This is an older version of a farmland protection presentation we did. Click on the picture to see more
Well, for those that are interested, we are on the road these days. Wish we could post some pics! but we are kinda lame technically. Maybe we'll get it together soon. We have been connecting with a lot of great folks, helping out other folks on their farms, and visiting with some various intentional communities some of them are:
School of Living http://www.schoolofliving.org
Living Energy Farm www.livingenergyfarm.org/
Common Ground Community www.schoolofliving.org/CG/CGHmpg.html
Jump Off CLT directory.ic.org/1397/Jump_Off_Community_Land_Trust
Woodburn Hill Farm
and there may be some here i am forgetting....
we'll try to post some more updates later!
There is a lot of energy developing for new ways (old ways really) of being in relationship with each other, with nature, and the land. We are currently exploring various intentional community projects in the works.
The main website for all things intentional community related is www.IC.org
This is our posting from there:
Seeking Community Sarah and Kevin On 11/29/2010
We are looking for an established community, or one that is forming that needs some Regenerative farmers!
We have been running a CSA in NYS for the past five yrs, using permaculture and organic no-till methods otherwise known as "Regenerative" farming. www.RegenerationCSA
We have a lot of skills and experience in natural building, carpentry, veggie fuel and diesel mechanic'ng, food preservation, permaculture design, sustainable living skills and alot more. And we have some money and resources; wvo powered trucks, tools, portable greenhouses and more stuff like that to bring to any community project.
We seek a community that wants to expand its food production, and hopefully support other right-livelyhood opportunities from the land. If these potential regenerative-food based business' are cooperative, all the better!
We have been somewhat active in non-profit farmland protection efforts in NYs, and though it may not be essential, are very much attracted to CLT's and other types of community-based land tenure options for anything new.
We are currently looking in the Appalachian region; Western NC, Virgina, West Virginia, etc. but we are open to other areas as well.
Thanks! Email Address: firstname.lastname@example.org Web Address: http://regenerationcsa.org Phone: 845 264 2401
Dear Regeneration CSA Community,
As you probably know, Sarah and Kevin have decided to move on from the Clove Valley farm after years of establishing beautiful and productive gardens and building a vibrant farm community- all of you! This letter is intended to happily confirm that the CSA will be continuing in 2011, under the management of Aileah, Toby, Rio, Premilla, and potentially another grower. This is Aileah writing to you today; I had the pleasure of meeting many of you last season while co-managing the farm with Sarah. This will be my 7th season of farming (5th year of farming in the Hudson Valley) and am very exited to continue my work in the gardens at 81 Clove Valley Road! We are currently interviewing potential co-managers, but in any case are committed to continuing the CSA in the spirit of Sarah & Kevin. The land will continue to be farmed regeneratively, using no-till permaculture techniques, with a mission of sustainability, community-building, and education. We will continue to host a series of potlucks, workshops, and other community events.
Please continue being part of the farm community in whatever way best works for you. In order to best plan for the fast-approaching growing season, we are asking CSA members to renew their commitments as soon as possible. Thanks to those of you who have already! We hope you'll choose to join us for another abundant season of a wide variety of fresh, nutritious, delicious, and beautiful produce! Please reply to this e-mail (using the new email below) either way to continue receiving information about our various community events and market days. Hope you're having a peaceful & joyful winter and look forward to seeing you on the farm this season!With Love,Aileahclovevalleyfarm@hotmail.com
Dear members, friends and community,
There are some big transitions going on at Regeneration CSA at Outback Farm this 2011 season!
The CSA was created by Sarah Williford and Kevin Skvorak four years ago. It has grown and evolved during that time, with the support and help of many others, especially during the last year which was hopefully the beginning of a new phase of the CSA, with many new hands and hearts involved.
Kevin and Sarah have loved growing food for this community, and are grateful for so much, but have decided to move on to new pastures as they say! It has been a blessing to have been part of the life on this beautiful land, owned by Toby Stover, who has been more than a landowner; she has also been a friend and supportive partner in the vision.
The Plan: Toby Stover, Rio Stover, and Premilla Dixit are now creating a vision for the 2011 season and years to come.
