Organizational Correspondence to Date

HP3C Correspondence

 

July 3, 2014

 

Thank you all for your interest in this project.  I have agreed to act as coordinator until someone else feels comfortable taking on that role.  Deb Lebow Aal has agreed to act as my assistant.

I like to avoid meetings if possible although they have a place.  I would like to treat the people receiving this e-mail as the planning council for the coop.  As we have matters to decide, as coordinator, I will state the issue and ask for your opinion.  Most issues will be decided by consensus.  That is just the way this works. But if there are conflicting opinions I will ask for a vote.  The majority of those voting will determine the issue.  Anyone not voting will be counted as abstain.  Someone in the minority on an issue who feels strongly enough can call for a meeting in which case, if we can get a quorum at a meeting (a number to be determined) then those at the meeting can determine the issue.  We can change this procedure as well but I think you will find it efficient unless you are in the habit of not checking your e-mails .  If you would prefer to not be on the planning council but still want to participate try just ignoring these e-mails for the time being and I will work something out before it becomes overwhelming.

I put up some preliminary thoughts on a project page on the web site.  Take a look and raise any thoughts, concerns, etc. to this list.  Feel free to throw out alternative names.

/content/high-plains-plant-propagation-cooperative

I will post something on the Guild facebook group and see who else wants to participate.

Thanks for improving our habitat.
David
 

July 8, 2014

 

Thanks again for your interest.  I am proposing a planning council made up of those of you on this list.  These are some of the things I have thought of but the forum is open.  All items are open for discussion.
 

1.  I propose to start with a two tier membership.  Full members would pay $100 and put in 10 hours per year in labor and have a vote to elect an executive council.  Associate members would put in 20 hours in labor under the tutelage of a Full member.  It would not matter if 10 member pooled $10 each, for example, but I think we want them to appoint one of the group to be the voting member.

2.  I like the idea of members joining according to their primary function.  I would like designers, contractors, laborers, plant propagators, sales and landowners represented on the executive council and have a vote representing the number of people in each category.  Any one of us could perform any of the six functions but for voting purposes, I think we should elect our primary focus.  I will be joining as a plant propagator.

3. I have 100' of 5' welded wire and some T posts that will get us a start on the fence.  I don't need to charge for those fence materials because they were given to me.  If anyone wants to take responsibility for designing the fence and the gates, I will work with them to price out the materials.  The fence should be designed to let the fox in and keep the deer out.  Hopefully a lot of you will want to be full members and we can get started right away.

4. Speaking of which, I will take my $100 and set up a separate coop bank account under LSI but in the name of Coop.  When we get an executive council, we will select one of you to be a co-signer on that account.  When we get a formal structure I can transfer the funds to a Coop bank account.

5.  We could have water year round if we can find a source of heat to keep the above ground back flow preventer from freezing.  Avery and I talked about a solar panel and battery inside an insulated box.  Do you want to take on that design Avery?

6.  I also have some 3/4" drip line and emitters we could use for the initial system.  If we have enough participation I can contribute it at cost but I do not want to delay things on that account.  The coop can pay me later.

7.  I once read the Department of Agricultures rules on nurseries.  Does any know those rules or willing to check them out.  It seems to me it was mostly about importing diseased plants and proper plant identification.  If there is anything else with which we need to comply, it would be better to know that sooner than later.  There is probably some license requirement but I am assuming the coop license will cover all of us.

8.  I will give the coop a 5 year lease at no cost for the first year except cost of water and improvements.  Starting the second year, I would want the coop to cover all taxes/water/maintenance costs.  We can renegotiate after 5 years.  My goal is to see this coop thrive for the long term so you can expect me to be flexible with lease terms if things do not go a smoothly as we might hope.

9.  I have attach diagram of the initial layout I have in mind.  Initially I thought we might want to do some swalling but on closer examination the water coming down Eldrige is diverted just south of our property so there will be no significant flow from the street.  In that case, this ground, particularly with a sheet mulch, will be able to absorb all the precipitation that falls on it.  Of course, I am open to suggestions for design changes but this should give you guild designers something to start with.

