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Building a community of AUTONOMOUS farms / people  RSS feed

 
Rene Nijstad
Posts: 184
Location: La Mesa, Cundinamarca, Colombia
27
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- Do you have a limited budget of 50.000 USD or less?
- Do you feel it's time to be outside of population centers or even outside of the developed world and move to a place where people are more self sufficient?
- Are you not afraid of making big changes and / or start again from scratch, but you cannot find the right opportunity where you live now?
- Do you want to be part of a community but only if you can also keep your autonomy?

If your answer to any or all of these questions is yes, then this might be of interest to you.

INTRODUCTION
When we bought our farm to create our permaculture 'paradise' we knew that to make it a success it would have to somehow be based on a community of like-minded but different people working in cooperation. Initially we assumed that the best way would be to bring in people to develop the farm with us, in return for slowly gaining joint ownership. As many other people have experienced before us, that is a process filled with struggles and headaches. After less than a year of trying we concluded that this was not the right approach. We learned that community can be better created by independent people choosing to work together based out of their own autonomy. A great help in advancing our thinking were Paul's posts on 'obligation is poison' which can be found here: http://www.permies.com/t/45413/labs/obligation-poison

THE AREA
We are located near the top of a watershed in an area consisting of many small farms between about 1 to 15 hectares in size. The terrain is mountainous, steep slopes mingled with semi-flat parts. Nearest towns are about a 20 minutes drive away. The soils are heavy clay, climate is wet-dry tropical. Many farms are for sale around here and that is why we see an opportunity for building a community.

THE TYPE OF COMMUNITY
Our idea is to form a local economy-community in an area roughly 5km by 2km in size. It would follow the ideas set out by Bill Mollison in chapter 14 of his book 'Permaculture, a designer's manual': 'Strategies of an alternative global nation'. Of course it would take years before it could get anywhere close to what he describes, but that's the challenge we seek. The way it could be made to work out is to join forces with a number of permies to slowly 'take over' more and more of the area. Because every family will bring in their own knowledge and experience this will result in a growing and diverse community that more and more can support itself. We are convinced that over time the local farmers will also get involved because most people living here already start to understand that the 'modern' ways of farming return less and less results. They also see that with the climate here becoming more and more extreme (longer dry periods and more intense thunderstorms) new approaches are needed.

PROPERTY PRICES
Because the local climate is difficult and because not all farms are connected to water and/or electricity (or even the road) yet, property prices are quite low. They range from 60 million pesos (ca 18.000 USD) for a couple of hectares to 200 million pesos (ca 60.000 USD) for a larger farm of up to 15 hectares. (with the current exchange rate of 1 USD = 3300 Colombian Pesos).

OTHER FACTORS
The local population is generally very friendly and polite. Most, if not all, matters and issues can be openly discussed. Because Colombia has not had a big inflow of foreigners the culture is still rather homogeneous and undisturbed. The internal conflict is pretty much coming to an end and the local situation with regards to safety is normal to good.

Government regulation and influence on the rural communities is limited. You can generally do what you like and if any rules apply these are not too much of a burden to follow.

The central and provincial government promote changing to environmental friendly approaches and practices. Most of the funds available still seem to go to bigger projects but a community as suggested in this post might actually qualify for support.

The area is just outside main tourism destinations, but still close enough to develop eco-tourism options for (mostly local) people who want to spend time in more rural areas.

Because of the mountainous terrain there are no big Ag farms anywhere close to the area. It is all small family farms around here.

MUCH MORE
There is much more to talk and elaborate about. If you feel interested in the ideas outlined above please leave a reply and ask any question you might have. You can also PM me if you like the conversation to remain more private.

Below some images showing the area. The green squares indicate farms of like-minded people and farms currently for sale. We know more farms around here are for sale, but not their exact locations. If there are enough people interested we will update the satellite image to create a complete overview.
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mick dipiano
Posts: 24
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So is this land developed or wooded? Does it have a home or need to build one? What will the relationship be with the other farms? When is this looking to get started? Let me go reread.
 
mick dipiano
Posts: 24
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So I showed my wife and she is down. Moose me your email.


