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My perfect village dream  RSS feed

 
r ranson
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Location: Left Coast Canada
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My image of a perfect place to live would be a little like the old medieval village system.

For me, the houses would be in the center of the farm, gathered around some public buildings like a large scale (government certified) communal kitchen, a Moot Hall (public gatherings and indoor market days), guild hall (for teaching and practicing skills), maybe a smithery if we can find a blacksmith, woodshop if we can find a carpenter, village square, village shop (with post office). This village shop would be a place to sell the produce to the outer world, as well as bring things in to the community in bulk... to make them more affordable. Also a place to distribute produce within the community - like I milk my goats, send the milk to the shop, each person picks up their milk when ready.

The village center would be fairly tidy and be something of a tourist destination. This is why the communal kitchen would need to be certified, so that we can make things to sell. There would be a market day each week where the residents can sell their goods, either outside on the village green, or inside the Moot hall. There may also be a pub.

Each person/family has their own dwelling and 2 to 5 acres to do what they like (so long as they don't harm the land - strict rules would have to be made and enforced). About 10% of what they grow goes into community coffers, either as money or as crop for the 'food bank'. Long storing food bank goods would be used as emergency back up food for the community, feast day celebrations, and some sold at the village market. There would be communal events where people get together to process and preserve food in the communal kitchen, both for personal and communal use. Many hands make light work.

There would also be communal tools like tractor and other agricultural implements. Like a tool lending library system for village members. Maybe stationary threshing equipment like they had in the old days. A combine might not be worthwhile, as the fields would only be a few acres in size and many would be using no till or fukuoka style grain raising.

There is a substantial amount of common land, including food forests, wood lot, coppiced forest, grazing pastures, fish pond, small river, orchards, grain and staple crop fields, hay fields, and that type of thing, including a village square. Everyone has access to this land, however when and what land is regulated. For example, grazing the sheep in a newly planted orchard would be discouraged as they would destroy the trees.


Since there would probably be a combination of different kinds of people, how each villager contributes to the maintenance of the common land would have to be regulated. Maybe someone with a city job can contribute so much money a month like a strata fee. A person like me who would avoid the city at every opportunity, would contribute so much labour per week. If there is still work that needs doing but no hours left, then the community hires help from the village or in a pinch, from outside.

There would have to be a very firm system in place to make certain things run smoothly, with enforceable rules. I think membership of the village would be leasehold and strata system (like a strata fee for living in a condo), or to have one land owner and a administrative group... so long as that administrative group isn't thinking that they can get out of doing work just because they are administering. Administration would be purely volunteer.

edit: I also think that there should be a way for financially poor, skill rich people to work their way into the village. There is no way I could ever afford to buy into a situation like this, but I can manage livestock and grow things. Maybe a mortgage like system where I promise to manage the village goat flock for 5 years, gains me one acre of land and the right to build my shanty on it.


My perfect farm village would be a step away from capitalism, but not completely out of it. Within the village there would be sharing and trade, with a village system of measuring the value of the trade - like a local currency. But it would also take into account that it is difficult to thrive in total isolation from the would. A lawyer with a city job has just as much right to raise their kids in an agricultural setting, and they can contribute different skills and resources to the village than farmers.
 
Tyler Ludens
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I think to some extent the more rules and specific requirements that are insisted on for an agrihood or village, the less likely it is to actually be created. The fairly normal small suburb or neighborhood which includes a farm, and could also include certain home businesses, is in my opinion more plausibly going to be created. The country neighborhood I live in is a subdivision of a large old ranch and there are very specific deed restrictions attached to each parcel. Some of them I'm not too thrilled about, such as the requirement for no first dwelling smaller than 1500 square feet and no second dwelling smaller than 750 square feet, and no mobile homes or living in an RV, but still one could get around this by building portable structures that aren't "mobile homes" or "RVs" for instance yurts. We're not allowed to raise swine (weird) or have a feed lot (even though the rancher across the road has a small feed lot). There are also other rules like don't have visible trash piles (this doesn't stop the neighbors from having a huge trash pile we can see from our place). Small farming and home businesses are encouraged. Parcels can never be subdivided smaller than 10 acres, though some neighbors have purchased adjoining properties to reconsolidate some of the land. But other than these deed restrictions, it's a pretty normal ex-urbanish subdivision that looks just like properties along a country road. I think we all bought the properties because they were either close to where we grew up (my case and the case of neighbors up the road) or we liked the restrictions I'm happy that some of my neighbors like to farm, even though I might not entirely approve of how they do it (gross overstocking). It's an interesting diverse group of people who are all friendly and some of whom are mutually supportive, sharing food, tools, etc. I think there's a lot of potential for a neighborhood like this to become even more like the kind of village you describe, Ranson, for instance if some of us get more into growing food and can encourage neighbors to buy it. I still dream of having a little honor store on the road, where people could buy their vegetables on their way home from work. Don't know if I'll ever be able to grow food that well! I think there are lots of neighborhood like this one which could become more mutually supportive, without having to start from scratch, although I don't think there is anything wrong with planned communities. I just don't think many of us have the resources to create them, whereas we can many of us work to create mutual support in our own existing neighborhoods.
 
r ranson
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I think to some extent the more rules and specific requirements that are insisted on for an agrihood or village, the less likely it is to actually be created.


