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Continuity of Operations in Permaculture  RSS feed

 
Joseph Lofthouse
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I'd like to see more discussion about the cultural side of permaculture... How do we design food systems that remain viable and stable in spite of the uncertainties of life?

It seems to me, like the atomization of individuals and separation of families and villages is a primary contributor to permaculture systems failure. I look around me and see tremendous amounts of food being produced, that simply falls to the ground. I don't begrudge the worms their food, but it seems to me like we could be doing better on the cultural side of things... How do we insure that grandpas food forest continues to feed the community when grandpa is too old to take care of it. How do we insure continuity of operations across family disruptions, and across generations? What if I get sick? Is there anyone that would continue to grow my varieties?

Around here, free land is everywhere. And it is available for a handshake... I see abandoned orchards and vineyards all around me. All it would take for me to become steward over them, would be for me to approach the landowner and say, "I'd like to take care of your orchard for you, I'll share some of the fruit at harvest time." I don't do those types of things very often, because my life is already filled with as much farming as I have time to do. However, if I collaborated with some kids that really want to grow fruit, but are too timid to talk to the property owners...

So often on these forums, I read about someone moving onto a farm, and it seems like the first thing they do is to take a bulldozer to the place and rip out everything that the previous untold generations of farmer's have been working towards. How is that respecting the culture of the place?

I see a lot of "intentional community" talk on these pages. How's that working out for folks?

Any ideas about land ownership strategies so that a divorce, or injury leaves the productivity of the land unaffected by social instability?

We had a great discussion a few weeks ago about medical care in a permacultural setting. I loved that discussion. It helped me to ponder about how to move towards a culture in which each person provides healthcare services to those around them.

So what are your thoughts? What questions should I be asking in regards to the cultural side of permaculture? What problems need to be solved?
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Permaculture across generations
 
Tyler Ludens
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I think this is an extremely important topic. As an older person trying to restore a degraded patch of land into a healthy bit of ecosystem which will also support the needs of a household (or more), I'd like to know if there is some way I can pass on care of the land as I become too old to maintain it. I see people on the forums here complain about not having access to land, and then I see people with land begging for people to care for it, and I wonder - how can we get these people together? How can we build a culture from these needs that people are expressing? Is a permaculture parcel of land doomed to be a one-shot deal? And how can heritage features, such as Joseph mentions, be transferred over time to the next generations?

I'm afraid my thoughts and questions aren't very well organized. But I think these are important ideas and I hope we can discuss them.

 
Tyler Ludens
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I guess everyone is paddling their own canoe.


 
C. Letellier
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Location: Greybull WY north central WY zone 4 bordering on 3
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You need to build them in from the beginning. Discuss, develop consensus and have a long term plan.
 
J. Burkheimer
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It seems like our Real Estate system needs a simple alternative "Escrow"
whereby people can pass along their properties to person's or groups with
similar interests. Aren't there 'land conservancies' that do basically this?

Removing the laws and codes that force turnover of vacant and/or neglected
properties would be a start. Rather than forcing a "Tax Sale" of abandoned
properties, these could be directed to groups that would care for the land
in good permaculture fashion. In essence, give the properties to folks that care.
 
Tyler Ludens
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Can you tell me more about laws that currently prevent us from giving our property away? I know of none. So I'm not sure what changes need to be made to the current system. You seem to be saying we can't solve the problem of lack of continuity without changing some laws. Which laws specifically need to be changed and how would that help me find a way to pass my land on to someone who will care for it?

 
Karen Donnachaidh
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There are two things in my area that may be of interest to you:

A great example of land conservancy - Claytor Nature Study

And with Gleaning for the World around there should never be wasted fruits, vegetables, etc. They will put it to good use.
 
Tyler Ludens
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Karen Layne wrote:

A great example of land conservancy - Claytor Nature Study


It is not clear to me that the farm is still a functioning farm. It looks like the farm buildings were preserved but not the farm itself. I don't think Joseph is talking about farm museums. I certainly am not.

 
Levente Andras
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Location: Harghita County, Transylvania, Romania
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I'm not so concerned about the ability to maintain the project and keep it productive when I grow old. I aim to design / I have designed my projects with the intention of having an (almost) self-sustaining system at maturity. No / minimal inputs from me in terms of fertility boosts and maintenance. Annual planting / sowing in an intensively managed, small area - all the rest designed so that at maturity I can leave it mostly to its own devices, just harvest what I need when I need it. I believe it's possible, if the design and implementation is right.