10. We can begin the sheet mulching anytime we can get the materials delivered.  Let me know when we are ready to start on that.

That is probably more than enough to start with.  Let the discussion begin.

David Braden
HP3C Coordinator

 

July 10, 2014

 

Deborah Lebow asks:

I'm unclear on your design, but I think as we work out there, your design, or another will be clear.  

 

Will the sheet mulching materials be donated?  Free mulch and manure?   

I am suggesting that we do a double sheet mulch around the outside fence line.  The first layer would contain larger wood for long term fertility.  The second layer would be a 12" wood chip sheet mulch for ease in planting.  Perhaps we could call it a Hugel Mulch :-).  We could build that as we have materials and as we have designers wanting to plant demonstrations of guilds of plants that we are offering the public.

Inside the pathway I am suggesting we can start with just the first three layers of a sheet mulch and a thin layer of wood chips.  Then, as people put plants in, we can add the wood chips necessary to keep the plants moist and relatively warm.

The wood chips can usually be obtained and delivered for free.  We will need to investigate sources for larger wood although I have some on my property.  Manure is free but we generally pay a delivery fee to Eric Smith for truck maintenance.  Any costs would initially come out of the $100 and later out of the way we price our services.

Malcolm Schluenderfritz asks:

 

How will profits, if any, be divided? On a member by member basis, or on a cash/ time in, cash out basis? Or will members sell their "own" plants/ services, and basically be paying for water, fence, and rent out of their income? 

 

Just out of curiosity, how much would the taxes/water/maintenance costs be? How many full members would we need to get this?

 

Do you want the lemon balm and plastic pots I mentioned in an earlier email?

 

I am suggesting a process that goes something like this.  Contractors will be asked to take a central role.  When they bid a project for a customer, they will include:

1 - a commission for the member who brought in the customer.  Perhaps a percentage of the labor and materials figure.

2 - a royalty for the designer of the guild to be installed.  Perhaps a flat fee such as $50.  Just a caution, I think that this charge cannot go to the contractor even if the contractor did the design and should be charged on all jobs.  If the contractor is also the designer perhaps the royalty can go into the general fund for the coop.

3 - Of course the bid would include the cost of labor and the contractor's fee.  The contractor would be responsible for wage withholding and such if applicable.

4 - I think we want to price our plants right at a comparable wholesale rate.  Because our costs are low we might be able to undercut the price of other landscapers buying from wholesalers but I don't think we want to discount the additional value we are delivering in terms of long term fertility and low maintenance.  The person propagating the plants being used in the contract would receive that wholesale amount.

5 - This can probably come out of the wholesale price but think of a per plant charge, maybe $1, that goes to the landowner on which the plant was grown out.

We will need to devise a label that the propagators can attach to the plants that meets the Dept of Ag's requirements, is sturdy enough to last until the information is needed and allows the contractor to determine how much is due for the plants.  Then we will need a process to get that amount to the coop and perhaps have the coop cut the checks to the appropriate propagators.

The taxes are $3000 per year +/-.  I will be working to figure out the cost for the fence and the drip system.  I am guessing that in this first phase we can think about water in the range of $100 per month over the growing season.  I am not worried about the taxes this first year and, except for the deer fence, the expenses can be incurred as we have the need.

Hold on to your pots (everyone).  You could start potting up your lemon balm but we will need to get the deer fence, the drip line and the initial sheet mulching done before you can bring them to 3155 Eldridge.

I like the idea of working these things out as we go and this size group is not unwieldy to operate through e-mail.  Eventually, I would like to see a planning council with representation of all six groups that can work out its own procedures and have the decision making authority for our organization and an executive council that has authority over day to day operations.  Then most of you won't have to sit through all the gory details :-)

As always your thought, comments, criticisms, and compliments are appreciated.

David Braden
HP3C Coordinator

July 10, 2014

 

Oz writes:

I very much appreciate the thoughtfulness evident in your responses! You've clearly given this project a lot of thought.

