Co-operatively owned property

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Saffron's picture
Saffron
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Co-operatively owned property

Between the extremes of transition towns working to bring hundreds in line with thinking (and buying) more locally, and the completely independent self-sufficient rancher doing it all on his own, I wonder if there others who have considered the idea of organizing a loose group of people/families to come together on a larger parcel of land.

We've been looking for property for a lot longer than we've known about peak oil ... I've always wanted a more rural, self-sufficient lifestyle. But the realities of our lives and work (1 spouse self-employed in a very expensive state while the other homeschools the kids) kept that dream out of reach. Even now property prices aren't going down as fast as our faith that the future will provide a steady stream of income and realizing how much there is to learn makes the whole idea of self-sufficiency overwhelming. Here are some things we've done so far:

... planted a garden in our front yard and stocked food as much as we have room for. I began keeping chickens at a local park (and recently got a small coop with 3 hens in our own backyard,) keep bees on someone else's property, learned to milk a cow so I can help out my local dairyman, and continue to accumulate knowledge I think might be needed in any sort of SHTF scenario. But it still doesn't seem to be enough and I find myself thinking that all this is pretty much for naught because of the small scale ... we are in a regular single family home on a small lot with no usable (for food) backyard due to a pool (though it's a good water backup.) Despite the great California weather, our front garden couldn't sustain us - there just isn't room enough. I can probably get away with the 3 hens I have but likely no more and 3 won't feed a family of 5 with 2 teens. The bees were an awful lot of work and money and for various reasons (mainly my inexperience,) didn't produce all that much honey this past year. In other words ... great learning experiences overall ... the biggest ones being ... self sufficiency is *hard* and it's a lot easier to purchase everything we need at the grocery store! 

Which leads to my vision: every so often friends who are aware of the coming problems and are preparing, or who just have a desire to be self-sufficient, will joke around about getting a large parcel of land and working it together. We toss the idea out wistfully, and someone might even mention a 20 acre parcel they heard of. But it never goes any further than that because it just doesn't seem realistic. When I think about why, several challenges come to mind, but the main one (I think) is that there just doesn't seem to be a model to look at as an example. Something to turn to for an outline of where to start and what to do about inevitable problems. 

I'm interested to hear anybody's take on this. Specifically, have you considered such a thing and what would hold you back? What problems vs benefits do you see going this route vs a smaller parcel of one's own. And I'd especially love to hear from anyone who is actually moving forward with such a plan ... how you got started, what are the problems you needed to work out first and what unexpected challenges have you had to contend with.

~ s
chaset66's picture
chaset66
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Re: Co-operatively owned property

     Sorry if my post is hard to read, I tend to have a wandering thought process, and an even more wandering writing style. As in it wandered away long ago and never came back.

     This also seems to be my experience as well, even among the closer knit friends in my circle it will always be a 'would be nice'. Personally I love the idea, but then I realize my assets are now intertwined with someone else.  The benefits are obvious; increased labor, more skills among the people, capitol etc. The biggest drawback in my mind is liability, and human nature/conditioning. Honestly the people in the equation are the scariest part; we are so vastly different that conflicts will undoubtedly occur from the mundane to the most severe. The perfect partners may soon become a hurdle as they decide that guns are bad, or your food stuffs are theirs. That and the overall sense of entitlement that most people have you might be a blacksmith and they may farm and think well your job is easier I should get more for my food stuffs.

     I have been watching an Alaska Gold rush show on TV, and only a few weeks in the group of men were almost at blows, because so-and-so wasn’t working safe enough, so-and-so was too slow etc. And these men all seemed to be at least friends (not sure how close to be honest). Now  the one guy from what I saw didn’t work smart, and was not safe enough but people’s attitudes will change dramatically once the co-op is your only source of food etc. The guy who works slow is ok now, but when his slowness equates to your hunger….

