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Agriculture & Farming, Blockchain, Carbon Farming, Regenerative Business, Regenerative Principles, Regenerative Supply

The Emerging Crisis of Trust

Centralized failures of management of resources resulting in cascading ecosystem failures, increases in surveillance of citizens by unaccountable agencies as well as corporate actors, behavior and social manipulationthrough media and social media, and engineered mistrust intersect to form a general crisis of trust. Even trust in neighbors is undermined as polarized views and media is used to divide and conquer. This all forms into the necessity of revisiting trust as a fundamental layer for social interactions and the basis of our social contract. Regen.network is built to grow the capacity to focus on common interests and empower all stakeholders to hold those resources in trust as stewards of both outcomes and verification of those outcomes, providing a remedy to the generalized malaise of rightful distrust of centralized, opaque and degenerative governmental, economic and social structures.

Machine Learning

The rise of AI, big data and machine learning is already having huge impacts on society. Many of the impacts are visible in the earlier mentioned crisis of trust and incomplete machine learning algorithms are used to manipulate behavior of citizens as consumers. The larger debate about the safety of AI ranges from Elon Musk’s alarmist stance and public statements that AI should be governed and humans augmented, to enthusiasts who are blindly investing billions of dollars and significant human resources to feed the growth of “artificial” intelligence. Whether or not machine intelligence is truly artificial is not the focus on this conversation, however it warrants further discussion. AI is an important emerging disruption to our reality and, as such, warrants significant design consideration in any Information Technology project. Regen.network aims to grow the capacity of machine learning and attend deeply to the subtle nuances and complexities of ecological dynamics, health and regeneration, and to create a space for a deep human-machine partnership with the biosphere. This dynamic partnership is essential for all three elements of the whole to thrive.

Ecosystem Collapse

The rapid acidification of oceans, increasing rates of soil loss, accelerating loss of biodiversity, warming climate, environmental toxicity, and global scale degeneration of living systems is all emerging faster on a wider scale than humans have had the capacity to deal with. Humans are notoriously bad with exponential foresight and decision making. Apparently calculus is not our strength, and most of us, especially in governance decisions, have very short aims focused into the sharp point of survival instincts gone awry in the form of greed, optimization of financial liquidity at the expense of eco-social health. This collapse is passing our ability to attend to and respond to with centralized and glacial scientific structures. The structure of academic peer review is broken and mostly used to maintain positions of status instead of increase the capacity of the learning community to understand complex systems. The perverse economic and bureaucratic incentives of centralized power must be removed as obstacles and the ability of business, community, and individual initiative must be unleashed to find creative solutions to regenerate ecosystems around the world. Regen.network will start with terrestrial agriculture and expand to other lands, mariculture and ocean management as quickly as the creative genius of communities around the world can be unleashed to solve for peer-to-peer monitoring and verification and baseline calibration solutions for ecosystems.

Money Eats the World

Whether the destructive power of hyper liquidity in financial markets ripping away the foundation of living capital and turning it into financial instruments, or the massive energy weight of running proof of work consensus to avoid coercive centralized currency issuance, it is plain to see that money is literally eating the world. While we believe that the transparent costs of a proof of work cryptocurrency is far preferable to trust we all have in the continue ability of the US military to control the worlds metro-resources that makes the dollar the global currency, Bitcoin’s designed decentralized inefficiency is still world eating. It is less bad, but not good enough, and needless to say it is certainly not regenerative. The imperative to generate a decentralized currency system based on regenerative utility, that is a real use that increases the health of ecosystem through use is essential to a healthy functioning economy, and the maturity of the cryptocurrency and blockchain community which threatens to teeter into a war between crypto kitties and hyper liquid financialization instead of fulfilling the philosophical promised and potential of what the distributed ledger and decentralized economy can bring.

The Distributed Economy

Distributed ledger technology, sharing economy (both real and pseudo-sharing economy), micro transaction networks, token economics, and the new decentralization and distribution of technology and fungibility of decentralized cryptographic network tokens that represent various forms of assets unlock the potential for a new economy optimized for cooperation, evolution of diversified niche economic roles, and massive participation in a non-coercive mutualistic network economy. This emergence is not a minute too soon. Massive experimentation is now underway and many DApps and platforms are being born. Regen.network is designed to be a network and platform that serves to accelerate decentralized innovation to reconnect human economy with living systems and the imperatives for biological and ecological health. This is accomplished by providing the framework for the exchange of verified ecological data as the basic currency for a new regenerative, bioregionally-sourced, global decentralized economy.

