Okay, forgive me if this is a little disjointed and jumps around a bit, I'm fleshing out an idea that I've had tumbling around in my head for a while.
A couple of the major roadblocks to everyone establishing their own permie paradise is the lack of willing and understanding workers and the cost of equipment/supplies. It takes sooo long to try to tackle every infrastructure project that should be addressed and then you've got to source all these plants that most people just give you a deer-in-the-headlights stare when you ask if they can get a hold of them. If you do find that amazing n-fixer, they want you to pay $30/plant or buy 1000 to make them $5 a plant.
What if there was a co-op that you could join run by permaculture minded folks that focused on providing permaculture related products/services. A well run co-op (key term: well run) would allow for group purchases of relevant supplies to take advantage of bulk discounts and pass those savings onto the members as well as open up the possibility of access to large equipment for people who would otherwise not be able to justify the cost.
One thing that I think would be great to figure out would be a way to have the co-op organize and facilitate perma-blitzes to those rural areas that have a hard time finding ten people that can get together let alone agree on how to do something. I could see something like a percentage of your dues gets set aside to a 'blitz-fund' that you could use to request that a group of people come help on a project. A big incentive to go out and help on other people's perma-blitzs would be some sort of system that applied a certain amount to your 'blitz-fund' whenever you worked on someone else's perma-blitz. It would be really great if the co-op could eventually obtain big equipment to make available for some of the larger projects people have, paid for either from their blitz-fund if they've accumulated enough or paid for out-of-pocket.
Any members that already had large equipment of their own could trade equipment time on other people's projects for funds in their blitz-fund, giving them access to other equipment that they might not have. This could be everything from agricultural equipment to earth-moving equipment.
If the co-op did well enough it could grow to the point of being it's own plant supplier and develop nurseries growing the specific plants that people in the co-op desire the most. Better yet, each local chapter could be some sort of permaculture research area focused not just on providing supplies but on developing new/rediscovering old appropriate techniques for permaculture.
It would be a slow grow at first but I think that once there were a few successful projects to showcase along with offering a chance to save some money the co-op would grow to be a self-sustaining beast.
There might be an income potential for the co-op if it could provide consulting for non-members for a fee, along with making the tools and supplies that the co-op has sourced available to non-members at a mark-up.
The co-op could even become a place for members to sell products that are produced from their homestead/farm. A person could conceivably pay their dues by selling products through the co-op. The co-op would be a place where resources would be pooled, allowing for things that the small land holder wouldn't be able to justify, things like professional advertising campaigns and market research.
Would you be interested in something like this if it was available? Interested enough to actually shell out some cash?
Would you be willing to get in a van with 12 or so other members and drive a long distance to go work on someone else's project if all the arrangements were taken care of and you knew that others would be doing the same thing for you in the future?
Would you be interested in selling a crop/product to a co-op?
Is this already being done somewhere?
"Instead of Pay It Forward I prefer Plant It Forward" ~Howard Story / "God has cared for these trees, saved them from drought, disease, avalanches, and a thousand tempests and floods. But he cannot save them from fools." ~John Muir
Michael Newby wrote:If you do find that amazing n-fixer, they want you to pay $30/plant or buy 1000 to make them $5 a plant.
Or you could propagate your own by buying/scrounging seed or taking hardwood/softwood cuttings. Between Sheffields Seeds and FW Schumacher, you can get just about any useful plant that you could want. Learning to propagate a plant might just be more valuable than the plant itself.
Michael, I would be interested and would contribute to something like that in my area. A limiting factor might be people's sense that there is a need to do this.
I see what Mike Haych is saying, but sometimes folks (like me) need some collective guidance and encouragement. Not everyone can bootstrap, and I think that's what Michael is addressing in part. As for driving "a long distance", I would put a functional limit at a radius of an hour or two. That's me personally in the NE USA; I understand other regions may have a different sense as to what is "far" away.
If this happens in the Shasta area I would be willing to pay dues and put out a lot of volunteer work to get it started. I know you mentioned having a hard time finding people in this area, but I'd be willing to put in some work to help find them. I'll definitely keep you informed as to how my wwoofers request is going. I know there are a lot of folks in the area who want quality organic food, but don't have their lives set up to produce it. A local CSA might be a good addition to a co-op that has fewer members to increase income. In our situation we might be able to produce products the other cannot due to differences on climate and elevation. For example, I want to grow citrus in a greenhouse since we have so little freezing here...
funny you say this, i was just getting ready to post a similar idea for the south western Pa area... it seams that earth ship,permie, homesteader, pocket of freedom land is hard to find around here, and there isnt really any help groups like in AZ. ect. i will be posting a thread inviting all north east seekers to come together in, sounds like we could have numerous outposts with national reach upon startup if we coordinate
Michael and everyone, I was once — for a few years, actually — part of a shared-land-use situation with three other households. Much of what you’ve described makes sense. Our “fly in the ointment” issue was that we were all young, between 25 and 30, and the household units (couples with kids) had not sorted themselves out realistically… things disintegrated.
But if you can provide & create the needed social stability, this co-op idea can flourish, I believe.
Among things that were definitely good in our experience were social companionship, multiple experience & viewpoints toward assessing situations, teaching & learning from one another and through shared endeavors, the energy-mulltiplying effect of ‘more hands on deck’ with certain ongoing projects, shared infrastructure like water system & larger gardening tools.
On the land, we had a shop with work benches, table saw, bandsaw, jointer, drill press, hand-wielded and portable powered hand tools, oxyacetylene torch rig, etc. Equipping a weatherized workshop in at least a basic way was essential to creating and maintaining the homestead. But if it had been an individual-household shop, paid for by one household, the shop in total would have been probably the most expensive single investment or piece of equipment’. (I know through experience, because after our shared-land situation broke up, I had to reinvest in a shop on my own over a period of years.)