Thank you Oz.  Over these past years I have come into the habit of seeing the world as a pattern of interactions.  When you see the world that way aspects of the world stops being a collection of objects (the trees) and becomes single entities (a pattern - the forest) with characteristics that can be described with more or less accuracy for each characteristic depending on how well you see the pattern.  This way of seeing is what we teach in Principles of Community Design.  Our annual presentation of the workshop will be in November:

/content/principles-community-design-1

I am willing to do the workshop for other groups if they can gather around 30 people and an adequate space for a day.

Oz continues:

1. I am booking fall crop mobs now. Would it make sense to do the Hugel mulch as a crop mob? I'd be happy to sign off on this, but it would have to take place around the end of Sept at the earliest (our first fall mob will be Sept 14, so first slot available afterward would be Sat Sept 27).

 

2. Have you given any thought to season extenders? Would a hoophouse be permissible, per zoning guidelines? Seems like working around frosts to keep our propagated plants alive and available for sale throughout as much of the year as possible will be key to success.

 

3. Have you considered adding add'l 'cash crops'? i.e. high value plants that may not necessarily be aligned with our mission, but which could subsidize less popular plants that do align.

Yes, depending on how far we get with coop members, I am assuming will will have 4 or 5 hours work for 30 people and the coop would be willing to feed them lunch.

I have been primarily been thinking about perennials so had not considered season extenders.  I would think things like row covers would not be objectionable with some line, at which the neighbors will complain to the county, short of a green house.  I also think that as the plantings along the fence line fill in there will be less and less reason for neighbors to object.

Cash crops may fit in with Malcolm's question about retail so I will address it there.

Malcolm writes:

Would we also do retail? Or would that get too difficult? I think lots of people without enough money to get a whole guild installed by a contractor would love to buy a few permaculture plants for their yards.

 

How is the market for permaculture guilds/ plants in this area? Do you think there will be a lot of demand?

 

Will we need a shed for tools and organization?

 

What about delicate seeds, which might need special structures (shade houses, stratification pits, possibly a refrigerator?) 

 

Also, somebody pointed out that commercial nurseries have dumpsters which are well worth raiding.

We cannot do retail out of this property.  We might be able to hold plant sales a couple of times a year at LSI or other locations.  We might eventually be able to support a full time retail outlet but that is another project.

Part of setting up the coop and making room for so many kinds of participants is to help build the market.  That is how we will change the way landscaping is done in the Denver metro area.

I think sheds and greenhouses fall in the same category.  Tools can be stored on my property and we can probably leave some wagons or wheel barrows out there.

I think a lot of the early part of plant propagation can be done in the homes of the propagators.  As the plants grow out they will need additional space and we will want them to be "substantial" when we plant them out in customer's yards.  There is currently no power for a refrigerator.

I want to be very careful with the idea of contaminated soils and plants.  The recent study by Friends of the Earth found 51% of the plants sold at big box stores are already contaminated with systemic poisons.  There is no way that you can tell if you are taking plants out of the dumpster.  I think we want to be able to certify that these plants have no contamination.  Remember that we will be marketing to people who are working to create Bee Safe Neighborhoods.

Your coordinator reports:

We can get the 162' of fencing we need for between $50 and $100 depending on what we decide to buy.  I have enough T posts.  Any volunteers to form a committee empowered to design and build the fence?

Thanks for improving our habitat.
David

 

July 14, 2014

 

I was asked how people get paid for propagating plants and responded:
 

The way I envision it, the plants will belong to you until they are sold.  When they are sold you will get the full purchase price less a fee to compensate the landowner.  Figuring out a labeling scheme will be critical.  Maybe we plant propagators can charge a fee to the contractors to fill orders for plants.  Or, you could offer them at periodic plant sales.  We will need to work out the details.

Before we cast anything in concrete, I would like to take the next step in organizing.  I assume that most of you have either not read anything yet and therefor have not commented, or you agree with me entirely and felt no need to comment :-).  I am going with the second.  Please answer the following questions.  You are welcome to reply to the whole group if you want to share a thought but, if you are just saying yes or no, you will reduce the noise level by replying only to me.  I will post the votes with names to assure transparency.

