January cooperative webinars

January webinars presented by yours truly!

1 hour 27 minutes webinar about cooperatives and collectives

Video titled Introduction to Cooperative and Collective Organizing: Historical and modern approaches.

3 minute 30 second preview of webinar above

Video titled PREVIEW for Introduction to Cooperative and Collective Organizing: Historical and modern approaches.

For more about Cooperative Enterprises & Economics check out the Study Group I host on Facebook


Cooperative, Solidarity Economics and Agroforestry (lots of links!)

Lately I’m most involved with organizing a farmer cooperative. Our first enterprise being the online seed company www.heartandsoil.farm We are also planning long term silvopasture and alley cropping systems at an existing ancient grains & beans farm which belongs to one of our members. We have some of our heritage livestock already.

My first experience with cooperatives was a bunch of landscapers trying to start the business together. Since then I’ve hosted a few Thinking Outside the Boss workshops using the SELC’s materials. Have also shared Sociocratic governance and decision-making with groups since then.

What got me into gardening and agriculture was my therapy after returning from 6 years overseas in the Air Force. Back then I was co-founder and curriculum developer for an entrepreneurship program/competition for middle and high school students when I had to take time off for my health. Then gardening and solidarity economics saved my life. So I continued into agroforestry education and business planning using micro-financing. Below are some of the micro-loans I helped finance between 2012 and 2015 with about $350 revolving loan fund I had set aside.

The biggest influences on me were Dr Jessica Gordon Nembhart’s book Collective Courage and Janelle Orsi’s book Practicing Law in the Sharing Economy. Also the Upstream podcast by Della Duncan.

I’m also discussing multi-stakeholder cooperatives with interested groups and individuals around the west coast. Mostly land-based businesses but also some urban enterprises and one 3D ocean farming outfit.

I think collaborative legal structures will likely be the most equitable foundations of a green new deal economy.

What are you working on or desiring that could be cooperatively owned & operated?

Heart and Soil Farms Cooperative

Two weeks ago I had the honor of speaking on the panel at Central Coast Bioneers. The panel was about the Green New Deal and I spoke about
the potential of Regenerative Agriculture and Ecosystem Restoration. I also shared stories about the organizing happening around California on farms and in communities.

Central Coast Bioneers Panel on the Green New Deal where I spoke about
the potential of Regenerative Agriculture and Ecosystem Restoration

The health of our bio-regional economy will depend on the stewardship of our habitats according to indigenous practices and regenerative organic methods. I am excited for the people who will have these careers and for the natural products which will be available. We can’t imagine them all yet. Young people are so ready and hungry for the baseline ecological literacy and cultural competence that these livelihoods will spring from.

The above picture is a screenshot from the collaborative farm project I have been co-developing since December 2018 with local farmers. Check out our website at www.heartandsoil.farm

Here’s a picture of me with our first Mulefoot Hog, a boar named Roscoe.

But how did I get to here?

Years ago when I lived in Ventura county an attorney friend and I co-hosted several workshops on the topics of worker cooperative legal structures, entity formation, and dynamic governance (sociocratic decision-making). I am realizing that I should be hosting these workshops again now that I live in SLO county and such an interest at community group events.

For reference, there is an interesting model in Colorado co-founded by Wayne Dorband. They call it an Ecological Business Park and the entity is structured like a golf club. The land is leased and developed according to the intended use and various membership classes exist. In this case the ranch is leased and producers own the right to operate their enterprises, investors who want premium access to the location for camping at etcetera. I don’t know their financing strategy or how much overhead they are sharing. At the moment Wayne runs his breeding alpaca herd, there are pastured chickens, cattle, a beekeeper, and I think a wood shop, all separate businesses. Wayne hosts an amazing webinar called Ecolonomic Action Team (EAT) and has brilliant guests almost every week.

The collaborative legal structure could also work well for leasing parcels offshore for shellfish or for cooperative multi-trophic ocean farmers.

