780 Not sure what it will take to incorporate but as your own town, one can insist on one's own planning and building dept.?

But I the biggest problem is demographic, folks that likes permaculture are more likely to be on a tight budget.
 
Michael Bushman
Posts: 144
Location: Sacramento, CA
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While I much prefer the idea of living on 20 acres in a tiny house of my own building, the reality is that is NOT very Permaculture unless we flush 70+ of the population. High density housing with room around it to grow food and such is actually far more sustainable and especially if you look at areas that have water and seasons that are truly liveable. In addition, high density housing is far more sustainable.

The reason "tiny homes" are expensive is that a studio and a large 4 bedroom house in many ways all have the same equipment the real difference is empty volume. They all have one each of water heater, stove, heater, shower, sewer connection, breaker box, etc.

Now nobody here is saying "this is the new true one way" but it is CERTAINLY food for thought if you want to live in a place that has higher land costs. It would also make it easier to use more expensive forms of energy savings and infrastructure like geothermal, underground parking, root and wine cellars. Easy to accommodate different levels of involvement from those who want to pay a premium to be there but not get their hands dirty can subsidize those who can't pay a premium but dream of getting their hands dirty.

 
Kristie Harper
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Michael,

What do you mean by looking "at areas that have water and seasons that are truly liveable"? If you're talking about California, they experience MASSIVE yearly droughts, and get all of their survival water from Oregon (and I think some from Washington as well)... believe me, Oregonians don't like it. They have enough water for Oregon, but they do a LOT of irrigating of their own and it's pushing it to take from them to keep considering California "liveable". It's actually only happening because the $ is going into politician's pockets.

You're not actually looking at "local" climate. That is borrowed climate and resources to keep people enjoying their lifestyle. And if you are talking about arid summer landscape with wet winters, which is what the majority of Oregon and California are (particularly to the east), that doesn't look like the ultimate liveability to me.

If you've never seen Missouri, and you're wondering if there's any such thing as "areas that have water and seasons that are truly liveable", I'd say... this is it. Seriously, you should experience this. We kept calling it "America's Best Kept Secret" when we arrived. It's BEAUTIFUL. It's these picturesque farms after picturesque farms (not flat like we imagined, but hilly and varied and beautiful (think the Willamette Valley in Oregon, minus the Cascades to the east)! And it goes on an on because there are no massive mountains, where it's "high desert" on the other side). And then we visited Kansas City... wow, FAR more appealing to me than Seattle! I'd say, akin to Portland, but with more space, and then... surrounded by farms. My husband was a surfer, and thought he could never be "land locked", but the sky and the fields are like an ocean, and the weather is really interesting (I've heard that the sky here is second only to some area in France, for diversity and the amazing things that go on in the clouds- really, we are artists, and have feasted on the sight of this sky)!

West Coasters have this aversion to ANY kind of humidity. It's kinda wierd. Water is the basic staff of life. Humidity= water. Before I got here, I heard about "drought" now and then, and when I arrived, it took a while to figure out what they were talking about, cause NOBODY in Southern Oregon grows ANYTHING without 100% irrigation- and when they say "drought", they mean the rivers are running dry, and irrigation is running low. (Fortunately, we have some great rivers, and water is cheap and abuntant- till California needs it). What they mean HERE when they talk about "drought", is that the fields which have NO IRRIGATION OF ANY KIND, go dry at the summers end, and they hope to get the harvest in "naturally"... EVERY year, without adding WATER! That's a "WOW" for a West Coaster!

Also, when people say "liveable" they are thinking "tornados and chiggers" and all kinds of things not having to do with climate. First off, the tornado thing is akin to earthquakes, but if you are used to earthquakes and not tornados, it seems crazy. Believe me, we mapped tornadoes before we came, and researched galore. It's definitely less of a threat than earthquakes in Southern Cal, and it's the same type of caution applied... not much day to day. Chiggers- again, I delayed the move just for fear of them and the report of the 13 yr infestation of Cicadas. Paranoia is what it amounts to. Real life, real solutions. Everybody here owns a riding mower (we are "push mowers"). For one, it's a status symbol, for two, the vast amounts of land go on and on, and they mow them all- or lots of them anyway, and for three, it's second nature to keep your living areas clear (I'm assuming for bugs). But people hike, hunt, fish. It doesn't stop life.

But if you're defining "liveable" as arid summer and wet winter with borrowed water, massive city structures and overcrowding, your idea of liveability is not based on real climate.