Question 1.

Will we have a structure in which we have full members who pay a membership fee and contribute time and get to vote on issues, and associate members who contribute time but pay no fee and have no vote?

Question 2.

Is $100 and ten hours of labor a reasonable annual membership fee for full members and twenty hours of labor a reasonable annual membership fee for associate members?

Please feel free to propose a different structure and a different set of fees.  If there is discussion, I will try to sense the consensus and restate the questions.  Once we have finished discussion, and the questions are finalized, I will set a deadline to vote about 7 days down the road.  Those voting withing that time frame will decide the issue.  If the majority of this group approves a structure and a membership fee, I will set up a new e-mail list for the voting members and we will start entertaining other issues such as "can the membership fee be paid in installments"?

As always,
Thanks for improving our habitat
David Braden

July 15, 2014

So far we have 2 votes in favor of the original proposal and none opposed.  I also have two conditional votes in favor as follows:

Peggy writes:
 

I do not understand the need for only paying members getting to vote and non paying members having no vote.
 

Some people may want to just check us out before making any substantial commitment.  If they sign up as an associate and agree to put in 20 hours and then it does not fit with the rest of their life they can just quit.  Once someone sees the value in their participation, I would hope that they would be willing to share in the monetary cost.  I think it is those who have made that kind of commitment who should have the decision making power in the organization and not just everyone who has expressed an interest.

Malcolm writes:
 

I would say yes to both, but I would like to see part of the dues be payable in plants to be sold by the guild, without return payment due. Maybe a hundred dollars worth of plants could count for fifty dollars worth of dues (because this would be more uncertain.) Maybe eventually dues could be paid by organizing fundraisers and donating materials to them. 

Issues such as accepting plants in lieu of fees, holding fund-raisers to reduce the fees, what the annual fees will be after the initial costs are covered, and allowing payment schedules for membership fees are issues that we can decide once we have determined who will make the decisions.  In one scenario we build out the property at 3155 Eldridge, the annual costs are reduced to the taxes and water, there are many Full Members and the membership fees drop to a nominal amount.  In another scenario, there is so much demand for our plants that we are constantly taking on and developing new places to grow them out, membership fees go up, but nobody cares because every one is making a lot of money.  We should be prepared to respond to both scenarios.

I personally think the first couple of years will be more like the first scenario and I don't care how fees are paid so long as the coop is able to cover expenses.  I also think that there will come a time, if we are diligent in making the case for this kind of landscaping, that we will begin to experience the second scenario.

The questions remain open for discussion.

David

July 15, 2014

Avery writes:

the membership and fee only complicates the relationships here. It seems that the person selling the plant will pay a land use fee and a water fee to you as the owner. Again, as the owner you get the ultimate say in what happens on that land. And it seems that the people buying the plants will pay the labeled price for those plants. So you get your land paid and your water paid, the people selling plants get some money, and the people buying the plants get happy clients where they install these landscapes. So, what is the need for the membership fee? Is it only intended to be an inclusive group of propagators and installers?

I also want to make sure we are not creating a convoluted system, when a simpler design is possible. Does the membership fee include a yearly kickback as in a cooperative model? This way the more plants that are sold, the more return the group members get? Does the membership fee go to you? Or to the development of the space? If no structures are allowed, then the development of the space should be pretty affordable (drip lines, sheet mulch, temp fences, ect)

Would we accept any landscaper to be a member and "earn" the right to buy these special plants? How do we expand the market for plants if we can only sell to members? I really want to see this succeed, and with the added costs, it will be difficult to out compete traditional nurseries, aside from the fact that we will have unique plants. Those are my big questions. With all that aside, I am in and would like to help when I can find the free time, as I would like more local suppliers with quality 'permaculture' type plants!
 