I use to think this, and I think some people would be put off. In a way, the place I want to live would be run a lot like this permies.com is. There are some people who can't get use to a high level of management, but gentle souls can often thrive in the protection that this these restrictions provide.

I've seen some communities with pretty strict rules. Not just what colour the flowers in the front garden have to be, but also what height range each stem is. Half an inch too tall, and that's a $2000 fine. Number of christmas lights per foot of string, a two hour range for putting up the holiday display - not allowed to put it up before and must have it up by the end of those two hours in December. Even what colour any internal furniture visible from the windows are. Crazy rules! Especially considering it's houses people own, within a strata style community. People choose to live under these rules. There is a wait list 10 years long to buy a house in that community.

A vital part of a agricultural community, at least one that I want to belong to, is that the personal land is personal. Only rules like farming to organic standards, not overusing community resources like water, things like that are enforced. Everything else is up to the individual, so long as it doesn't infringe on the (predetermined) rights of other villagers. House building, number of dwellings, size of buildings... all that should only depend on how much impact it has on the overall community - like if the waste management (septic/humanure) is too great or the wrong location and risks damaging the drinking water. It doesn't matter if you have 200 square feet or 2,000 square feet dwelling, if it's not putting undue pressure on communal resources, it should be up to you. What is undue pressure? That depends on the location and pre-set agreement between villagers.

I think, a group of people would naturally move towards their individual niche. So if we have one person raising hogs, then there isn't much more room in the communal forest for more pigs - so the next person might choose to raise sheep. If one person has already cornered the market on grain, I might decide to raise fodder crops to sell to my fellow farmers. It would take some coordination and a lot of communication between members of the village, but things would settle out fairly quickly - so long as the avenues of communication remain open. That's why the Moot Hall would be so important, with monthly gatherings to discuss happenings in the community (followed by feast and beer).

I think there's a lot of potential for a neighborhood like this to become even more like the kind of village you describe, Ranson, for instance if some of us get more into growing food and can encourage neighbors to buy it.


That's another good point. The one I described would be a created community, with the organization preceding the actual building of the village. With good communication among neighbours, perhaps a community like that could grow from an existing area... unfortunately in my area, many neighbours are not like that. Any food that isn't wrapped in plastic from the freezer aisle is dirty and they are more than willing to call the health inspector to try to get us fined for growing food in soil. Dirty, dirty carrots.
 
Tyler Ludens
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Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
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R Ranson wrote: People choose to live under these rules. There is a wait list 10 years long to buy a house in that community.


That's a good point, and of course I wonder why people want to live there, and why such communities are so popular. People keep creating new intentional communities all the time - are any of them the kind of agrihood or village you describe? It seems like intentional communities are always begging for members, not having a ten year wait list.
 
r ranson
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Location: Left Coast Canada
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People keep creating new intentional communities all the time - are any of them the kind of agrihood or village you describe? It seems like intentional communities are always begging for members, not having a ten year wait list.


As my friend says "I know, right." I've looked into a few intentional agricultural communities, but haven't found any that come close to matching my style. I dream of the day when I can find a village or agrihood like I describe. I gather the skills I need to be a valuable contributor to village life. Maybe one day... sigh. It's just a dream. In real life things seem to be quite different.

I'm a very private person and have a strong need for my own space. I don't want people poking their nose in and telling me how I have to do things. I don't mind restrictions on some aspects like water use and waste management, but how I build my compost pile is up to me - so long as it doesn't cause problems with water contamination and rodents. How I manage my sheep should be up to me. I don't tolerate ignorant people telling me the best way to do something because they saw it in a Disney flic. Where I live now is very open to view. Not only our neighbours, but also a lot of city people drive by. One example I had was last year. A sheep got a limp during the rainy season. Someone calls animal welfare because it's had the limp for almost 10 days and this do gooder has seen a film about industrial agriculture and has decided that I need to be put in jail for allowing my sheep to get foot rot. Not that they knew what foot rot is, nor did they take the time to smell my ewes feet. Well, seven days before, I took said ewe to the vet because of the sprained ankle. I already did the diagnoses to discover the reason for the limp and decided it was a sprain... but I wanted to make double certain, so I took the ewe to the vet and had him walk me through the diagnosis procedure and confirmed my plan for treatment was in keeping with the animal's best interests. Glad I did. If the do gooder had his way, my flock would have been culled and me in jail all over a sprained ankle. As it was, I had the vet to back me up. But I shouldn't have to. It's experiences like this that make me demand my privacy and freedom to care for my land in a way that agrees with my values.

A lot of communities I've seen don't give that freedom. One community I've seen, a person who knows squat all about goats, dictates how the goats should be cared for - and the flock of goats is rife with illness because of it. If the community is going to be run by a dictator, that dictator needs to know what they are doing, and know when to consult an expert for things they don't know.

Other communities go too much the other way and don't organize the shared land so that some people get all the resources and others work their arses off for nothing.

And then there are the communities that require huge financial contributions to join.

I see my ideal agricultural community as a balance of private and communal land. A place where labour and money have equal weight and equal say in how things are done. A place with good communication and a pre-set collection of regulations that are simple to understand and easy to follow. Sure, some things need to be managed strictly like not poisoning the drinking water, but there also needs to be a lot of freedom as to how that is achieved. A balance of expert and practical know how. And enough flexibility to deal with new challenges that arise.
 
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