|Re: co-farming in PNW||<– Date –> <– Thread –>|
|From: Kay Spencer (oya.stockdoggmail.com)|
|Date: Mon, 26 Oct 2009 10:03:32 -0700 (PDT)|
Thank you to all the people who have responded to my post so far. Some comments: 1. thank you for the various links. I have looked over them in the past but will again. 2. Mexico would not be right for us. Nova Scotia is a maybe. Besides the Northwest, We are also considering southern Wisconsin, southern NY state/Pennsylvania, and New England. What we are looking for are areas which have a culture of diversified small farms, affordable farmland, a climate with sufficient and even rainfall for grass-based agriculture, and the possibility of a *relatively* liberal general mindset. Thus, the Rockies, the South, Southwest, and a good portion of the Midwest have been crossed off our list. 3. I love Port Townsend WA but the cohousing there illustrates some of the conflicts with the cohousing model I run into -- they have a very stringent pet policy (I have three herding dogs at present, not even one of which would be acceptable there). They have a relatively small plot of land (7+ acres) which is enough for vegetables and fruit and chickens but not anything like enough for a sustainable livestock operation, which in that climate I'd guess would be 25 acres minimum and 50-100 would be more like it. Some other thoughts: It seems to me that there are very good reasons why, despite the attractive image for me and for some others, co-farming hasn't happened much. First, farming is now an uncommon skill. There is a lot of physical toil, a lot of hard decision-making, and, with animals anyway, very little room for squeamishness or sentimentality. Most of the people who are interested in a more communal, sustainable lifestyle are not going to be the same people who can visualize themselves plucking broilers, castrating pigs, or putting a bullet into the head of a ewe who shows poor mothering traits. People who have enough money to buy into cohousing probably aren't going to have the leisure nor inclination to spend all day planting lettuce or stretching fence either, at least on a regular-enough basis to get real good at it. Many folks who do want to 'live off the land' in a cohousing model also are invested in highly alternative farming styles, such as permaculture, or biodynamics. Some of these are not just agricultural methods, they are also belief systems. This adds another layer of complexity to practical farming decision-making in a communal setting. Because farming is an uncommon skill, when someone decides they want to move to Australia or just take a lucrative job offer which doesn't leave much extra time, there could easily be no one left in the whole place who can prune fruit trees or manage the laying hens or whatever. And farming isn't something that can be picked up and put down. There needs to be continuous care and attention applied. Significant arable acreage isn't typically affordable within commute distance of most population centers with the kind of jobs attractive to most cohousers (is that a word?). Rural college towns might be the exception. Right now, I am guessing that the most viable model that would also meet some of my needs would be 50-100 acres within ten miles of a small (around 30,000) town, with a fairly typical cohousing set-up on a small portion of it, with a farm manager or team running the farm part. This would have to be a paid position, with the option or expectation of volunteers and work parties from the cohousing community helping out. Priority given to supplying food needs for the community but surplus being marketed . . . something like that anyway. Does that sound realistic at all? Since my daughter is at college in Philadelphia right now, we will have the opportunity/excuse to check out some of the cohousing-with-farm groups in New England, like Nubanusit. That will help clarify my mind some, hopefully. --Kay Spencer Soquel CA
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