    But even with all that if I had the money, I would definitely look into something like this very seriously. Granted it would have to be a pretty elaborate set up to ensure someone else’s failure wouldn’t equal my own. Unfortunately I lack the monetary leverage to get anything remotely started so for me it stays a dream. That and land/homes are so ridiculously overpriced bar a millionaire I doubt it’s possible. (Speaking of course that you would want to have the land paid for, since if SHTF you would be working for your food not wages so, a mortgage + property taxes are way too much. Even Property taxes would be too much… but don’t get me started on paying for the right to keep the land you own.

SagerXX's picture
SagerXX
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Posts: 2237
Re: Co-operatively owned property

A decent chunk of the "Community Building" thread -- http://www.peakprosperity.com/forum/community-building/15712 -- relates folks' tales about collaborating on land ownership/co-housing or other alternatives to "everybody in their own [isolated] house".  I've been building a relationship with a couple that are carving a homestead out in the woods not far from where my wife and I live.  We're still in the early stages, but these things take time to develop.

I'd also recommend the books "Finding Community" and "Creating a Life Together" by Diane Leafe Christian.  

http://www.amazon.com/Finding-Community-Join-Ecovillage-Intentional/dp/0...

http://www.amazon.com/Creating-Life-Together-Ecovillages-Intentional/dp/...

They lean to the "eco-village" type concept side of things, but are full of advice on what to do and what NOT to do.

Good luck!

Viva -- Sager

Saffron's picture
Saffron
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Posts: 250
Re: Co-operatively owned property
chaset66 wrote:

     The benefits are obvious; increased labor, more skills among the people, capitol etc. The biggest drawback in my mind is liability, and human nature/conditioning. Honestly the people in the equation are the scariest part; we are so vastly different that conflicts will undoubtedly occur from the mundane to the most severe. The perfect partners may soon become a hurdle as they decide that guns are bad, or your food stuffs are theirs. That and the overall sense of entitlement that most people have you might be a blacksmith and they may farm and think well your job is easier I should get more for my food stuffs.

Unfortunately that is exactly what pops up in my mind as well ... human nature. Especially when you consider that individuals will react to the whole stress of whatever unfolds in different ways. One needs really strong ties and a long history together ... or ? Is it possible to lay out parameters in advance that make it very clear what is expected? But how to enforce whatever is agreed upon?

All parties involved need to have a complete paradigm shift where they a) realize that they are completely intertwined and the success of the whole depends on each individual doing his/her part and b) understand that jobs have varying degrees of difficulty, but are necessary and therefore important/valuable nonetheless.

When you consider it takes partners in marriage many years to have the same paradigm shift; it doesn't seem like the odds are in our favor, eh?

~ s

Saffron's picture
Saffron
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Joined: Aug 29 2009
Posts: 250
Re: Co-operatively owned property
SagerXX wrote:

A decent chunk of the "Community Building" thread -- http://www.peakprosperity.com/forum/community-building/15712 -- relates folks' tales about collaborating on land ownership/co-housing or other alternatives to "everybody in their own [isolated] house".  I've been building a relationship with a couple that are carving a homestead out in the woods not far from where my wife and I live.  We're still in the early stages, but these things take time to develop.

Thanks for the book recommendations, Sager. 

I have read through your wonderful thread though I admit to not going back all the way to the beginning. The scenario you describe ... one (or more) members who own property offering a share to others in exchange for co-laboring is ultimately the only way I can imagine things working. In that case it seems reasonable that the owner sets parameters and the others accept or negotiate different ones, but the basis for the relationship is a mutual give and take - one offers up space, the other labor or knowledge. 

If all parties come to the relationship with co-ownership in the property, then there is nobody to set parameters and it comes down to each individual determining what needs to be done - which of course can vary greatly depending on everything from your comfort zone and energy level to whether you are building something just for yourself or for your growing kids. I guess I was wondering whether there's been something like this done ... other than ancient communities that have years and years of history tying them together.