I missread
 
allen lumley
pollinator
Posts: 4154
Location: Northern New York Zone4-5 the OUTER 'RONDACs percip 36''
58
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Rene Nijstad : just to make it slightly easier for most americans to grasp what you are offering A Hectare equals 2.47105 acres, this is a much more common

mental image for us and makes figuring in an Apples to Apples sort of a way easier. Just my 2 cents ! Big AL
 
mick dipiano
Posts: 24
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allen lumley wrote:Rene Nijstad : just to make it slightly easier for most americans to grasp what you are offering A Hectare equals 2.47105 acres, this is a much more common

mental image for us and makes figuring in an Apples to Apples sort of a way easier. Just my 2 cents ! Big AL
I was also stupid and read 50.000 (50,000) as 50.00. Lol I was dropping bricks and packing my bag last night. Lol
 
Rene Nijstad
Posts: 184
Location: La Mesa, Cundinamarca, Colombia
27
dog food preservation forest garden trees
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Hi Mick,

There are all kinds of farms for sale around here. Some forested, others clearcut, some with house (most houses around here are really basic though so don't expect anything fancy for these prices). It's way easier to make a list of your own criteria split in 'musts' and 'would be nice' items and we can look around if anything could be a fit.

The relationship with other farms will be what we make of it, modeled after how Mollison describes a community. We look at it in a way that everyone will have his or her own specialities and that before trading with the outside world for our needs we will first look inside the community if we can get it there. For example say you have cows and sell milk and cheese and we have pigs, you would sell us your products and we would sell you meat when we slaughter a pig. That's just an example, anything is possible, from home made soap to fibers and clothing, to staples and vegetables for food. How that will be organised is something that needs to be discussed.

I received your PM and will email you shortly.

Hi Big AL,

Thanks! That's indeed a help. I just used the local system, but in follow up posts I'll use both!

 
Miles Flansburg
steward
Posts: 3981
Location: Zones 2-4 Wyoming and 4-5 Colorado
166
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Rene, are there good websites that would show listings of the neighboring lands that are for sale? I tried doing a quick web search of the area and found very few.
 
Rene Nijstad
Posts: 184
Location: La Mesa, Cundinamarca, Colombia
27
dog food preservation forest garden trees
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Hi Miles,

Most people around here don't have internet at home. It's mainly word of mouth here, or just driving around looking for 'for sale' signs. The farms around here with a listing online on for example www.fincaraiz.com.co are mostly the more expensive properties (expensive mainly defined as with a nice house, not so much the size of the land). We also searched online first but found our own farm also through a friend who knew someone who had a farm for sale.

I would like to list properties around here online, with a good description and some pictures, but that will be a lot of work, so I posted here first to see if people are interested.
 
Dave DeNard
Posts: 11
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I visted Renes farm about 2 weeks ago and stayed with him and Cris for a little over a week. This area has great potential. I am strongly considering a piece of land there that was offered to me. Rene and cris are great dudes and if i knew more people would be joining all of us it would make my desicion alot easier!!! So? Whos with us?
 
Dave DeNard
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Reading everyones responses is making me very anxious to go back to your farm Rene. I hope the offer which was presented is held till april still
 
Andrew Rodriguez
Posts: 26
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this looks really interesting. My girlfriend and I want to start our own agricultural enterprise but we most likely lack the funds for any land. Will be a lot of fun watching this grow though
 
Rene Nijstad
Posts: 184
Location: La Mesa, Cundinamarca, Colombia
27
dog food preservation forest garden trees
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Hi permies,

I have a hard time connecting to the internet right now, because the holiday tourists out here are clogging the lines. I'll be back in a day or two with additional information. Happy new year to all of you!


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Rene Nijstad
Posts: 184
Location: La Mesa, Cundinamarca, Colombia
27
dog food preservation forest garden trees
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Ok, internet functions normal again, most holiday makers have returned to Bogota. I lived in Bogota for about 8 years, after leaving The Netherlands where I was born and raised. We're now living on our farm in rural Colombia for almost 2 years.