This land will continue to be regeneratively farmed. Our goal is to provide a local source for the community’s long term food-security and health, a sustainable ecology and abundant growth for the land.
We are now looking for a new lead grower (or two) to continue in the spirit of Sarah and Kevin, who are graciously helping in our search. Because we do not yet have a new farmer we may face the outcome of restructuring our operation. However, our strong intention is to maintain the CSA, to serve the community and the land. We want to resume our farm stand, possibly expanding the number of days and hours of operation. And we hope to continue at the Woodstock farmer’s market and supply the High Falls Food Coop with produce.
If it is possible for Toby and Rio to keep a CSA going here, Sarah and Kevin will provide whatever support and assistance they can to the existing members, any new farmer(s) and to Toby and Rio, to help in the transition.
To help make this transition as smooth as possible, we request that all Regeneration CSA members kindly inform us, as soon as you can, if you are interested in continuing as members assuming we find the grower(s) we seek! We want to invite prospective CSA members to a meeting soon, so that we may draw up mutually agreeable and supportive plans for the new season in a collaborative way.
We welcome the community's suggestions and active participation throughout this process. We invite prospective members to contact us with any questions they might have.
As much as Kevin and Sarah will be deeply missed, it is our happy intention to build upon and reinforce the relationships they strove to create and nurture at this farm. We envision continued participation from the global community of organic farmers; many more community events, such as potlucks, bonfires, sweats, art events, activist gatherings and other activities. We desire, with your participation and support, an expansion and deepening of all activities that draw us into a sustainable community, “making another world possible”.
NOTE - NEW CONTACT INFO: Rio Stover <email@example.com> 845 687 0692
I want to share some ideas about ways of capitalizing and creating new Community Supported Agriculture (CSA shareholder) type farms, and would love to look at others thoughts on the subject.
The CSA model has a lot of unique advantages. The food is typically high quality, extremely fresh, and has a good chance of being grown and distributed fairly sustainably. The benefits for farmers are also many in the typical CSA direct farm-to-shareholder approach to distribution. Farmers can make it work economically at a smaller scale, and don't have to create complex (time, energy, and capital intensive) marketing and distribution systems for instance that are typical of the most other local ag. operations that are attracting investor capital. .....etc etc.
I am not going to take a lot of space pitching here, as CSA's proponents have long understood and articulated the many yields and returns that CSA's bring to a community that go well beyond the dollars exchanged. You don't need to hear it from me.
What I am interested in is exploring the unique opportunities that CSA investing might hold, even though it is not the kind of investment opportunity that most folks think about at first.
A typical CSA does not offer opportunities for strategic investing beyond the purchase of a single share for a single season. Investors that are seeker longer-term returns, typically don't have access to this "asset class". Might not long-term CSA shares solve this problem for the long term investor, and also help capitalize and create more CSA's in our communities?
Would a motivated investor consider investing in long-term CSA shares that go for five, ten, or even twenty years? Say as an investor you could buy a ten-year food share for $10,000. A thousand dollars a year for ten years for a weekly share of veggies, meats, dairy, eggs etc. About $20 a week. That is probably not a bad long-term investment. I can imagine at least a few investors out there who would be satisfied to get their "return on investment" back in secure high quality local food for their families for a decade. Others may be willing to invest long term like this, but need the ability to 'cash in' their shares should they want to. The ability to exchange unused food shares for cash shouldn't be too difficult to build into the system. A shareholder that invests in a ten-year share in 2011, should be able to easily sell in 2016 the remaining time on their share to new members for whatever the current share price is. This is likely a good investment choice for everyone involved as well.
The best part of this sound personal financial investment, is that it could simultaneously be creating and capitalizing some wonderfully resilient, productive, and ecologically sustainable farms in our communities that embody all of the community benefits that are unique to CSA's and shareholder farms. It may be some of the highest yields and returns on investment for those seeking resilient community food systems might actually be had in this way.
There are unique risks of course. Land tenure will always be an issue, and must be an important consideration in assessing risk and security for investors/members. Probably a community-based approach to land tenure is the best way to assure continuity for investors for instance. And enough community involvement and support around the farm is important when farmers themselves may or may not be sticking around for 10 or 20 yrs themselves. These are unique risks and challenges but they are by no means insurmountable.