It’s quite amazing what the CROPP Cooperative has done with the Organic Valley brand they started in Minnesota. Mark Sheppard has a great video where he describes what it was like for them to get started, he joined when they were less than 20 members and lots of volunteering, then their first employee, through the years where the co-op has eventually spun off several smaller ones including the biofuels growers and refiners. 

These are a few of my inspirations for our work in Los Osos, California.

Next time I’ll post about the ecologic and economic basis for our business.

Santa Barbara Student Housing Cooperative Visit

This article was first published October 1, 2015 on a previous blog.

Yesterday I went with a founder of the Ventura Food Cooperative to visit the Santa Barbara Student Housing Cooperative. The tour was insightful with lots of great conversation on the walks between their 5 houses. Some buildings were multi-apartment style and others were large houses with private and shared rooms. All had shared common areas, like kitchens, gardens, and study halls for students to enjoy in community. The SBSHC has been around for decades and owns all their buildings. Members’ rent and dues cover the costs of property taxes, repairs, two staff positions, and with the largest portion going toward the repayment of loans used to purchase properties.

Almost everyone I speak with is interested in cooperative housing and property ownership. Some folks dream of forming a rural intentional farming community, others a shared house for social activist-entrepreneurs, urban farmworker housing, and some an interfaith community like a kibbutz. Depending on the needs of the group, either a partnership of residents would own the property, a nonprofit (as in SBSHC) might own it, or the property is simply owned by locals.

My own dream is to be part of a farm and retreat center for service-members transitioning out of the military and chronically homeless veterans who want to learn to make and market value-added products and to be regenerative land stewards. I’m calling this project the Warrior Scholar Agroforestry Academy. (Update on this: it’s happening and it’s decentralized! I graduated from a Veteran Farmers of America internship last year)

I’ve learned about community-financed bonds & investment, such as those by the Centre for Social Innovation, who arranged 100s of supporters to raise $1.4 million in 4 months to finance the purchase of a multi-use building in Toronto. That means locals own the building and reap the benefits of property ownership and giving a home to social-good organizations.

There’s talk in our permaculture circles to similarly finance the development of agrihoods – sustainable urban neighborhoods. Let me know if you’re interested in these conversations and organizing.

Coming up: Lompoc Cooperative Development Project’s Santa Barbara County Cooperative Development Festival (October 10th) and Ventura’s Really Really Free Market (third annual! November 8th at Kellogg Park). Come celebrate the gift economy with us (we need more coordinators! that’s you!)!

For more information on these topics, check out the following links, recommended by the staff at the SBSHC:

Lots of resources at the North American Students of Cooperation and registration for their Cooperative Education & Training Institute just opened. The event is from October 30th to November 1st in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

October is Co-op Month! Watch the video about what a Cooperative is at the Cooperative Network.

If you want to learn more specific information, contact me!

Digital Work Samples 2015-2020

Work (in no particular order) dated 2005 to 2020. Programs used include SketchBook, Photoshop, AutoCAD, SolidWorks, and Canva.

Toy Prototype
Rapid Prototype: https://www.instagram.com/p/BUTlAdqlZri/

The prompt was to build a machine to pick up a ping pong ball. The picture above shows the internal assembly including wood, acrylic and ABS plastics, two motors, a fan, bicycle tube, and hardware. The motor on the rear left drives up and down motion through 4 gears and 2 rack & pinions made from laser-cut pink acrylic plastic and hand-cut & sanded wood dowels. The orange and blue chassis were designed in AutoCAD and 3D printed. The right-side motor (mostly out of the picture) rotates an outer shell. The shell is made of vacuum-formed clear or black plastic, made using an upper and lower form that were designed in SolidWorks and 3D printed. The shell is attached to acrylic ribs on ABS plastic rings. The prototype is shaped like a flying saucer and marked similar to a Star Trek spaceship, named after our Rapid Prototyping class code and the instructor. The pink acrylic assembly base fit snugly onto a vertical clear tube. We painted our ping pong ball to resemble a cow. When the ship lowered down the fan contacted a clear plastic tube and picked up the ball. Clicking the link above or here will take you to my instagram post which has a small slideshow with two videos. This was my final project at Ventura College studying Industrial Design & Manufacturing.