WHY COLOMBIA?
When I first came to Colombia in 2005 it was to meet with a business partner. I was completely blown away by the country and the people and I saw so many opportunities here that after I returned to Amsterdam I could not stop thinking about it. So I returned a few months later and never left again (apart from some short visits to Europe in the first years)

To give some examples:
- life is a lot cheaper here than in Europe or the USA, especially so outside the cities. For example property tax on our 10 ha (24 acres) farm last year was less than 100 USD. Labour is cheap as well, you can rent a day laborer starting from 10 USD per day.
- People are a bit more laid back, but they (at least in this area) do take their jobs and businesses seriously. If you need something done, it will get done.
- Police officers are friendly and not easily offended. You won't get traffic tickets for every little mistake and you'll find them relatively helpful if you need information.
- The government in general does not intrude on every little aspect of your life, they simply don't have the resources to do so.
- It is relatively easy to get a visa and with the right visa you can become what they call a 'qualified resident' after 5 years. (I can provide all info from personal experience on that process to anyone interested in joining us here).
- The country itself is breathtakingly beautiful. It has high mountain ranges, vast jungles in the flatlands, it borders both the pacific ocean as well as the Caribbean sea. It all makes a very varied country as well as climate.

For more information on Colombia from a different source you can check out this page on wikitravel: http://wikitravel.org/en/Colombia

TIMING
One of the main reasons for starting this topic now was timing. The area where we live is greatly affected by this year's El Nino, which causes a greatly extended dry period. In normal years we have a rainy season from mid September to June. This season seems to have ended after just a few months, our last rain fell half November. It might rain a bit around March, but it probably won't be much. This means that this year a lot of farms that are for sale might be available even cheaper than the asking price.

The really good news with regards to timing is that after El Nino ends this year, all weather models predict a La Nina for the next two years. That means 2 years wetter than normal are expected to start in September this year. This means there is an excellent opportunity to establish a permaculture farm right now, where all major systems can be put in place to be ready for dryer times to come in the future.
Last but not least, we have been here now for two years, first we experienced a dry year, then a wet year and now a dry year again. We can advise anyone on what it is like, which trees and plants grow well here and which ones have problems. We can help you hit the ground running and avoid all the basic mistakes we made when trying to deal with the local climate.

THIS AREA NEEDS PERMACULTURE
Because of the wet-dry climate this area is a perfect demonstration option for permaculture. We set out to show people it can be done and that you can thrive in places where you do not always have enough rainfall year round. If more people would choose to do the same, by reforesting the area, we believe we can also start to moderate the climate a bit to make things easier in the future.

I hope this provokes some more people to reply to this topic.
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Inge Leonora-den Ouden
pollinator
Posts: 561
Location: Meppel (Drenthe, the Netherlands)
65
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Very very interesting Rene!
One of my problems in this case is: no money. (in general that isn't a big issue for me, as long as I live my quiet life here)
I do my best to find like-minded people to start together, friends with som more 'funds' to spend. Then I could pay them back doing the work I can do. I might seem an old lady (60), but I am strong, have a good health and a good pair of hands with '10 green fingers'. Those hands are skilled in all kinds of handicrafts (mostly textile) too.
I know at least one friend who is interested in starting an eco-village together ... but I do not yet know her opinion about Colombia.
 
Rene Nijstad
Posts: 184
Location: La Mesa, Cundinamarca, Colombia
27
dog food preservation forest garden trees
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Hi Inge,

Without capital to get started things are always problematic. However if you can make an arrangement with other people for you to go in as the pioneer to prepare for their arrival later while they can fund the initial setup you will find good options here. Also as I wrote labor is cheap here, even renting a backhoe won't cost more than 25 EUR per hour (including the operator) so even with a limited budget you can still get things done.

For a good opinion on Colombia it's best to visit . The country had a bad reputation and there still are areas that are not safe, but in general those problems are in the past. Where we live things are normal. We can accommodate visitors on our own farm or find you a decent place to stay for some time at one of the neighboring farms. If you want to talk more, please send me a PM and I'll give you my email.

 
Inge Leonora-den Ouden
pollinator
Posts: 561
Location: Meppel (Drenthe, the Netherlands)
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Rene, I will think about all you write. When the time is ripe you'll here more. If the time won't be ripe for this ... I wish you the very best
 
Rene Nijstad
Posts: 184
Location: La Mesa, Cundinamarca, Colombia
27
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Thanks Inge... If you need any more info at any time in the future just message me. I'd be happy to help.
 
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