co-farming in Pacific NW?
From: Kay Spencer (
Date: Sat, 24 Oct 2009 18:48:28 -0700 (PDT)
Please excuse me if I am asking the wrong questions for this forum. I don't
live in co-housing although I've been aware of it for about three decades,
through my architect friend Dorit Fromm. Now my husband and I are looking at
retirement ideas. We're in our fifties. We are not interested in a
retirement community, though; we would like to put our country skills to
work within the context of community. We plan to sell our house (almost
certainly for a ridiculous amount of money, because of where it is located),
and buy farmable land, in about three years time. Exactly where, is not at
all decided. We will probably want to design and build our own small house
there, possibly off-grid, probably load-bearing strawbale.

We built our present house together, years ago, and generally do everything
ourselves, from constructing solar panels to milking goats. The land we live
on is too steep and small to do much with in an agrarian sense, and the
wider community (Santa Cruz County, California) is far, far too urban for
us, and far, far too expensive to consider buying more usable acreage

My dream is to be able to live and work on a  farm but in a community of
like-minded people. That is, if I am the sheep lady, there is someone else
who cares for the apple trees, and someone else who is managing the free
range egg operation, and the vegetables. It doesn't have to be a real money
maker, just supplying at least some of the food needs of the group, and
paying for itself. Nor would a majority of the inhabitants need to farm,
although it couldn't be just me! I want to explore grass-based sustainable
livestock raising, in particular -- that requires enough grazing land to
support a flock without buying in feed.

I worry that the cohousing model wouldn't allow enough privacy and
independence for a couple which, admittedly, isn't the worlds' most social,
and which is used to being able to design and build whatever we feel like.
But I also worry that we are no longer frisky enough to launch a whole
farming venture on our own, or flexible and outgoing enough to make a whole
new set of friends in a new location. Hence the idea of co-farming.

When I search the CoHousing directory, it seems that almost all the
communities which are actually farming in any sense other than 'big veggie
garden' or 'we have a lot of land someone else farms for us' are in New
England. Not sure we can relocate to such a different culture and climate
(not saying never though). I always have found the Pacific Northwest
congenial and always planned to move there someday, but I don't see much
activity up there that approximates my dream.

So, questions: Anybody have any advice for me? Anybody know of any possible
useful contacts in the PNW for me to try? Anybody interested in pursuing
this dream with me, even virtually?


Kay Spencer
Soquel California

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