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How did YOU evaluate your permaculture community before joining?

 
Posts: 7
Location: Massachusetts
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Hi all,

I'm new to this board and I'm thinking of joining a permaculture community.

There are soooooo many things to be considered and I don't know where to begin.

Obviously I'll be visiting a few to see how I feel (and to see if permaculture is the right activity for me at all).

But, what about:

* cost of land/equity: what's reasonable?
* evaluating return on investment
* evaluating land/growing practices for those of us who aren't permaculture experts
* bringing in trusted mentors/agents to help you evaluate an opportunity
* what happens if you want to leave

And then there's the Human side of things: I'm glad to see consensus as the model in so many communities. But, as we know, what looks like a consensus model may not be so in practice. What to look for there?

I'm currently reading "Finding Community" by Diana Leafe Christian and I'm sure there will be suggestions there.

I realize that you can't completely eliminate risk, and I'm OK with that, otherwise I wouldn't be thinking about this at all.

Thanks in advance for any suggestions/pointers.
 
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Hi Amy. Welcome to Permies.

You have pretty much covered all my points of concern in this realm, with maybe one exception.

One of my main concerns is conflict resolution. I am wary of any setup that requires a special language in order to communicate (and I don't mean French). That has always reeked of semantic obfuscation to me. There are a number of red flags I have noticed.

In my opinion, such systems of semantic manipulation get in the way of honesty. If someone has a problem with how I communicate, they should be able to communicate that to me without my being offended by it. If they can adequately articulate their concern, we can discuss the ideas underlying what is being discussed, the issues with which there might be actual conflict, without the burdensome rebranding of terms and concepts.

Anyone so ready to be offended by misunderstanding that it becomes more important to address the offense than solving the problem would be a problem for me in any community as well, and reinvented linguistic finickiness seems to draw those types of person, in my experience.

As with anything, there are pros and cons to joining a community, but they aren't unique to permaculture.

For me, it would help if the community was set up as a business, if, for instance, the goal was to nurture the members' permacultural endeavours as income streams to free themselves from the nine-to-five (that would be something I would look for, incidentally). In that way, responsibilities, compensation, benefits, and penalties could all be spelled out. In addition, it would make accounting easier, especially important for those trying to run permaculture-based businesses, and make it easier to make sure everyone pays their way, and that they get a fair share as a member, and should they choose to leave.

In the end, though, I think the only way to evaluate a community is to live there. Conflict will always occur; you don't even need two people to get that. And there are always egos involved, and politics.

Even in the nicest, best run, most welcoming, and extremely censored (or exquisitely curated) forum, you will get schools of thought that differ, and that is true in person as well. Paul has often said that he thinks people are just people, and not often as noble as we would hope them to be, based on his work and forum experience, and I think that's also good to keep in mind.

For that reason, I like Paul's model on his land, where essentially, as long as you do things within the bounds of Paul's permacultural comfort level, you can control your own immersion into the community. I really like the idea of being able to share a whole bunch of resources, equipment, and infrastructure as a community, and to even be able to come together, physically or financially based on ability and want, to build community-scale projects, but I have no desire to live in a house with anyone other than my immediate family. I wouldn't want to inflict my morning self on anyone I don't have to.

I could see larger dwellings housing extended family, but I think I would rather have, rather than a generational manor overlooking everything, a series of cottages, each built for a large family, spread out across the land. My design would look more like the Shire than the Weasley household.

Honestly, I think it necessary to immerse yourself in the community to evaluate it. If they have weekend visits for prospective members, that would be the best way. Guided tours run the risk, I think, of becoming Potemkin Village-esque. Look for red flags. If something gives you pause, trust your instincts.

But you're already doing your reading, and informing yourself is the best armament. I would bring concern and questions right back here. The membership is diverse enough that you might actually get people with first-hand knowledge about the communities you're looking at.

Sorry for the ramble, but it's a complex issue. Keep us posted, and good luck in finding that special place.

-CK
 
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