The overcrowding issue is highly over-sung, and seems to be perpetuated by people who think that only the West Coast (or East Coast) is "habitable". In the 90's when it started to be a big issue, my brother and I (in high school at the time) took the world population, and divided it out across an area equal to the State of Texas. We found that at that time, that every man, woman and child in the WORLD could have something like a 2,000 ft2 home in that space (no infastructure, no streets, yard, just home space). We were IMPRESSED! You have the whole rest of the WORLD for streets, yard, agriculture. And what we realized, is that people simply consider most of the world "uninhabitable". Granted, there are spaces (Mohave Dessert?) But recently, people like Geoff Lawton have taken 10 salted acres in the Dead Sea area, and showed the world that it can be rehabbed with Permaculture... Surely we don't have to put the midwest/ heartland in the ash heap of land options (particularly when it happens to be so beautiful) just because the West Coast has decided that it lacks some elements of "culture"?

Permaculture is about permanent culture stemming from renewable, land based productivity. Creating the "culture" that you enjoy is the whole point.
Also, is there anybody interested in permaculture that "doesn't want to get their hands dirty"? Which part of permaculture are they interested in? I'm baffled by that idea.

Maybe I'm missing something, but the permaculture that I'm interested in is not about cramming into a little space when the wide world is open. I'm interested in transforming a space to what I enjoy, and making it fun to live there. For what reason would you want to forfeit that, for areas with "higher land costs", so you can cram in, cause that's all you can afford? I get the idea of "Permaculturing Urban areas, if you really have to be there (or if you like it), but you absolutely CAN'T confine Permaculture to Urban living, nor can you apply the same designs. That type of design would FAIL here simply because Californians won't buy (they want city) and Missourians wouldn't buy (they don't want to be confined). So who would live there?
 
Michael Bushman
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Kristie,

I am not sure why you feel I am discounting your lovely state, I was speaking in generalities. Considering there are 320 million people in the US, I just don't think it is realistic for everyone to have 10 acres and a mule. My comment about "liveable" was referring to large parts of the west being desert and others having a VERY short planting season. And yes, I love swales, check dams, and the idea of greening the desert speaks to my soul but having lived in the desert, its not a place many can make home, let alone feed a family. Again, none of that was to disparage your state, simply my opinion in support of the idea of high density housing as ONE concept among MANY. It was one I would have laughed at until someone made some valid points and I saw it as a tool to solve problems SOME of us who are not blessed with your state's bounty.
 
Greg Reese
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Hey Todd,

I've been looking into similar building codes and opportunities for real estate development in Southern California (specifically San Diego County) where I live. So far I've found that straw bale construction is permitted in San Diego but not rammed earth superadobe. Superadobe is permitted in San Bernadino County however where the Cal earth institute is.

Whats the latest with your developments?

Feel free to PM me or email at gregsreese@gmail.com

Thanks!
Greg
 
Amber Samandulugu
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Condos would work if the buildings had greenhouses all up the sides of them. I had similar ideas in the Artbermiss system except I thought the buildings should surround the artisan industry areas and garden areas and put streets and water ways and pathways between them. I put the buildings in a hexagonal pattern around the land areas and made the buildings only one story. I thought eventually the owners would build tiny condos in the up direction to sustain the population growth. But really I focused mostly on building a community system that mimicked the natural forest, desert, mountain, wetlands, coastal...etc so people could embed themselves very well in the already existing biological diversity and natural resources of the area. You can see the basic plans in one of my blogs The Artbermiss System.

Artbermiss Hive Grid
 
Dan Grubbs
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http://www.prairiecrossing.com/libertyprairiefoundation/LPF-Publication9-10.pdf

I've read the linked PDF twice. It's a good read for better understanding the whole concept of development with farms. The write up gives five different case studies which all seem to take slightly different approaches to developments with farms. I found it fascinating, but I'm a geek. The Liberty Prairie Foundation is going to be a good resource for people considering this or considering living in one of these kinds of developments. Enjoy!
 
Todd McDonald
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Wow. I have not checked into the thread in a while and didn't realize there was a whole conversation happening without me. Its exciting to see the idea gain some traction.

Kristie: The idea of individual ownership with a well defined permaculture HOA is the exact direction I am headed right now unless a lawyer convinces me that there is some better arrangement than this. It's like buying a house in any other neighborhood with an HOA except that instead of telling people that they have to paint their house one of the five colors of khaki, the permaculture HOA would include things like a list of forbidden herbicides and pesticides and would define the rules on how the common areas are to be managed. Also PLEASE stop telling Californians how awesome Missouri is!!! They might just move here.

