Frequently Asked Questions
(updated Sep 23, 2011)
1. Are you trying to change the Oregon land-use laws or get an exemption from the land-use laws?
No! Oregon’s land-use laws have been very successful in preserving farmland —a goal that we support.
2. Given the restrictions on the number of dwellings on EFU zoned land, how do you plan to house multiple farmers on the site?
The property we have purchased has a Measure 49 claim allowing us to have a maximum of three single-family residences on the site. We are currently in the process of applying for the necessary permissions from Clackamas County to "execute" on this claim.
A Community Land Trust is a well-defined legal entity. Although we use a different legal model, the goals the model we use are similar to that of a Community Land Trust – namely to protect and preserve the land, in perpetuity, for the express purpose of agriculture and permaculture-related activities.
4. Who owns the land?
The land will is owned by a legal entity (an LLC) expressly set up for this purpose and with an explicit and clearly defined charter to protect and preserve the land for agriculture and permaculture related activities.
5. Will I be able to hire farm-workers? What about interns or other apprentices?
We are still researching the laws and regulations governing these issues. However, we do anticipate that farms will be able to hire seasonal farm-labor. We feel that internships and apprenticeships are some of the best ways to educate new and aspiring farmers and plan to support them as much as possible.
6. Can you tell me more about the educational component of the project?
Education is one of the three major goals of this project. Although our research into this subject is ongoing, broadly speaking, we envision creating an independent non-profit educational organization to lease land from the project in order to provide a variety of educational services to the local community.
7. Will the land ever be sold?
We plan to set up a resilient legal structure that protects the land from having to be sold.
8. Is this an Intentional Community or an Eco-village?
No! It is a collection of independent farm businesses sharing resources and working together in an ad-hoc community. In our view it has two inter-related aspects: a community of businesses and a community of residents. A great deal of effort will be spent supporting and encouraging the community of businesses operating on the site. One of the major advantages of our model is that small independent businesses can achieve some of the advantages usually reserved for larger scale operations through pooling resources and sharing strengths. We envision a large amount of cooperation in sales & marketing, financial services, administrative and operational needs, shared tools & technology, etc. Additionally, we hope that our collective strength will allow us to purchase services such as health-insurance at a reasonable cost. The long-term goal of these efforts is to create a framework which provides many of the “benefits” that cause farmers to seek off-farm jobs.
We plan to design a site that promotes and encourages community at all levels but does not explicitly impose or mandate it. We feel that successful community in a diverse group of people grows from the roots of individual intent. Good site design and effective process go a long way toward encouraging a thriving community. We plan to use all available techniques to foster community but do not plan to mandate involvement beyond a certain basic level.
9. What types of leases will you offer?
At this point, we don’t have a concrete answer to this question. Broadly speaking, we are exploring a system that allows varying lease terms in order to meet the unique needs of a diverse group of farm businesses. We are exploring a structure which starts with a short-term lease and then, over time, transitions to a longer-term lease.
10. How much rent will be charged for the land/home?
We anticipate charging market rates for both the farmland and residence. However, we plan to design a system that includes the flexibility necessary to support a wide variety of farming-related activities. For example, the rent might be a variable amount computed as a percentage of gross income with a tiered structure that reduces the percentage as a business grows in size.
11. Will the farmer get to own a piece of land or a home or any other physical components? How will farmers “build equity” over time?
Farmers will NOT own the land or their homes. They will own any improvements they make to the land or to their homes.
Farmers can build equity in multiple ways. They can make physical “improvements” to the land by, for example: building structures such as greenhouses, barns, sheds and fences; installing or upgrading infrastructure such as access roads, irrigation, and energy systems; improving site topography; planting trees and other valuable perennial plants; restoring and managing environmentally critical areas such as riparian zones; and so on. Additionally, one of the things we’d like to explore is the concept of building equity by improving soil and water quality in some well-defined and quantifiable way.
12. What if someone leaves either partway through their lease term or at the end of a lease term– how would they
re-coup the cost of any “improvements” they might have made to the land, house or other aspects of the property?
Upon the normal expiration of a lease, a farmer may choose to not renew and “leave” the property. In this event, the farmer will be able to re-coup some or all of the “equity” that they have built up in the project by making the sort of improvements described above. There will be a defined set of formulas to compute the value of their equity at the time of their departure allowing them to sell their equity to other interested parties or back to the project.
In the case of an abnormal or premature termination of a lease, the specific circumstances and contractual obligations defined in the lease will be used to determine the amount of equity that a farmer is entitled to.
13. How and when can someone join? What criteria will you use to screen potential members?
We are in the process of defining the criteria for membership and hope to have the final details by October 30, 2011. At that point, we will put out a call for candidates through a wide range of channels. It is our hope that a few keystone farming businesses can start work on the site in Spring 2012.
14. What financial or other resources are required to join? Do people need to pay a certain amount to “buy in” to the project?
Leases will require security deposits and necessary business and personal insurance. Additonally, we anticipate requiring a very reasonable one-time joining fee.
15. Will all the farmers be employees of some central organization?
No. Farmers will be employees and/or owners of whatever business structure they choose for their own independent farm businesses.
16. What about operational costs?
We hope to minimize operating costs by maximizing shared resources. We plan to set up a framework of “micro-finance” to fund capital improvements with flexible terms that are tailored to the needs of the business activity being financed.
One of the ideas we’d like to explore further is the concept of a long-term relationship with customers who make an “investment” in the project and get a return in goods and services over a long period of time. This idea is inspired by the Slow Money principals (see www.slowmoney.org).
17. What sort of community decision making processes do you intend to use?
Research into this very important issue is ongoing but we are leaning towards a system known as Dynamic Governance or Sociocracy. We are co-sponsoring a workshop on Dynamic Governance on November 5th and 6th, 2011.
18. Will all members be sharing meals?
There will be no mandated requirement to share meals.
19. How flexible will the legal structures be?
We feel that one of the major strengths of this project is that it is at some level an experiment within which a group of people can try new ways of farming and living. Flexible and mutable legal structures and contracts at all levels are very important. We plan to set up a system of governance that allows members the flexibility to collectively modify many aspects of the project. However, we want to have certain elements that will be as legally immutable as possible (e.g. we wish to explicitly prevent members from collectively deciding to somehow dissolve the project and “cash-out” by selling the land).