Since we do not have a per plant fee coming in right now, I envision the membership fee paying the pretty affordable costs of drip line, fencing, manure, heat box for the back flow preventer, cost of water etc.  I have offered to waive the cost of the taxes the first year.  In the long term however, we will want to make the transaction attractive to landowners as well.  Any fees would go to the co-op for expenses and we are trying to determine who will be entitled to decide what those expenses will be.  If the $1 per plant, or whatever it is, covers the cost of the lease and water the co-op would have the choice of reducing the fee or incurring other expenses that benefit the members.  A kick back might be a great idea :-).

Every wholesaler has land and water costs.  Where we differ is in the labor costs.  Because we are a co-op and the propagators own the plants, I imagine that we would be able to match, if not beat, any price available in the market and the propagators would still be ahead of the game compared to where they are now.

"Would we accept any landscaper?"  Pondering that question it seems to me that the mission of changing the way landscaping is done in the Metro area requires that we at least give preference to those who will be building forest islands and I am assuming that those are the contractors who will want to become members.  If there are extra plants there are the options of plant sales and offering them to landscapers who are not members.  Those whom we now empower to make decisions for the co-op can make that decision.

Two Notes:

1)  Oz writes me and spells the abbreviation for cooperative as co-op.  That makes it a different spelling than coop as in chicken coop.  I looked it up in wiktionary and he is right.  Who knew?

2)  Isn't this more fun than having to spend an afternoon, all in the same room, trying to figure this stuff out?  You can read it at your leisure, you can think before you respond and we have no deadline except we will not be making any money until we have plants to sell.

David.

 

July 18, 2014

 

Thank you all for your comments. And thanks Adam for the Small Scale Permaculture Nursery materials. I am planning on spending the afternoon reading through that. Considering everything that has been written, I want to revise Question 2 add a Question 3 and set a date for a yes or no vote. If there is further discussion and a subsequent change to the questions the vote deadline will be extended. I am not empowered to answer many of the other questions because we are in process of forming a group of people willing to commit to the success of the co-op whom we will empower to make those decisions. Once that group is empowered they can decide how we will start and later change their minds and make new rules as we gain experience.

 

Avery's point is well taken that our expenses to start are fairly limited and going forward we may be able to cover all of our expenses through the way we price our plants and share the proceeds. What I am looking for is a structure in which people who are committed to the success of the co-op make the decisions. I think we will have that if we make a one time membership fee for full members and empower full members to make the decision. Going forward, those members could make a decision to pay an annual fee to cover ongoing expenses. I will be proposing an executive committee made up from representatives of each of the categories of membership that would propose an annual budget and member assessment and submit that to a vote of the full members. Only the one time membership fee and the concept of the members assessing themselves has to be decided right now. If the group votes yes on these questions I will set up a separate e-mail list for full members for voting purposes and we can begin to decide how this will work.

 

Please consider the following revised question 2 and question 3 and submit your votes on all three questions on or before July 25, 2014. A majority of those voting by that date will determine whether or not we will empower those who pay the membership fee to start making decisions, unless there is further discussion and based on that discussion the deadline is extended.

 

Question 1.

Will we have a structure in which we have full members who pay a membership fee and contribute time and get to vote on issues, and associate members who contribute time but pay no fee and have no vote?

 

Question 2.

Is $100 and ten hours of labor a reasonable one time membership fee for full members and twenty hours of labor a reasonable one time membership fee for associate members?

 

Question 3.

 

Is it reasonable to then have the full members agree to assess themselves for expenses of the co-op on an annual basis going forward?

 

Thanks for your participation,

David Braden

 

July 19, 2014

Michael Anderson wrote:

Once again, I see a structure that seems to me to marginalize those without funds & like the real world, give voting power to those with the money. What this structure says is that the extra 10 hrs of labor required of "associate" members has no value. Then why require it at all. Simply let them put in the 10 hrs everyone else does & call them associates. Or value that extra 10 hrs at $10/hr & also have them be voting members. I say this not knowing whether or not I will be a member on either level, but trying to be fair to all who want to be involved.