In terms of land access, the need for new farmer opportunities like this are something that the conservation land trusts, schools, and other non-profit landowners are becoming more alert to these days, so opportunities are probably out there to find local partners even in these complicated economic times.
For me, the dream community-supported farm would be one that is growing and supplying not just veggies, dairy and meat, but also other perennials too. Maybe a resilient local fruit share? For our NY growing region it might mean Asian pears, paw-paws, black-raspberries, gooseberries, hardy kiwis , currants...etc. etc. Mmmm!) And even longer term nut crops like hazels and chestnuts. How cool would lifetime chestnut shares be? Invest in a share for the kids and help capitalize a few blight resistant chestnut groves in the community! Seriously, wouldn't almost anyone appreciate nut butters, oils, and other nut products as part of their CSA share?
If we think through shareholder systems like this, with long term transferable shares, aren't there perhaps some unique kinds of leverages and opportunities that come with the model? How about if there were a network of such farms, and a larger "pool" of shares? This is something a city or larger town might be easily be able to achieve in terms of scale. The participation of multiple farms spread the risks to the investors/shareholders, and provide a wider diversity of food, while enhancing and securing the local foodshed at the same time.
The ecological aspects of the farm operations that we could create in our communities is the aspect of all this that is most exciting to me. I am a big proponent of smaller scale, diverse, whole-system farms as a key part of our future sustainable foodsheds. They have the best shot at being sustainable/regenerative in the long term, in terms of natural systems and energy inputs etc. Unfortunately the current market demands (and investment/capital models) usually work against farmers making these types of investments in diversity. They often work against farmers taking advantage of the unique efficiencies that can be achieved at smaller scales, and they are forced to opt instead for more specialization, more growth, etc etc. if they want to attract investor capital.
Another key aspect of this is that local communities of eaters, (of Slow Money investors) do have an interest in these types of investments being made in their foodsheds. Perhaps local foodshares actually have special strengths in achieving certain long term goals? We do need to be investing in perrenial food systems, they are crucial elements of a future sustainable food system. We need to be growing the numbers of farmers who are committed to growing food in sustainable ways. I think the farmers are out there if the opportunities were created. There are growing numbers of ready-to-be new farmers that want to farm in holistic ways, that have been thru appreticeships, or been thru the university ag programs, or worked as a farm worker for yrs! and are ready right now - if the opportunities were available and supported in the community.
So, instead of CSA shareholder systems being too complex to think about investing in, might not long-term CSA shares actually be a great investment tool then for folks who share slow money values?
Thanks for reading! I certainly appreciate any feedback folks might offer. There are a few details I have left out of all this. I know there are smarter folks than me thinking about this stiff, I am just a humble farmers after all! so pls share any ideas.
Towards a Regenerative Economy - Thoughts about Slow Money from a radical farmer.
August 31th 2010
I started my comments at the Hudson Valley potluck with the observation that Slow Money is a radical organization, and how grateful I was that a radical 'capitalist' movement that concerns itself with food and farming has come on the scene. As you can imagine this is exciting news for a radical farmer! And in case there is anyone that didn't realize that you were affiliating with a radical organization in Slow Money, I think you all needed to know at some point ....
Being "Radical" of course is nothing to be afraid or ashamed of, far from it! It is a great word- Radical: from late Latin- radicalis, radix, radic- 'root'; "of or going to the root or origin"; fundamental, essential. I think this describes the analysis and principles of Slow Money pretty well.
It is natural that farmers are radical, thinking about the roots of things as much as they do. I made a comment at the potluck about all of the radical farmers I have been inspired by, and been lucky enough to learn from in the organic movement. I alluded to the origin of the organic food movement, created by radical farmers who saw clearly the roots of things, (the roots of the converging problems of climate change, peak oil, and ecological carrying capacity for instance) and devised a radical solution - farming organically. I also made a comment about how frustrating it is to watch as this potentially transformative movement slips dangerously close to being dominated by the paradigm of commodification, speculation, centralized power and wealth, and corporate control etc. as it becomes just another purely "profit" driven industry, with all of the attending unsustainable and de-generative outcomes.