Regenerative Agriculture

The growing movement to leverage the potential of soil to sequester carbon including governmental and business initiatives globally, also has deep strategic and ethical imperatives. As noted in the previously published Levels of Regenerative Agriculture white paper (Soloviev, Landua 2016), Regenerative Agriculture goes far beyond simply soil carbon sequestration. Soil Carbon Sequestration represents a regenerative outcome, but all levels of the value stream from soil to the human consumer of a product and back to the soil are part of the regenerative imperative that is now growing into a movement. Individuals and businesses are increasingly motivated to explore how to participate in a co-creative and regenerative economy where human needs are met in style while ecosystem health is increased and the capacity of the system itself and all members of the system to evolve more robust vitality and viability is grown.

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Design, Regenerative Business, Regenerative Principles

This is the story of the birth of a new approach to business and life.  This story is born out of concrete experience and passion for life, culture and health.  Over the past 8 years we have been enquiring deeply into what the healthiest possible expression of chocolate might be in today’s world.  What the farms could look like?  What would the chocolate taste like?  Pretty quickly it became apparent that this was not just about chocolate, for although chocolate is a sacred food born from a sacred plant, and represents a nearly perfect nexus of commerce, culture, and ecology, this is a story that stretches far beyond chocolate and has begun to help breath life into an entire movement of business, and create a shared way of thinking among a globe spanning community of peers.  We’ve been very lucky to stumble into a community of peers that are deeply talented and committed and form relationships with mentors and leading thinkers.  What do we all have in common?  A deep commitment to living the inquiry of how to increase the health of the world through our actions, and even thoughts.

What is regeneration?

To talk about regeneration is like trying to tell someone how to ride a bike, or farm.  You have to do it to understand, you have to feel it, see it, and learn from it.  Regeneration is something that must be explored, experienced and then, ultimately, regenerated by everyone in order to start to take form as a way of thinking and doing business. This is the kind of question that I often frown at because there is no easy way to answer that question without building a home for the question to live in.  Let me explain:

Once I was walking in the Ecuadorian Andes, and I came across a small village. At the center of the village was a beautiful tree full of colorful birds singing and chirping. I have always been a plant nerd, and my great love of plants and life lead me to become quite excited to know more about this flowering marvel of a tree. I looked around and saw that there was an old women sitting near the tree on a park bench, so I walked towards her and nodded my head. I asked her in the most old-time polite and as slow as a gringo could manage sort of a way: Good morning grandma, how are you?  Would you mind answering a question for me? I wonder if you could perhaps tell me the name of this beautiful tree? She chuckled at me and said “good morning, where are you coming from?” I answered and we proceeded to have a long conversation that after an hour or so turned towards the tree. She told me a story about the tree, or rather a story about a story in which the tree was mentioned. She told me a love story in which the tree was the trysting place, the location of love poems and serenades and eventually a marriage. She shared about the food that was eaten under the tree and the names of all the people who attending the wedding.  She did not however tell me anything about the name of the tree or directly tell me anything about what the tree meant to her or the village. I left feeling deeply grateful, slightly bewildered and somewhat frustrated with the whole exchange. My great thirst to know more about this tree was unquenched. This sweet old lady had completely avoided telling me anything of consequence or use about the tree! I left the village and when I was home I went to the library and got out a copy of an Ecuadorian Botany book and looked up the tree.  There I found her. A beautiful tree called the Huila. In that moment I thought I knew. I smiled at the seemingly inconsequential stories told by the old lady, comforted that I had found what I was looking for the name of that beautiful old tree, Mariania huilenses if I remember correctly. It was not until some years later that I was sitting in a beautiful mud hall listening to a great teacher of life, named Martin Prachtel, that I learned something that I had missed all those years.  He told of a similar story in his own life, though there was a key difference. In his story he had stayed in that little village to patiently listen and enquire deeper and deeper. After some time he asked another elder why the women under the tree would not answer any of his questions. The man, a respected and honored member of the village hierarchy, responded: “She is answering your questions! You just don’t have ears to hear it, so she is trying to help you grow ears. You don’t have eyes to see it, so she is trying to grow your eyes.” Hearing him tell that story sent shivers down my spine. It shattered my assumption that I had figured something out. Figured anything out for that matter. I started to wonder just how many things I had missed in my life because I didn’t have the eyes to see them, the ears to hear them. Why tell this story in an article about Regeneration? I think, by and large, those of us who were brought up in the western world, educated to see the world as a machine, using the language of science to dissect life and using the language of business and engineering to harness living systems, have not yet trained their eyes to see regeneration, let alone participate in it consciously. I am still growing my own eyes and ears, so this will certainly not be an authoritative review of a concept that I have conquered, instead I hope it is a living exploration of a living concept.