ATTENTION WEST COASTERS! MISSOURI HAS TORNADOS, CHIGGERS, AND TICKS AND LACKS AN OCEAN. YOU SHOULD PROBABLY STAY WHERE YOU ARE... there, that should do it.

Kirsten: Thank you for the contact, I will be sending Lyle an email.

Daniel: Thank you for the link to the podcast. Listening to it right now

Dan: Thank you for the link. Currently foaming at the mouth to read this report.


Right now I am in full research mode on this. I am meeting with people here in Missouri that have done rural development to get information on whats involved there. I am planing trips to visit Dancing Rabbit ecovillage here in Missouri and Earthaven ecovillage in North Carolina. Thanks to Dan I will now be planing a trip to Illinois to see Prairie Crossing. What I hope to gain are ideas on how infrastructure goes together in a development like this. Permaculture is going to be the exact opposite of conventional development when it comes to things like storm water management and waste management. I am also looking at ideas on how to set up management of the common areas and these places have a good track record of doing that. And to back up the condo idea, Earthaven actually has an apartment building in it and I am looking forward to seeing how well that works.

Thanks to all who have contributed, please keep posting ideas and examples. I am fresh off of a PDC and I am trying to take it all in but its like drinking from a fire hose.
 
Todd McDonald
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I've had a few days to digest the report that Dan posted. I also went to the websites of the developments mentioned in the report. This is very encouraging. It would appear that the idea of incorporating agriculture and food production into a real estate development is definitely economically viable. In fact it would appear from this report that having a farm element in your development actually increases value and sales. On the downside, the developments used in this case study seem to be for high end consumers with a lot of money. The homes I've seen on their websites are very large houses similar to what is currently being built in every other development in the midwest. Additionally, with the exception of Prairie Crossing, the actual farm element seems quite small in comparison with the overall size of the development. One of them had 300+ houses and a 4 acre farm, not exactly what I had in mind. Overall though this report at least lets me know I am on the right track. In order for this to work I would have to break even at a minimum and ideally make a profit large enough to encourage expansion of the neighborhood/village and spawn more developments like it in other places.

Since there is some interest out there I'll take some time to expand on the idea. So the basic idea has been explained but I'll refine it a little. You purchase a lot in a subdivision that has an HOA. Your lot will come with basic infrastructure as in a road, access to well water, septic, and electric grid (we can get into the grid later). It will be a generously sized lot, right now I am thinking 1 acre. The lot will also include membership in the HOA which owns all the land surrounding the house lots. The HOA has a community center/library with public swim pond/natural pool. The HOA also holds all of the large scale permaculture infrastructure like ponds, terraces, swales, and the roads. The terraces and swales will be planted out with food forests and as much of the native forests will be left as is possible. There will also be grazing areas for livestock. To simplify, your lot that you own is your zone 1 and 2. Zones 3, 4 and 5 are shared ownership through membership in the HOA.

The HOA will contract with people for things like grazing rights and the rules of the HOA will govern how grazing is to be managed, i.e. cell grazing, etc. As an example, my family currently buys 2 gallons of raw milk per week from a local producer. I am very happy with this arrangement. I am not interested in moving to the country and raising cows so that I can have raw dairy. I do not have the time required to do this and I am more than wiling to continue to purchase the 2 or 3 gallons of raw dairy that my family consumes each week. This is an area of specialization and the goal of this community (which currently exists only in my head) would be to have a person or family that did want to raise cows make use the grazing areas owned by the HOA and sell enough milk to make a living at it. If they can't make a living they should at least make enough to make it a worthwhile endeavor. The dairy would benefit from the cheap access to grazing and an instant market base, the HOA owned food forest systems would benefit from the presence of grazing animals in the system and all would benefit from access to fresh dairy products. This strategy can be employed with beef, pork and chicken as well. This is an overly simplistic view but do you see where I am going with it?

There is so much to figure out. For example, how many dairy cows does one need to own in order to generate x dollars in revenue? If doing cell grazing, how many paddocks of what size are needed to support that herd? If incorporating beef cattle into this herd, how many more paddocks/acres do you need? What are the upfront capital costs of milking and bottling equipment? In order for this community to be sustainable, it has to be profitable for the person/family who has decided to take on dairy. Same goes for pork and chicken. Working from the bottom up to figure out what is required for all of these elements to work together will determine how much land is needed to make this dream a reality. I am actively reaching out for help in these areas from people who have raised meat and dairy for guidance on these questions. However the local folks may be doing grass fed/organic, they are not doing permaculture so I am looking for answers from permies as well.