I said this as a warning i think, to remind us to keep our "eyes on the prize" as we untangle this conundrum of centralized, monetized wealth and power- with all it's own inherently destructive "principles' - and matters of true wealth; the wealth held in our local relationships, local ecologies, and our local communities.
This is the honest and radical understanding clearly embodied in the principles of Slow Money. The radical understanding that business-as-usual is taking us all: wealthy, poor, and in between, down the same doomed path. The radical understanding that strategies and actions that actually achieve regenerative and transformative results are the only ones that matter now.
As a permaculture designer, as well as a farmer, I (like many others in these fields) use the word "regenerative" a lot. Our farm is called Regeneration CSA. We use the term regenerative because it best clarifies our goals; regenerating our natural and ecological systems while getting a yield for ourselves (humans). A simple, radical idea, and the foundation of Permaculture Principles, and Permaculture Ethics. An idea that I hope also helps us keep our eyes on the prize of creating a truly "regenerative economy", an economy that is the logical outcome of following the principles of Slow Money.
Regenerative-design, regenerative-agriculture, regenerative-economies... "regenerative" because it is already too late for "sustainable".
Too late to "sustain" a vibrant, living gulf of mexico already suffering an enormous hypoxic dead zone long before the latest oil spill. Too late to sustain a viable arctic ecology, that is already, it seems, beyond it's tipping point. Too late to sustain fertile agricultural soils worldwide, already depleted of natural fertility and utterly dependent on fossil sunlight and fertility (aka oil) to produce any food. Too late to sustain the crippling social inequality that is, in and of itself, a major driver of environmental destruction. It is just too, damn, late.
So, a regenerative society, and a regenerative economy must be our goals. Anything less is just too little, and too late.
At the event I made a quip about being careful not to drive our Prius off the same precipice of catastrophe as all the Hummer drivers are hell bent on pushing us over, about being careful not to fall for false solutions to our "predicament" , not to believe (or most critically, continue to emulate) false "green capitalist" hype and recognize that such efficiencies are useful only insofar as they buy us some time to make the transformative changes necessary, and to also understand that all these wonderful gadgets of efficiency, filled with rare earth minerals like lithium, silicon, coltan and the like, have enormous ecological costs of their own, and are driving deadly wars and conflicts at this very moment.
All the economists and financial folks seem to understand that it is all smoke and mirrors at this point; debt as money, a demand for exponential growth from a system (the planet) at its limits, collateralized debt obligations, the Federal Reserve, peak oil, all pointing to an impending collapse on many levels. ("The Tapeworm economy" as Catherine Austin Fitts says, aka "The Suicide economy", David Korten's term for our current insane path)
As Slow money radicals we know that the current globalized financial system is inherently de-generative. We see that it virtually demands, for the sake of economic "growth", the extraction, depletion, and destruction of real wealth, (living rivers, mountains, forests, oceans, soils, and human cultures) piling these all up like so many dead pelts, scalps even, into symbolic fungible "assets".
What do we feel after we recognize that under the current economic system for virtually every new dollar of debt, every speculative financial transaction, every hard-earned (or easily earned) dollar in our portfolio, the living systems of the planet are diminished? That there is not "more" to go around, but less? Vertigo and dread about sums it up I would say....
So, what are the real solutions? What does a "regenerative economy" look like? How do we measure it? How do we actually create it? For every dollar created, how much carbon ought to be sequestered instead of burned? How much ecosystem resilience enhanced instead of diminished? How much soil fertility must be built instead of depleted? How much social and economic equality restored instead of further degraded?
These are the questions that I am most interested in talking about with others, as I think we already have answers and directions for most of them. (as a regenerative farmer and permaculturalist in fact i know we have answers)
Perhaps we can start with a few of the Slow Money Principles: "What if there were 50% more organic matter in our soil 50 years from now?" Ok, imho this is what one might call a "step in the right direction" 50% more organic material in our existing depleted soils (running at 1 to1-1/2%)%) is a good start, but probably isn't enough to have a real mitigating effect on climate warming if that is the goal. It is a start though. In any case, how do we do it? How do we measure it? And how do we market it?