Taking the short road to easy answers doesn’t seem to create the thriving world we want to see. The good news is that although strenuous, learning to see and hear, learning to ask the right questions, is possible.  We can grow the ears and eyes we need to see the windy road ahead that is leading us towards regeneration, towards healthy ecosystems, trade relationships, and business models. Living Systems Regeneration is the general process of renewal of living systems. The amazing thing, is that by learning from this life renewing process, we can learn to tune our minds, actions, and even business decisions and operations into receivers and transmitters of regeneration. Regenerative Business In the case of business, regeneration could be seen as the creation of new business models, structures and relationships that uplift the health of the whole system. However neither newness, nor necessarily improving the system are quite enough to really be termed regenerative. Core to regeneration through unveiling and uplifting the potential of each unique member of the community. This deeper dedication to exploring and uplifting the singular and irreplaceable role of members of a community of businesses, members of a team, or, indeed of industries themselves, is a key aspect of the work that Carol Sanford and The Regenerative Business Alliance (TRBA) has undertaken. Carol’s invaluable work with the support of the growing Regenerative Business community has gifted us with a distilled and highly potent set of first principles of Regeneration that can be applied to business decisions, strategy, operations, design and leadership. Instead of looking at the outcomes of regenerative business or relationships such as the great work of John Fullerton at the Capital Institute, the First Principles of Regeneration as articulated by Carol, and put into practice by (TRBA), focus not on the output of regeneration, but instead on describing the underlying set of laws that seem to govern Regeneration of living systems themselves.  That is to say, that these principles serve us in the same way an understanding of the laws of thermodynamics serves an engineer or physicist. Sustainability thinking versus Regeneration thinking Some would argue that the difference between sustainability and regeneration lies in the simple shift from a perspective driven by the desire to maintain a stable homeostasis, to design for “net-zero impact” and other such drivers, towards a perspective that actively seeks to improve the system itself not merely by stabilizing, but by increasing health.  Of course this is true to an extent.  When we are thinking about a sustainability we think about net zero solutions, circular economies and we ask questions that sounds something like:

– How can we maximize efficiency?

– How can we minimize harm?

– How can we create stakeholder buy in for these sustainability goals?

The world of sustainability is driven by best practices, standards, certifications, protocols and success through measurement around questions such as these. This “do less harm” way of approaching things seems doomed to begin just thinking about the current state of events, and the idea of creating a holding pattern where we currently are, without gaining ground or improving anything. So, shifting to “doing good” is a substantial leap. But does it take us to regeneration? Not quite. Here is why: A doing good perspective asks a different set of questions meant to improve the system.  Questions like:

– How can we improve worker rights?

– How can we improve ecosystem health?

Each of these questions presents a seemingly irreconcilable tension. It becomes a fight to do good versus the degenerative system, leading to wins and losses in the board-room, in communities, in our ecosystems. It becomes:

– Worker rights versus bottom line

– Ecosystem health versus bottom line

And the untenable tension never reconciles. Why? Because the doing good mindset misses some core capacity to see the whole and inquire more deeply into what a healthy essential expression of all the stakeholders, including the business, might be. Until the mode of thought, the very approach to thinking shifts from one of being stuck in the currently problems, to one of inquiring into the unique potential that is latent in the system and each of the stakeholders, the conversation, no matter how rich with measurement and metrics, will always be asking and answering the wrong set of questions. One thing that happened for me as I started to see and think ore regeneratively is noticing that best practices are usually putting the cart before the horse.  Best practices are most often success stories, and people usually use them as analogies for what can work in another situation. Let’s go further into why that does not usually turn out the way we might like: Let us grow our eyes to see, let us grow our ears to hear. As Eisenstein noted: “We can not solve our problems with the same level of thinking that created them”

Whole Eyes

Being able to see the whole system is really the ableness to discern and understand the relationship between nested systems.  From a farmer, to a farm, to a watershed to a bioregion being able to understand where one whole entity or organism (organization) begins and ends, and what environment that whole is nested inside and operating within is key.  We can only influence our environment, and of course our environment is part of what supports and defines us.  Through seeing, acknowledging and working together with wholes that share our proximate environment we can grow our collective capacity to totally shift and regenerate our large environment.  But of course, sight alone cannot allow this to happen, no, indeed we must have our hearing and our taste:

Hearing the Future

Potential is something like the sound of the future beckoning us.  One of the key ways to hear the future, is to not allow thestatic of the present to interfere with the clear music coming in over the airwaves.  Entrepreneur Elon Musk has an excellent track record of tuning himself to the future and making it a reality, and he articulates well how he peeled back the seemingly irreconcilable problems of energy storages to catalyse a revolution in electric cars and beyond. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NV3sBlRgzTI

Tasting Essence

Growing our eyes to see essence is a challenge. In a world where we are force fed superficial information and where standardization is the norm, seeing the unique irreplaceable and totally img_4921singular gift of every single member of a system or community is a very rare art. This art also takes a community. The ableness to inquire into the essential nature of a community member in order to help uplift them is quite a feet. In order to do this a deep interest in the context, history, ecology, and story of a person, place or business is key. Regenerative Business then, could be defined as the matching of essence of all stakeholders in a stream of value adding in such a way as to grow the capacity of each actor and the health of the system itself. This simple definition generated out of the Regenerative Business Summit in 2016 by Carol Sanford and the team of The Regenerative Business Alliance encapsulates these key senses for seeing, hearing and tasting that are needed to cultivate regeneration through business. The core pathway towards regeneration from the perspective of thought and then management become: Essence, Context and Place One of the First Principles of Regeneration is what Carol often refers to as Singularity. What does a term that is usually used to refer to the coming terminator machine intelligence apocalypse have to do with Regeneration you might ask? For Carol, this term combines the idea of unique, irreplaceable oneness that every being and self contained entity exhibits, with the directive movement of living systems to express that essence by connecting with the other members of the living community. Thinking from this core principles we can see clearly that no venture can achieve regeneration without the processes of essence exploration, expression and matching. Our colleagues at Regenesis have honed the process of honouring and uplifting the essence of a place in order to grow will towards the shared potential and call this process the Story of Place. Regensis has recently published an excellent overview of the steps to shift from sustainability mind to regeneration mind in the context of design and development work called: Regenerative Development and Design Inquiring deeply into the healthy essence of each member of the system

– What is the essence of the farmer growing the cacao?

– Of the rainforest surrounding the farm? Of the community? Bioregion? Of the trader, processor, chocolate maker, of the final customer?

How do we align these stakeholders of a single stream of value adding?

Simultaneously the question of the potential of the system must be held, to start to see connections and catalyze strategies that emerge from that potential and the essence matching that starts to unfold. The key to this regenerative process succeeding is the process of individual organizations/businesses and even farmers engaging to build their own will towards the actualization of healthy potential. Instead of predefined metrics created by a question set born of abstract “do less harm” or even “do good” mind sets, a living and dynamic set of shared goals starts to arise from the large aim of actualizing the healthy potential of the system.  Note, this does not happen through or because of any kind of surveying of what people currently think or want in regards to problems they currently face, it happens by shifting all the stakeholders into a place of enquiry around potential. Regeneration is a process Regeneration is a living dynamic process. It is an ability more than a practice. This means being able to shift first into a mode of inquiry about the potential, then work to develop all other stakeholders in the value stream to be able to achieve a similar shift. For a detailed look at Carol’s 7 principles of Regeneration click here. In this blog I have focused most explicitly on Wholeness, Nestedness, Potential, Essence and the Developmental principles. In addition to these five, reciprocity, and nodal awareness have been woven in more implicitly and can be explored in detail in the link above. Be sure to tune in for the next in our series on Regeneration, Regenerative Agriculture, Supply and Regenerative Cacao!Gregory Landua is the Co-Author of Regenerative Enterprise, The Levels of Regenerative Agriculture and the Co-founder and CEO of Terra Genesis International where he works with companies and organizations to integrate the processes born from his work with living systems to help shift industries towards uplifting the health and potential of people, place and planet.  When he is not traveling for work he can be found farming cacao on his co-operatively owned farm in Ecuador, Finka Aekolado.

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Agriculture & Farming, Carbon Farming, Design, Regenerative Business, Regenerative Principles, Regenerative Supply

The term “Regenerative Agriculture” has recently experienced a meteoric rise in public interest, through discussion and promotion by both corporate and non-profit entities. This explosion of excitement and engagement has great, positive eco-social potential for individuals, farms and businesses. However, some uses over-simplify, banalize, or fragment Regenerative Agriculture, instead of engaging with it as a whole and viable discipline.

To expand and uplift global conversation and action, Terra Genesis is glad to release our new White Paper, Levels of Regenerative Agriculture. We aim to support practitioners, organizations, decision-makers and investors to radically transform Earth’s agriculture as a step on the path to an ecosystemically vibrant, socially equitable, culturally diverse, and spiritually meaningful global system of regenerative potential. To download the paper, go to our learn page.