~  s

Carl Veritas's picture
Carl Veritas
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Joined: Oct 23 2008
Posts: 294
Re: Co-operatively owned property

For your idea to succeed, government and society at large would first have to agree on property rights,  which are human rights.

http://www.econlib.org/library/Enc/PropertyRights.html

aarondenal's picture
aarondenal
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Re: Co-operatively owned property

A very good thread, and one which I myself have been feeling itchy about for some time.  I have in mind that I will be living in a coop sometime in my life, and am sitting on my hands.  You may want to check out The Farm in Tennessee.  They have managed to do most of the things you describe.  They are very clear they bought land in Tennessee (like 1400 acres or something) because it was cheap.  They did all this in the '70s.  I have also spent some time at Esalen Institute (Big Sur, Ca) which also started out a lot more along the lines of a coop than it is now.  Reading about its history is something I think may be helpful. 

About the issue of the human involvement.  I think it will be necessary for us all to accept much more discord and difficulty in that regard should the next phase come to pass suddenly.  We are going to need each other and we are not going to have the luxury of isolating ourselves in our private world if we have a disagreement.  It may be worthwhile to start working on ironing out this stuff while things are still rosy.  Then again, it may all go out the window because of circumstances...Just my ideas floating around.

Do you have any ability to relocate?  I too live in a fairly pricey area and am not able to relocate due to familly obligations.  My husband and I have the idea of staying around and waiting out the drama, and when (if) a move/change is required dealing with it then.   We are renting.  Still, it seems to me that village style living is going to be the softest way for most of us tenderfeet to get into the business of true self-sufficiency.

 

 

Saffron's picture
Saffron
Status: Gold Member (Offline)
Joined: Aug 29 2009
Posts: 250
Re: Co-operatively owned property
aarondenal wrote:

Do you have any ability to relocate?  I too live in a fairly pricey area and am not able to relocate due to familly obligations.  My husband and I have the idea of staying around and waiting out the drama, and when (if) a move/change is required dealing with it then.   We are renting.  Still, it seems to me that village style living is going to be the softest way for most of us tenderfeet to get into the business of true self-sufficiency.

I would love to relocate but the rest of the family is not so enthusiastic ... dh (rightfully) doesn't want to leave the only place he can currently earn a living (self-employed with a business that was built over years.) The kids seem to think So Cal is a wonderful place to live ... but then they've known nothing else. 

So, any move for us would have to be slow, as in, purchase property and build it up during vacations. In fact I would like to start looking for something out of state this spring ... maybe a pipe dream ... I don't know. There's a lot to be said for staying put, but then I've wanted to move rurally for so long, it's a hard dream to give up.

btw, I'm familiar with the Farm in Tennessee. If I recall, over the years they have had a lot of people come and go as they worked things out - it wasn't all smooth going from the beginning. 

aggrivated's picture
aggrivated
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Posts: 543
Re: Co-operatively owned property

Without an economic base to support it a community has little chance to survive. Looking for a small town that is surviving now is a good way to sort through this decision.  As much as all of us would like to be in a community of like minded families and individuals, it is very difficult to sustain this.  People change and so do communities.  That is why a small town with diverse individuals and interests is a good bet for relocating.  I would be sure and sort out how much dependence on government programs is going on behind the scenes.  Farm support and welfare support, if decreased or eliminated, could break apart a small town that on the surface seems to be alive and well.  Government support is often a hidden 'economic' base. I would not trust it long term.

Even if you were to find some others who were willing to go into a co-op community situation, being near a solid small town would help cushion any mistakes and problems that arise.  Relocating is no small event.  Getting a group of people to relocate successfully requires moving into a more stable situation.  Many of us feel like we can be real pioneers, but I think that we must not underestimate the challenges that this entails.

Sorry if this sounds preachy, but I have been burned from an experience with a very close knit community before and that was in a city setting.

 

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