Well, we do it by actually farming in a regenerative manner. Rodale has some perfectly useful methodology that can be adopted immediately. Wes Jackson at the Land Institute has been doing some promising work for yrs, and of course we have our own methodology at Regeneration CSA that we believe is imminently practical, fully scalable, and that is particularly well suited to regenerating and bringing back into production some of the compacted and depleted heavy clay soils that are typical of much of the Hudson Valley. (We are looking for a new home btw.) And there are a lot of other folks doing this work as well.
And we measure it by using real measures of soil carbon and soil fertility, like Elaine Inghams work on the soil food web, and the Real Food folks work on brix testing and soil mineralization.
And we market it, well....I am not completely sure of this, but this is not something that farmers can do alone. We need the shapers of the marketplace, stakeholders with influence like those in Slow Money to get involved. One way might be a new certification. Here is a letter I wrote to Ari and others at SM offering a proposal for just that.
Another Slow Money principle: "The 20th Century was the era of Buy Low/Sell High and Wealth Now/Philanthropy Later—what one venture capitalist called “the largest legal accumulation of wealth in history.” The 21st Century will be the era of nurture capital, built around principles of carrying capacity, care of the commons, sense of place and non-violence."
Ok, what Woody might have said, but didn't was not just the largest legal accumulation of "wealth", but most importantly the largest centralization of wealth. This is key as well. The logic of dog-eat-dog, row-your-own-boat capitalism ( that too many even in Slow Money seem to accept as an inviolable law of nature instead of a cultural construct) would seem to be that personal accumulation is the key to freedom, happiness, security, and the like. But as Slow Money radicals, who have read the work of authors like Bill Mckibben, ("Deep Economy" ) we know that personal accumulation is a "dead end" in a diminishing world. We may all make some more dollars betting on the end of the world, (speculating on diminishing resources etc) but if that is what we continue to do with our dollars, we are absolutely guaranteeing that disastrous outcome. So what is the point? Are we really "enjoying the ride" as we slide faster and faster towards an ecological tipping point? Really?
So, to get to the heart of this principle, some type of "redistribution" is central to the realization of Slow Money goals. Horror upon horrors you might say! If being a radical means "giving" my money away then forget about it! Ok, but I don't believe "giving" money away is going to help either.
What we need to do with this surplus symbolic "wealth" is to put it back into real wealth while we still have time. Real wealth for our entire communities, because that is the only way we have real security and quality of life in the long run. This real wealth is what some might call "soft returns", but it the only return on investment that has any real value in the long run.
Personally, I am afraid that Slow Money may be a dead end if people don't prioritize the so-called "soft" returns, instead of the hard ones. As a SM investor you will not get back 5% 10% or 15% off of the top of local food production profits. In fact, even if you get 0% return in dollars, you get all of the other returns that far outweigh the dollars in long term benefit. This I think needs to be paramount in the discussions, not tertiary. Otherwise Slow Money runs the risk of not only not being effective, but in fact being a problem as it provides the "feel good" avenue for further speculation and centralization of wealth in the local food economy, just at the time we need diversity the most.
Be careful what you wish for my Slow Money friends.
In any case, this is where we need to prioritize "philanthropy" (which we should really call investing in true wealth). As far as I am concerned the key strategic need right now in the Hudson Valley, and much of the NE United States, is true farmland (not just "open space") protection and affordable farm access to new farmers. To accomplish this we have been working for a while on a non-profit with a mission to specifically protect farmland and provide it to new farmers. The Hudson Valley Community and Agricultural Land Trust.
There is not a better investment one can make than creating opportunities for new farmers. And there are a lot of other needed areas of "investment" like this as well. Educating ourselves about the strategic areas of (so-called) philanthropy, and where they are intersecting with regenerative food/farming goals could also be important work of Slow Money thinkers.