What really concerns me is what will become of my projects when I move on to another life. I am building my system with a vision. Will whoever takes over share that vision? Will they have a vision at all? If they do have a vision, will that be a permaculture vision, that is either a continuation or an improvement of my project? Or a vision driven by greed and expediency? One that involves cutting down the trees, carving up the land into smaller lots to be sold for development, paving over the garden to make parking space for more cars...?

 
Karen Donnachaidh
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I should have added more of my thoughts to my earlier post...I mentioned Claytor Nature Study as an example because I would guess that the activities there and how the land is used was per the wishes of Mr. Claytor , written into a contract, I would assume. Someone else may designate their farm to remain a working farm or have any number of contractual terms. I may be totally wrong, I just thought that was how a conservancy or land management deal worked.
 
Karen Donnachaidh
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I know people can donate their estates to their alma mater, local hospitals, public television stations, etc; since this site reaches people worldwide(?), what if we all vow to donate our land to wheaton laboratories? That would be a huge jump towards world domination!
 
Tyler Ludens
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Donations like that just get sold. I'm not interested in this land being sold for development.

wheaton labs already has several hundred acres. They certainly don't need this.

 
Jason Hudgins
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There's an interesting program for commercial farming at the International Farm Transition Network. The basic idea is to link older farmers who are looking to retire with younger aspiring farmers and giving them a path to ownership of a farm property. I see no reason that a model like this couldn't be adopted and applied to permaculture sites as well. Just needs the right people with the inspiration to get it up and running.
 
John Weiland
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@Joseph L: "How do we insure continuity of operations across family disruptions, and across generations?...... it seems like the first thing they do is to take a bulldozer to the place and rip out everything that the previous untold generations of farmer's have been working towards. How is that respecting the culture of the place? ....... what are your thoughts? What questions should I be asking in regards to the cultural side of permaculture? What problems need to be solved? "

I don't think there is any insurance, just efforts and attempts. When it comes to what best to do, there are no easy answers. I agree with Daniel Quinn when he suggested that any new 'programs' will be just that....new, top-down organized modules attempting to change something that has too many variables to consider. Since it is largely out of our control, what are the things that have been shown to make a difference? It's usually hands-on inclusivity....doing what you can in your own small sphere to influence others and the next generation. If they don't feel included in whatever culture they find themselves within, the first thing they will do is bulldoze the previous rendition and supplant it with their own. So in this regard, I keep a version of the old saying "The job you certainly won't get is the one for which you don't apply...." in my head: The person you don't impress or change is the one that you've turned away or ignored. It's not your job to *make* them interested, but to offer them an opportunity to be a part of something better. At the current point in time, most of those fish will go through the net. Maybe a different time from now, whoever you've inspired will be catching more fish. Culturally, it has to ultimately be a better place than they previously were.
 
Todd Parr
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I'm having an internal battle with myself over this on my little 2 acres. I spent the last few years changing it from a 2 acre lawn into the beginning of what I wanted to do with it. It makes me sad to think now that I'm planning to move to a bigger area, someone will come in, look at all my hard work and think "Man I could make a nice big lawn out of this...".
 
Tyler Ludens
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Deed restrictions can be attached to the land which state the accepted purposes of the land. This can only be enforced through lawsuit, but putting the deed restrictions in place at least gives some assurance that the purchasers share your vision for the land. Our place has several deed restrictions, some of which are stupid, but some of which we approve, such as retaining the rural character of the land. We are only the second family of European descent to live on this land, which gives us a real sense of history.
 
Marianne Cicala
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This is such an important topic and we've been working on this diligently for years. We're baby boomers; our kids are city kids with their own careers. They love "visiting" the farm but have no burning desire to live in the sticks or farm after we're gone (physically &/or mentally). Leaving the farm to them as an inheritance would be anything but a gift; it would only saddle them with an unwanted obligation. Although I'm not a fan of ruling my kingdom from the grave, I will not sleep knowing the likelihood of a local conventional grower (we're in GMO ag land) destroying what we've spent years nurturing or a trailer park replacing my food forest.