Unfortunately, there are cash costs to starting up this business.  There are also labor requirements to get started.  This is not about valuing those with money over those without money.  If we set it up that you have a place to grow out plants to sell, and create a market to sell them, just set aside the first $100 worth of plants you grow and use the proceeds to become a full member.

The issue here is ownership.  The critical issues of how we will interact should not be decided by those with just a passing interest.  These issues should be decided by those who have committed to the success of the project.  Our goal is a self reinforcing set of interactions that transforms the habitat.  That requires participants in all six categories working together to make it happen.  If someone sees another way to determine commitment and still get the cash costs covered in a timely manner, please propose it.

That being said, as always, Michael has a valid point.  The ten and twenty hours of labor are just a guess as to the amount of labor that will be available and how much we will need.  I am rephrasing Question 2 to read:
 

Question 2.

Is $100 and ten hours of labor a reasonable one time membership fee for full members and ten hours of labor a reasonable one time membership fee for associate members?

 
That way both categories submit the same amount of labor and the extra monetary fee is what demonstrates commitment and allows for payment of upfront expenses.  I will extend the voting through Saturday, July 26, 2014.  If you have already voted in favor of question 2 and do not object to the change, there is no need to vote again.

Any other issues?

David

PS:  Have you all seen the promotion for Facilitating the Creation of a Bee Safe Neighborhood?  I hope you can all attend and begin to get to know your customers.

http://www.meetup.com/Greater-Denver-Urban-Homesteaders/events/177715932/

 

July 21, 2014

 

It occurs to me that I may have offended the democratic sensibilities of some on this list.  What we are doing, however, is not government.  We are about to empower a group of people to work out the details of a business plan for the co-op.  We want those people to be experienced and committed and interested in making sure that the plan works.  There after, once we have all the details worked out, each of you and every other resident of our habitat will get a vote when they decide whether or not they want to participate.  (Rule #1)

No one will participate unless we can find a way to make it worth their while.  We will need people participating in all six categories (and maybe more).  You are all welcome to become full members and have a vote but that is a commitment to put in the time to understand these interrelationships so that we can come up with a viable plan.

So far I have 2 votes in favor of all three questions and no votes opposed. I haven't voted yet.  The deadline to vote is July 26.

Thanks for improving our habitat,
David

July 26, 2014

Thank you all who contributed to the discussion.  So far we have 4 votes in favor of all 3 questions and one in favor of the full membership and the $100 and ten hours but opposed to the associate membership.

You still have until midnight tonight to vote:
 

Question 1.

Will we have a structure in which we have full members who pay a membership fee and contribute time and get to vote on issues, and associate members who contribute time but pay no fee and have no vote?

 

Question 2.

 

Is $100 and ten hours of labor a reasonable one time membership fee for full members and ten hours of labor a reasonable one time membership fee for associate members?

 

Question 3.

 

 

Is it reasonable to then have the full members agree to assess themselves for expenses of the co-op on an annual basis going forward?

To review the discussion:

http://livingsystemsinst.org/content/hp3c-organizational-correspondence

Thanks for improving our habitat,
David Braden

 

July 27, 2014

 

We had ten people voting and 9 yes votes on all 3 questions.  The tenth vote was in favor of a full membership and $100 and 10 hours as a membership fee but opposed to the associate membership and did not vote on Question 3.  I think that voter just did not have time to get all the facts.

I promised to report all the votes for purposes of transparency but do not see the need in the case of a near unanimous decision.  Those voting where:

Peggy Gates
Deb Lebow
Oz Osborn
Ryan Henry
Malcolm Schluenderfritz
Denise Conrad
Crystal Niedzwiadek
Deb Neeley
Creighton Hofeditz
David Braden

On Monday I will take my $100 membership fee and set up an account under the name High Plains Plant Propagation Co-op using the tax number of LSI (we got confirmation of our tax exempt status yesterday :-).

I will then begin setting up times to work on the fencing, drip system and hugel mulch.  We will discuss every decision with this entire group but actual voting, if necessary, will be done by those who have paid their membership fee.

Thank you all for participating,
David.

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