The above questions just cover meat and dairy. What about fruit and nuts? How many acres of food forest are required to meet the fruit and nut requirements of one family of four. How about 30 families? The permaculture answer is as always, it depends. It depends on the maturity of the food forest, the climate, the soil etc. It is important to state that the initial goal is not 100% self sufficiency, but I want that to be the target we are shooting for. Obviously it takes time to establish these systems and more time to hone them in. If we shoot for 100% self reliance and only reach 75% then we are way ahead of most people. I would love to see a whole range of businesses pop up in the community. Restaurant, pub, yoga studio, general store, school etc. However, I don't see everyone who lives there making their living within the community, its just not realistic and some people will want to keep their jobs and just live there because its an awesome place to be and to raise a family.

What about the HOA owned food forest? What if during peach season, Suzy goes out at 6am everyday and picks all the ripe peaches and takes them home and makes Suzy's Peach Preserves and puts them up for sale? What about the rest of us? Suzy took all of OUR community peaches and now she's trying to sell them back to us. That's BS! The long term goal is that there would be such an abundance of peaches during peach season that there would be no way Suzy could pick them all and there would be plenty for everyone to just get sick of eating peaches and still there's enough for Suzy to preserve and sell. I also dream that without having to formally organize it and schedule it, groups of friends will get together on their own and have a picking and canning party and split the peach preserves among themselves. Same goes for the berries, and other fruits. These are the kinds of scenarios that really need to be thought through and worked out ahead of time in the drafting of the HOA documents. There is so much to figure out but this is totally do able and in many ways much easier than homesteading it alone.

The model of a planned community subdivision with a well defined HOA has proven extremely successful over and over again across the country, just look at the success of the McMansions. I hate them, but you can't argue that those developers and builders were not successful. I am just trying to apply permaculture principles to this already successful model and make it better. For me and my family, this is a better route than joining an intentional community.

On my acre, I want to raise my annual vegetable garden, a few fruit trees and laying hens. I would try to raise enough of the staples like potatoes and onions for a year's supply for my family. I would prefer to purchase my meat. To make a living in this new lifestyle initially I will fill the role of Developer. Eventually I want to settle into being a builder of natural homes and maybe operate a B&B or Glamping business on the property. My wife and I have always liked the hospitality business.

How do you fit into this community?

 
Dan Grubbs
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Todd, et. al.

One concept in planning these kinds of communities is the idea of diet. I wonder if people thinking of these kinds of communities make too many assumptions The power that diet actually has in the planning of the farm/community is often underconsidered. Some specific dietary desires can be customized in residents' zone 1 and 2. But, how the community thrives from a dietary perspective will depend a lot on what is produced. Will the farm be designed and planned on any particular kind of diet? What will the broadacre spaces be used for and will the diet of people drive that or vice versa? This can have an impact on who will be attracted to a community such as this or who gets frustrated and leaves.

Here's an example: The Weston Price diet would be an approach to planning what is communally grown or produced. If the group is at some level of agreement about a dietary approach, then you know what kind of animals and crops you'll raise, harvest, and preserve. Does the community need a milking parlor and dairy processing house because milk and preserved milk is important to the diet? However, if meat is a focus, will larger sections of zones 3-4 be designed for forage? However, if we think just a little bit about it, what the community wants to eat should be part of the holistic planning of zones 3-4. Yes, the conditions of the site are a major factor in what can be grown or produced, but that still leaves a prolific menu of things to grow and produce that I believe can be more narrowly defined by a general approach to diet. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying all is determined by diet, but I think most of the discussions I've read about these communities gives far too little thought to diet of the residents ... much is assumed.

What the dietary framework is can have an impact on what is grown, how things are grown and produced, and how they are preserved or even how they are prepared and served. The community that is looking to really gel together has thought through these kinds of ideas ahead of time.
 