We've had Wwoofers/Interns/Apprentices joining us for years now and last year I decided to extend the possibility for "next generation" growers to simply stay if the rhythms of the many moving parts work well for all of us. There are so many passionate people that do not have the means to invest in property and the high rate of young farms folding is terribly concerning. I have no interest in building an intentional community but more of a focused neighborhood with everyone working at the same spot aka the farm proper. We have 1 guy where this offer has been made and accepted. He's been with us for just over a year, intelligent, self starting and hard working. He's flagged a plot that he wants to call his own and eventually build. I'm stoked, relieved and excited about this solution. I don't want to rule the universe or create any larger than life domain to manage, just keep this incredible place rolling long after I roll out of here.

The easiest way to secure this for him in the future was an old fashion family meeting (with all parties involved aka our kids and him) and make it clear what was happening and the whys and the hows. The parcel that he's claimed as his own will be legally deeded to him for his use for his lifetime. This is pretty simple procedure and far easier that selling a chunk of property in the center of our place. Over time, we plan to add 3 maybe 4 more folks. It allows independence of our farm partners, within reason (obviously there are things that cannot be allowed because of legalities and we do have to agree on designs etc after all there needs to be some continuity) while a community of farmers working on the same plot.

This group will be managing the farm with all parties getting increasing %s of the profits as my physical role declines/ends. Once we're gone, they will continue the farm and our kids will have our house to enjoy. Upon our death, the farm rolls into a trust with very specific things about it not being sold, people that have rights for their lifetime etc.

The thought of our work not continuing is heartbreaking, so we're doing what seems to be the best alternative for us.
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John Weiland
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@Marianne C: "They love "visiting" the farm but have no burning desire to live in the sticks or farm after we're gone (physically &/or mentally)." -and- "...our kids will have our house to enjoy."

I'm curious with this last part, --how will the house be maintained if it will be for the kids to enjoy but they will not be living there?

How old are your kids now? The age thing is relevant I feel because I think for some, there can be transitions throughout adulthood that bring one from urban back to rural life, all dependent on context. My parents are baffled the they "escaped" the farm and raised us in the city, only to have two of their kids make a bee-line for rural living. Adding to this are other cases where the young professionals left the rural nest and after growing weary of urban life returned to rural living, not necessarily onto the homestead they were raised, but rural nonetheless. Although it can be sad to see the physical location that you put so much effort into fall out of your control and your vision for its sustainability, many times the seed that was planted in the minds and activities of your children will sprout well after you are gone. That is just where things are now....maybe someday that realization will be made earlier and earlier in some of the future generations and there will once again be more continuity of ownership across generations of the family. But also just to say I think you're making the best and most admirable choice is giving others a chance at the property who might not otherwise have the means. Even in our very rural region, I've heard an increasing number of stories where the home-owner making a sale is there side-by-side with the real-estate agent screening the interested parties.....and often giving a huge discount to the family that the owner feels will be the best fit for the property.
 
Marianne Cicala
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Hey John,
My kids are in their 30s, didn't grow up on the farm but in urban USA. The farm was a weekend escape place and hubby and I knew that someday (which happily came earlier than planned) we'd leave the grind and follow our dream. My daughter is a professional chef obviously loves food and can kill rosemary with a close look and makes no bones about the fact that 2 days in the woods is great but begins to twitch after 3 days.

We built our house so it's layout is perfect for what is going on, on the farm. The main cabin is for everyone's use on the farm - kitchen, dining, den and a bath + 1/2. It's basicly a meeting spot and will continue. our bedroom and bath are a dogtrot away, so our intention is that, that will continue. That's where the wifi is (satellite internet is the only option) so it will be used and maintained even when it is not lived in full time. We have intern cottages sprinkled in the same general area, but the habit of family style dinners 5 nights a week haven't waned in almost 5 years although our "guests" have their own spots. It's an old log cabin that we saved, so the space is magic and I have no worries about it being cared for.

We talked at length to the kids before getting this rolling; they love the idea and both said "thanks - we've been wondering what we'd do and how we could ever keep this going". They are only 3 and 4 hours away and pop in with regularity, know the folks living on the farm and as far as the guy that's with us for the long haul, he's family at this point - to all of us.
 
Tyler Ludens
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Our place isn't a farm, though Im working to make a small part of it a productive food system. Most of it is for wildlife. So I don't know if we'd be able to attract the sorts of people who post on here wanting land. It would have to be someone who is into intensive plant growing, not someone who wants to raise lots of livestock. Also they would have to love native plants and wildlife and not be into killing critters that share the food. So, a rather rare type, I think. I'm not even sure how we'd go about trying to find people who might want to live here and maybe eventually inherit it...
 
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