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?
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?
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.
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.
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?
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.
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...?
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.
With forty shades of green, it's hard to be blue.
Garg 'nuair dhùisgear! Virtutis Gloria Merces
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!
With forty shades of green, it's hard to be blue.
Garg 'nuair dhùisgear! Virtutis Gloria Merces
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.
@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.
“The most important decision we make is whether we believe we live in a friendly or hostile universe.”― Albert Einstein
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 acrelawn 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...".
"People may doubt what you say, but they will believe what you do."
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.
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.
@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.
“The most important decision we make is whether we believe we live in a friendly or hostile universe.”― Albert Einstein
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.
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...
I glanced through this thread, referred from the Permaculture conservancy thread, and it amazes me just how much Bill knew about these subjects and how insistent he was that we focus on them at least as much as building a dam.
He also had several examples of gleaning in Australia on a business level.
I forget which town it was that had chestnut trees or something. One person put up an ad to buy unprocessed chestnuts by the pound and immediately he had all the kids gathering chestnuts and bringing them in.
This spread to the adults who started to care for the trees. Then he processed the nuts , took them to another town where there was a market for chestnut meats and made considerable amounts of money. This operation grew and grew until he located the best trees in town and propagated them, and then gave the plants to the people of the town to grow and continue to improve the production.
He also talked about how it was illegal to harvest one exotic species of fern or flower, but that same species was being destroyed arbitrarily by conventional farmers or lumber companies in their land clearing. Coming in and gleaning those exotic plants was worth lots of money, but often takes people with pure business skills to implement a plan that creates a win on all levels and ultimately involves lots of people in these processes and gets us all to reevaluate the way we use land.
Anyway, I will also mention my similar quest for that system of legal immortality for the lands we so carefully nurture, and please share any results or actions you have taken along these lines. I posted more about trusts and such over in the conservancy thread webpage
I do not think there is any guarantee of consistency. You raise your children as best as you can, instill in them character and virtue, and can only hope for the best; for them and longevity of the homestead.
A homestead is a dynamic, and constantly changes, and if a person thinks that what they do today, is going to ensure that the homestead will be viable 100 years from now, they will be in for a surprise.
My father is very disappointed with the direction I have taken this farm, but he looks back on his childhood with nostalgia, and that is understandable, but it is not 1958 any more, it is 2020. Things are drastically different today then they were then.
The things we must get away from is that the homestead has to go to children. That is not the case. Children sometimes do not want to do homestead stuff, but agriculture is strange, somehow, somewhere in the family, there is someone that wants to do it. It might skip a generation, and it might be a cousin or nephew, but someone wants to actually do agriculture, and it is best to find that person, and give them the opportunity.
The other thing that we must get away from, is thinking equal is fair. It is not. If a person has three children, then dividing 300 acres up into 100 acres lots is not fair, it is only equal. If one daughter shows interest in agriculture, and the other two do not, giving them each 100 acres is not fair at all, it just ensures it will be sold. Instead, give those children (2) 2 acre lots for their homes, and give the remainder to the one that is going to care for the farm. Give her enough acreage so it can be viable, do not tie her hands. And if she has done the work along with the parents to get the farm to where it is, whereas the other kids have not helped so much, that is indeed fair. It is not equal, but as I said, fair is not always equal.
On a small level, there are many folks that simply do not know what food looks like outside of the grocery store. Even something as basic as an apple, they will worry that it's not edible, or actually poisonous, or "dirty" if it grows outside, etc. Folks may have no idea that hazelnuts are edible and how to collect and use them. Similar to how acorns are viewed now. I think education and hands-on experience needs to be a vital piece of preservation. Get people interested and involved. Share the product, but also where it comes from. Teach children. Hold open house/yard/gardens. Give plants away, etc. Plant the seed and some few will fall in love with the learning and become stewards themselves. Or maybe I'm just an idealist ;)
I've got my son in law eager to turn his backyard into productive space, and my nephew joins me in my urban lot to start seeds, do a "taste-test" tour regularly, and help with the work. He's got his mom getting them a small community garden plot, where he'll have the chance to see and meet other gardeners too, from different walks of life as well. We've gotta raise and teach others to see the value and know HOW to use it and reap the benefits, as much as preserving the land and forests.
Continuity in permaculture will take care of it's own. We live in Thailand, among farmers who slash and burn, use glysophate and roundup by the truck-loads. We set up a piece of land in the middle of it and use permacultural principles to manage it. We hope for a stark contrast in the near future between their land and ours in the dry season to show that 4 to 6 months of no rain cannot break down a lush green permacultural plot. If they come to ask how we do it, we work on continuity!
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