George Meljon
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Lot's of really big posts here that I don't have time to read at the moment, but to the OP I would say that your idea is not crazy, it's probably 10 years ahead of it's time in MO, which gives you time to get in now. See this article in the Smithsonian: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/innovation/how-farms-became-new-hot-suburb-180954956/?no-ist

There are people that want the lifestyle of the countryside mixed with similar neighbors for their families to live next to. Skip the gym membership, enjoy the simple pleasures of good food and community. It's a high priced option because of all the lifestyle selling you can do. In fact, I would point out that this was the original dream of the suburbs - a small, simple patch of countryside to raise a family in that isn't too far from modern life. To create a suburb in a permaculture way is exactly the kind of long term thinking the world is hungry for.
 
Todd McDonald
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Lot's of really big posts here that I don't have time to read at the moment, but to the OP I would say that your idea is not crazy, it's probably 10 years ahead of it's time in MO, which gives you time to get in now.


I agree 100%. I feel a real sense of urgency to do this NOW.



Todd, et. al.

One concept in planning these kinds of communities is the idea of diet. I wonder if people thinking of these kinds of communities make too many assumptions The power that diet actually has in the planning of the farm/community is often underconsidered. Some specific dietary desires can be customized in residents' zone 1 and 2. But, how the community thrives from a dietary perspective will depend a lot on what is produced. Will the farm be designed and planned on any particular kind of diet? What will the broadacre spaces be used for and will the diet of people drive that or vice versa? This can have an impact on who will be attracted to a community such as this or who gets frustrated and leaves.

Here's an example: The Weston Price diet would be an approach to planning what is communally grown or produced. If the group is at some level of agreement about a dietary approach, then you know what kind of animals and crops you'll raise, harvest, and preserve. Does the community need a milking parlor and dairy processing house because milk and preserved milk is important to the diet? However, if meat is a focus, will larger sections of zones 3-4 be designed for forage? However, if we think just a little bit about it, what the community wants to eat should be part of the holistic planning of zones 3-4. Yes, the conditions of the site are a major factor in what can be grown or produced, but that still leaves a prolific menu of things to grow and produce that I believe can be more narrowly defined by a general approach to diet. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying all is determined by diet, but I think most of the discussions I've read about these communities gives far too little thought to diet of the residents ... much is assumed.

What the dietary framework is can have an impact on what is grown, how things are grown and produced, and how they are preserved or even how they are prepared and served. The community that is looking to really gel together has thought through these kinds of ideas ahead of time.


I agree that diet is huge factor in the identity of a society. How much is Thai food part of the Thai culture? How strong is the relationship between sushi and the Japanese culture? As Dan has pointed out, this is a big deal. HOWEVER, saying something like "this community follows ______ diet" is akin to saying "this community follows ______ religion" and I really want to avoid that. I also want to avoid what I consider fad diets like Atkins, Paleo, etc. In permaculture you are playing the long game and these diets don't stick around long enough for you to make a real game plan. The Weston Price thing is a little different, the research has been around since the 30's and is more or less an observation of diets that have been around for centuries. I can see how if pursuing this type of diet was important to enough people in the community that some pre-planning with this in mind would be a big plus. I only bring up the dairy thing because it is a ton of work and someone who wants to take this on will not have the time to also practice forestry, establish an orchard, build ponds, raise chickens, grow wheat..... and all the other things that a true homesteader might do. Most importantly this whole thing needs to be flexible and able to be molded by the changing preferences of the citizens that live there. On the big stuff, no one is going to be offended by the presence of massive amounts of fruit trees, berry bushes, pastures and ponds. How we make use of these resources is subject to change but these things are more or less permanent; as in permaculture.

For now I can say that vegetarians are most welcome but there will be animals around and some of them will get eaten. If you just can't abide, then don't buy a house here.
 
August Hurtel
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For economic/product development, a discovery process for what the people's diet actually is makes a lot of sense. This way we can see whether or not the infrastructure for a dairy, distillery, etc- is justified. If you've got a bunch of people who just love soda, well, it might make sense to figure out how to make a local soda.

A community owned kitchen would help with the scenario you wrote about with Suzie. If the communtiy has the government approved sort of kitchen, then Suzie could rent it, make her preserves, and the community gets some value back from the whole process even if they don't get peaches. It is worth pointing out they do get the value of not having fruit rotting everywhere, as well, as we saw in that video Geoff Lawton put out about that neighborhood in California.

It would also be exciting if a currency of some sort could be introduced such that valuations could be made in a more sane manner than we currently have. When prices change in our current economy, I cannot tell if it is due to actual changes in demand or supply, or if it is merely some sort of manipulation of the currency. We need prices to function as signals reflective of reality.

