|Re: small business/job creation in cohousing||<– Date –> <– Thread –>|
|From: Judith Bush (jbushtogether.net)|
|Date: Fri, 9 Sep 2011 07:55:36 -0700 (PDT)|
Jerome and Craig, This email response to Jerome's query and Craig's followup in yesterday's Digest is a joint effort of Phil and Judith Bush at Cobb Hill in Hartland, VT. We appreciate Craig's plug for Cobb Hill Cheese and are fans of Jerome's research and writing about affordability in relation to cohousing. We're glad to share our decade of history with small business and job creation in this intentional cohousing project. The intention in planning for a community in a rural VT setting was that the three key components of farming, residential life, and commitment to sustainable (footprint conscious) thinking would be the basis of developing our practices here. The one for-profit business that existed before Cobb Hill was built was the vegetable CSA and dairy of a couple who were two of our founding members. The community supports this livelihood endeavor through sharing land and barns at no cost, volunteering to help at key times, and more formal bartering. This first business was already organized as a partnership of the farming couple; the other agricultural enterprises that followed all developed in this model: partnerships of various community members who could provide the capital and labor to start and maintain the businesses. These enterprises range in scope from those like the CSA and dairy which provide some level of livelihood or economic return to the partners to enterprises that might be termed labors of love. A cheese business that buys most of the milk produced by the dairy has grown to producing more than 20,000 lbs of cheese per year. In 2010 one of the cheese partners started a frozen yogurt business to use some of the milk that the cheese business could not use. She devotes full time to the two businesses, and the cheese business has the equivalent of one other full time person divided among other partners and employees. There is a maple syrup business that taps 1,000 trees. In a good year it produces over 200 gallons of syrup, providing a very modest return to the partners. Another group keeps sheep, primarily for meat production. Other small scale partnerships, producing no or little significant return, are mushrooms (recently started with a good growth potential) and beekeeping, which produces some honey for the partner's use and helps with pollination in the gardens. There are two community-run endeavors. One is chickens for egg production at a level that, during high production periods, meets the community's collective demand for eggs. Our overall forestry program is also, in some senses, an enterprise, since we occasionally harvest trees for timber or pulp sales as part of a ten-year forest management plan. We are lucky to have a forester who is a community member. He volunteers some time and is paid for some time, as we are currently engaged in an aggressive effort to rid our woodlands of invasive species as part of a federally-funded effort to improve the forest. Revenue from sales of timber and pulpwood are minimal but do cover some of our forestry expenses. A land use committee is the clearinghouse for community decisions about new enterprises. Accountability to the community is accomplished through annual enterprise reports. Donella Meadows was a driving force in the establishment of Cobb Hill. Her vision included establishing a research and practice institute as the third component, along with a residential community (cohousing) and sustainable agriculture. Dana died during the construction of Cobb Hill, but the Sustainability Institute (SI) that she founded went on to provide full or part time employment to a number of Cobb Hill residents, many of whom are scientists and engineers who were drawn to Cobb Hill by the appeal of a professional livelihood within a farm- based community. Most of SI's projects have spun off into separate organizations or self-employment, including the Sustainable Food Lab, Climate Interactive and others. These non-profit businesses provide even more employment in "FTEs" than the combined agricultural enterprises. Several other Cobb Hill residents work at non-profits in the region and beyond, sometimes creating meaningful links to this community in the process. Now, at the 10 year mark of being a community, we are taking a fresh look at what we've done in a process of organic growth. We want to be mindful of the changes that are happening in the world as we make decisions for a second decade. The opportunities of growing food and having productive land, climate change and community resilience are on our minds as we engage in planning for the uncertainties of the future. Developing ways to share our experiences here in formal and informal ways, possibly as an enterpise in itself, is part of our vision for the future. Phil and Judith Bush philipwbush [at] gmail.com jbush [at] together.net 802-436-1488
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