A lot of people pass the following Gaylord Nelson quote around: "The economy is a wholly owned subsidiary of the environment. All economic activity is dependent upon that environment with it's underlying resource base. When the environment is finally forced to file under Chapter 11 because it's resource base has been polluted, degraded, dissipated, irretrievably compromised, then, the economy goes down into bankruptcy with it because the economy is just a subset within the ecological system."
Not much more to say on that.
Hudson Valley Community and Agricultural Land Trust
Letter to Slow Money:
I am the farmer who crashed the SM event, bothering everyone
i could find to talk to about soil carbon
First of all, much respect to you both, and everyone involved so far. Much good work being done.
Second of all, here are some thoughts from a farmers perspective, one
who is also thinking as deeply as he can about all of the
relationships that converge in our food system.
A couple of premises first to help frame things:
On the most fundamental level, soil carbon and soil fertility (which
are inherently linked) are going to be one of the primary limiting
factors in sustaining human populations and civilization as we know
it. We are already in a deep global crisis regarding our soil that is
masked by fossil fuel inputs. It is almost impossible, imho, to
overstate the gravity of this crisis and its implications.
The coming generation of farmers, eaters and food sysem investors are
the ones that may well be determining the very future of human
civilization, via how they manage (and restore)together the carrying capacity of our soils.
I feel there are some limitations to the effectiveness of SM
at least as currently concieved. It is natural that a hammer sees each
problem as a nail. Investors and those coming from capital markets see
their hammer as the solution. But it has its limits, and we need to
consider those limits, and how to synergize with other tools to be
most effective in reaching our shared goals.
For instance, we have a small CSA, and are comitted to growing with
regenerative farming methods that sequester carbon and build soil. We
could certainly benefit from some capital, but that is not what we
need most. What we need most (besides secure access to affordable land) is a market. Ideally an informed and
motivated market that pays a premium for carbon-negative food. That
market doesn't exist yet, and until it does very few other farmers are
going to adopt these methods.
If the eaters and shapers of the marketplace do not pay a premium for
soil regenerating/carbon sequestering food, it is not going to happen.
If doesn't happen we all lose. So the bottom line is- can we create
a market-based incentive for carbon sequestering food?
There may be various ways to create this incentive, and I would love
to talk further with anyone interested from SM in this. I certainly
don't have all of the ideas on this, but I do have one - a Carbon
Negative food label.
I think a new certifcation regime would be one good way to make this
all happen. I like the brand "Regeneratively Grown" but maybe cleverer
marketing minds can come up with another name.
It will require some work, some money, and multiple influential
stakeholders to make a new certification system work of course-
1) We need a marketplace for the "brand". Can WholeFoods or other
big distributers make the commitment to carry such certified food? It
would require a lot of effort, esp to start, that would no doubt add
costs to their current procurement. Are they willing to accept this?
If they are not, who else might be?
2) We need the non-profit certfying bodies that will do the research,
testing, and farmer support that will be needed to train new farmers,
and help farmers transition This is an important strategic area to
direct philanthropic dollars to right now and SM could be a voice for
this. There are a lot of places doing this research, often with very
little funding, and they could all use help. Of course unless we
simultaneously create a market, those research dollars are just
funding more studies that farmers probably won't read, much less
We are personally trying to raise funds to move our CSA to a secure
and much larger piece of land (conserved by a Land Trust) and
simultaneously create a regional non-profit that can begin to lay the
groundwork for this in our region. We are calling it the "Hudson
Valley Regenerative Agriculture Center." Seems catchy enough. I did
not come to the SM conference hat-in-hand for this effort, mostly
because i wanted to get a sense of the seriousness and perspective of
the crowd there. We do need support though, and see a regional
research and education center(s), based around a working farm, to be
an essential incubator to all of this.
3) Yields and returns: By creating a new niche in the market like
this, we are opening up all sorts of opportunities for the types of
investment that SM is talking about. We will need some philanthropic
dollars to "prime the pump" in all of this, but assuming we get a
market for truly regenerative food up and running, the sky is the
limit for investment dollars to yield the truly transformative
dividends that SM articulates so well.
look fwd to any thoughts!
Hudson Valley Community and Agricultural Land Trust
Sarah and Kevin