 
Nicole Alderman
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I haven't had a chance to read all the posts here, but I love the idea you're talking about. It reminds me of a similar village that was being built in Indiana. They were attempting to make a little medieval-esk village with tiny houses, shared farming spaces, etc. When I first read about it, it looked like they'd started building, but now their website is down, and I see some articles about problems they ran into. I guess the zoning didn't like that they wanted little businesses in the village, and that there might be too much strain on the roads and utilities. I can't imagine you'd have those same problems unless you were designing a very large development....



Anyway, I thought you might be interested in how they'd planned their village. Here's the webpage they have that's still up: http://www.lifeinthemidwest.com/simpler_times_village.htm

Here's an articles about struggles they have had: http://www.thegoodcity.com/ye-olde-urbanism-gets-boot-in-britches/#comments, and another about having to withdraw their proposal http://www.wndu.com/news/indiana/headlines/13676612.html. This one has even more details: http://www.indianaeconomicdigest.net/main.asp?SectionID=31&SubSectionID=135&ArticleID=38021

 
George Meljon
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For some reason in Indiana "old fashioned" is what comes to people's mind when you mention sustainable practices. This village being set up in an old ways fashion does not surprise me. There is a deep nostalgia here for the past, but to me this seems to belie the useful place old ways has in our future.
 
Nicole Alderman
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I went and dug through the web archives of Simpler Times Village's old website (https://web.archive.org/web/20070224165225/http://ruralvillage.org/site_plan.shtml#aerial), and found some of their old planning pictures. I thought maybe seeing what someone else thought up might give you some ideas. Here's their plot map for their village.

I also copied what the numbers stand for on their concept plan:

Simpler Times Village: Concept Plan 1
December 2006

Lot types

1. Shops and services on the village green. Residences above shops. Zero lot line. Rear access to roads and parking.

2. Small Cottages, nice for seniors, vacations, singles, couples, and empty nesters.

3. Courtyard Condos.

4. A lovely neighborhood. Family homes with freedom for cottage industries surrounding a park.

5. A unique neighborhood with conservational design.

6. Camping Cabins in the woods, with common restrooms.

7. Commercial buildings and restaurants. Large Parking area.

8. Family Homes, depending on typography this street may need to be relocated.

9. Two - four acre mini farms, with access from main road. These will be built as phase one and use septic.

10. One - three acre homesteads.

11. Homes near the village center, perfect for home based businesses.

12. Water's Edge Estates.


SImpler-Times-Village.jpg
[Thumbnail for SImpler-Times-Village.jpg]
 
Dan Grubbs
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Good thread here, people ... I love this place.

Todd wrote: "I agree that diet is huge factor in the identity of a society. How much is Thai food part of the Thai culture? How strong is the relationship between sushi and the Japanese culture? As Dan has pointed out, this is a big deal. HOWEVER, saying something like "this community follows ______ diet" is akin to saying "this community follows ______ religion" and I really want to avoid that."

I hope people weren't reading my words and thinking that my use of the word diet was code for a particular lifestyle or belief system. That was not my intent.

The use of the word diet that is germane to this discussion isn't meant to mean a prescribed formula, but more as a planning guide, or at the very least, input data for planning. Todd wrote, "no one is going to be offended by the presence of massive amounts of fruit trees, berry bushes, pastures and ponds." I've been doing a poor job saying that what people want to eat in a community setting will determine what kinds of fruit trees, what kind of berry bushes, what kinds of animals on pasture, what kinds of fish in ponds. I believe the "kinds" are huge factors in the planning of the landscape.

The pond example is a good one to help me illustrate my point, which is simply to say that most people's landscape planning seems to consider diet too little. What kind of pond we design is dependent on many factors, not the least of which is whether it will be designed to support fish. But, diet will determine what fish we actually design the pond for. I happen to love catfish and would much rather have my ponds designed for catfish than talapia. Yet, those are two different pond designs. I would prefer trout, which would be a different design approach again. Yet, I don't have the right conditions for trout, but my dietary preferences would be catfish and not talapia. Thus, my design must consider this. This is just a small example.

Now, when we consider planning on a large scale, our choices of what species of animals and what species of growies we propagate and establish are not easily or cheaply changed. Thus, what people want to eat (diet) should be more of a consideration than I believe is applied.
 
Todd McDonald
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I hope people weren't reading my words and thinking that my use of the word diet was code for a particular lifestyle or belief system. That was not my intent.


That was how I understood it so thank you for clearing that up. Makes sense now.
 
Todd McDonald
Posts: 48
Location: Mid-Missouri
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On creating community:

I came across this little nugget from an interview with Mark Shepherd, I love this guy, thanks again to Daniel for posting that podcast with him in it. He is one of those folks who is really doing it out there. Anyway he was asked about building community and his answer is right in line with how I feel about the subject and I couldn't say it any better myself so I will just quote him here. This is why I am not interested in intentional communities and am more interested in creating a place and an environment where community CAN happen.

Mark Shepherd
“Building anything is work. If you have to build community into a project, it's not a self-organizing organic organism and therefore is modeled after the hierarchical, paternalistic, pluto and kleptocratic socioeconomic system from which we are emerging.

We have a steady stream of casual visitors, refugees escaping from the collapsing empire, organized tours, alumni, close friends as well as customers. We don't have to build anything. It is what it is. We have an actual community. Several, in fact. We don’t attempt to force reality to conform to our personally held concepts of what a community should be, We accept it for what it is. Those who are not attracted to interacting as sovereign enterprising individuals and would rather be a part of a contrived community or would rather enter into a hierarchical, bossman-slave relationship, don't fit in here and they select themselves out.


 
Todd McDonald
Posts: 48
Location: Mid-Missouri
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This thread seemed to die with the community post. I had someone from off of the forum question what I had meant by that post so I feel I need to clarify it. This is what I wrote in response to their inquiry.

Regarding community and the Mark Shepherd quote: Intentional communities seem to be tied to some social, political or religious viewpoint and most attempt to create some sort of utopia based on their particular set of views. This usually leads to a lot of rules and a lot of debate about what those rules mean and too often results in conflict between members. In an IC working on communal projects is often required and can often lead to discussions among members about who is pulling their weight and who is not. Intentional communities have a 90% failure rate and of the 10% that are considered successful, many of those are dysfunctional. In an IC new members are allowed in only after being approved by the existing members. In an IC you can put down roots and build a home but if the other members decide that you don't represent their values, they can force you to leave. In contrast, what I am proposing is a place where you own your property and where you decide on your own when to join up and when to leave (by purchase or sale of your property). Its a place where work on community projects is limited and entirely voluntary. It is a place to live and thrive, not a place with a mission of social change. I believe that social change can and will occur organically in a place like this. To get to Mark's quote, I don't think "self organizing organic organism" goes against permaculture planning at all. In fact I think it's quite the opposite. In permaculture design, we use what we know about water and soil to create ideal conditions for the plants that we want. Then we sow the seeds and let them grow. We do not baby struggling plants with chemicals and irrigation, we allow nature to cull them out and achieve a natural balance. In the neighborhood I am proposing we would do exactly that with regard to community. Create ideal conditions for community to happen and allow it to reach its own balance. In my own life this concept is very apparent. We have what I consider real community and several of them. We have a network of friends that are constantly doing things for one another. When we had children, bags of kids clothes would just show up on our doorstep. Katy would go through them and find the sizes that fit our girls and put the rest back in the bag and drop them off at someone else's house. Not a week goes by that we don't have friends over for dinner, or go to a friend's house for dinner. This often happens multiple time per week. We gave a friend a bag full of tomatoes on Sunday just to get rid of them. We had zero expectations of every getting anything in return. On Tuesday she brought us a 1/2 gallon of gazpacho that she made with the tomatoes. I could go on and on with examples like this. We never signed a contract of covenants to be a part of this and we may disagree with some of our friends on politics or religion and yet we have a very close community. It just happened organically and self-organizing without having to define the rules first in order to participate. This kind of community feels satisfying and real to me and what takes place in an IC feels closer to joining a fraternity or sorority in college than real community. That is why the Mark Shepherd quote resonates with me so strongly.


To elaborate further, intentional communities feel like the sense of community is dictated or imposed rather than occurring organically. That is totally my opinion and I'm sure that their are plenty of people living in IC that disagree with me. However I believe that there are far more eco-minded people that are interested in growing part or all of their food supply that feel that an intentional community is not right for them. I am proposing something in between conventional suburban living and intentional community.
 
August Hurtel
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It is rather funny that a consensus based community can seem so dictatorial, whereas a benevolent dictator can make everything seem organic- as Paul manages to do.

I have been noticing it seems more likely people are just going to rent, and that some folks are talking about everything as a service- somewhat opposite to the way I want things to go, but various business conditions being what they are, it seems like folks would almost prefer to rent and not deal with taxes, insurance, lawncare, and whatever else. Some portion of this growing demographic must be at least somewhat into permaculture.

I suspect a signal that a community is compromised is when something like a code of conduct is written. Suddenly, something other than whatever the goal was is now more important than the goal, and usually some person or group of persons are now under threat- because the conduct of conduct almost always presumes one particular sort of person is the oppressor and everyone else is likely oppressed. It often turns out that the former is a doer, and the latter are redistributors.

Indeed, I have become a bit antagonistic to even writing things down, since I realized that bureaucrats have been writing things down for years, and then hiring other bureaucrats to manage all the bits of paper that they've written things down on. Monetary inflation is not the only sort of inflation. I certainly enjoy reading many things, but I can safely say almost none of these things were written by a bureaucrat. I thought, for instance, that I would enjoy Hagakure, but it was actually written by a bureaucrat- probably from a samurai family, but not a real samurai.

 
Dan Grubbs
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Location: northwest Missouri, USA
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I think the failure rate is not quite that bad if you count global efforts. For example, a kibbutz is an intentional community and there are more than 250 in existence in Israel today. They average about 300-400 adult members. I personally believe that Western intentional communities can learn from the decades of evolution the kibbutzim have gone through (some going back to earlier agrarian-based models while some advancing to new economic models). I think understanding their weaknesses and their strengths can be leveraged in the planning and development of an intentional community here in the U.S. (or anyplace, really). Instead of reconstructing an entirely new wheel, what spokes can be borrowed from the kibbutz wheel?

I think these may have higher risk of failing more frequently in the U.S. because of our independent and possessive mentality. For example, how many Americans would go to work at an outside-the-community job and turn over a 80% of their salary every payday to the community? Yet, in other countries with intentional communities, it's common for working members to have to turn over their salary to be pooled with other members' outside pay. My point is that to get Americans to live in an intentional community, we have to get over our possessive mentality. And, we better know all the rules of living in such a community before being allowed to join. It's not hard to find a socialism-minded individual. But, to find 100 willing to live together in the U.S.? Well, that's a different thing altogether.

 
August Hurtel
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I looked into the kibbutzim. Initially I liked them, but I found the levels of psychological conditioning they put the children through very uncool. Additionally, being surrounded by potential enemies tends to foster a level of cooperation by necessity. As initial conditions changed, the kibbutzim weakened.
 
Todd McDonald
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Location: Mid-Missouri
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UPDATE!:

While I am loving the conversation about community I wanted to update anyone watching this thread on the progress we have made over the last few months. My wife and I have been looking at land and have toured 4 different properties for sale in our desired area. We want to look at as many parcels as possible so that when we step foot on the right one, we will know it. One of them was of particular interest because two sides of the tract border a national forest. In addition to this we have met with a realtor friend of mine that has experience in rural development and got a sense of the process we need to go through. He suggested we talk to a local surveyor. We then had a sit down with the surveyor/engineer to dig into the process further. He was surprisingly open to the idea of composting toilets but still had concerns with grey water, we can work through this I'm sure. He has done surveying and engineering for many developments in the area and I got the sense that he looked at our project as an interesting challenge and a refreshing break from the cookie cutter stuff he usually does. We are starting to get a picture of what this will cost so we can put together budgets and proposed prices for the sale of lots.

In addition to the above research we had a little 4 day weekend vacation to Dancing Rabbit ecovillage in northern Missouri to participate in their annual open house. DR has a bed and breakfast called the Milkweed Mercantile and I highly recommend staying there. The proprietors are wonderful, the food is great and its a great way to experience an ecovillage beyond the standard one hour tour. While there we got several ideas for our own project. One thing I had not considered before was rainwater catchment for drinking, bathing and cooking. Previously I had only considered well water or as a last resort the rural water district. I had seen catchment use in hawaii but I guess I just thought that we didn't have enough rain here to do it. Apparently we do because everyone at dancing rabbit is using it. So while staying at the Milkweed we drank and bathed in rainwater and we are sold.

We have started talking about the idea among people we know and it would seem the idea has blossomed into an emerging project. We have commitments from at least two families that want to purchase a lot and other families that are interested and want to have us over for dinner to discuss it. Regardless of whether or not these individuals end up purchasing a lot or not, it gives me confidence that what I am doing is headed in the right direction and it really resonates with people. I will continue to post updates as things develop.
 
Miles Flansburg
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I am following along Todd... Thanks for the updates !
 
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