Regenerative Agriculture Cover

Questions? Comments? Tell us below!

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Regenerative Business

A New Fundraising Tool for Permaculture

WeTheTrees.com has just officially launched their permaculture crowd funding platform, bringing a new and exciting tool to the permaculture world, and an ability to easily and creatively raise funds. This platform helps organizations and individuals around the globe gather the resources needed to meet their goals.

Effort, desire and passion do not tend to be limiting factors for the students and practitioners of permaculture. The ability to dream, design and use information and imagination does not hold back the permaculture community. The greatest limitation almost across the board is often that of economics. With access to the right resources, including those in the form of dollars and cents, the individuals, and the movement as a whole, could be achieving much more and be that much more effective at achieving their goals.

With this in mind, the launch of Permaculture’s first and only crowd funding platform brings renewed optimism to many in the movement. WeTheTrees was designed specifically to bridge the gap between idea / design and the resources needed to make it happen.

What exactly is crowd funding, and how does it work?

Crowd funding is a means of networking and pooling economic resources from a wide range of people, generally to support an idea or initiative from an individual or organization. It involves a campaign creator who posts her idea to an internet crowd funding platform, like WeTheTrees, sharing what her plan is, how much she needs to make it happen, and requesting that the reader consider making a contribution.2 The campaign creator then shares the URL for their crowd funding efforts with their contacts, colleagues, family and friends, via social networking, e-mail and word of mouth, and asks them to visit their fundraising campaign and to share it with their contacts. In this way, news of the campaign can spread far and wide, and whoever feels excited about helping to make the idea a reality can contribute towards it by contributing to the campaign at whatever level they like. If the campaign reaches its goal, then the campaign creator receives the money and has everything she needs to bring her idea to fruition. In return for their contributions, contributors may receive some sort of reward from the creator of the campaign. Often it is something related to their project, and usually the reward gets bigger and better relative to the amount of the contribution.

Crowd Funding really started to gain steam in 2009 when Kickstarter, a crowd funding platform focused on artistic endeavors, quickly became the most visited crowd funding site. Since that time, the platform has helped successfully fund over 25,000 projects, raising over 225 million dollars for the campaign creators.Kickstarter has done an incredible job of harnessing the joy of giving, and helping to make the dreams of artists of all kinds come true.

The inspiration for the creation of WeTheTrees.com came from a failed attempt to create a permaculture related campaign on Kickstarter. After the campaign had been submitted for review, Christian Shearer received this message in response:

Thank you for taking the time to share your idea. Unfortunately, this isn’t the right fit for Kickstarter. We receive many project proposals daily and review them all with great care and appreciation. We see a wide variety of inspiring ideas, and while we value each one’s uniqueness and creativity, Kickstarter is not the right platform for all of them. We wish you the best of luck as you continue to pursue your endeavor.

Obviously, this was rather disappointing. Kickstarter’s niche centers around art-related projects like movies, dance, fine arts and more. Permaculture and sustainability sometimes overlap with their criteria, but often not. So, being proactive and living the permaculture spirit (the problem is the solution), Christian decided that he had better get a team of people together to build a crowd funding platform that does fit the needs and ethics of permaculture. Not only would it help him to secure funding for his permaculture endeavors, it will eventually help thousands of his fellow permaculturalists with theirs. After a few e-mails to some prospective team mates, Christian found three others trained in permaculture who wanted to join the effort: Ian, with website development project management experience, Jerry with front-end graphical skills and Vidar with the back-end programming skills needed. Together, the vision began to manifest into a functional website, and as of July 15, 2012, WeTheTrees is live and eager to help all who seek funding for permaculture and sustainability related projects.

How does WeTheTrees work?

Straight from the WeTheTrees website:

WeTheTrees works like this: you submit your campaign, set a fundraising goal and a deadline to reach this goal (maximum 90 days). Then you promote the campaign to your friends, family and networks, encouraging them to come check it out. People can opt to contribute to your campaign at any amount above $5.00 and receive rewards for their contribution! We work on an all-or-nothing system. If you reach your fundraising goal by your deadline, then the contributions are debited from the contributors accounts on that date and deposited into your account (less fees). If you don’t meet (or exceed) your goal, then no money ever is collected. Use the WeTheTrees platform to fundraise for projects big and small.

With a minimum campaign amount of only $100, WeTheTrees could be a valuable resource for fundraising at all levels – from the purchase of a scythe for harvesting wheat to the purchase of the wheat field itself!

To learn more about WeTheTrees visit the website (www.wethetrees.com). Be sure to visit the FAQ page, as well as the really interesting strategy guide.

How is WeTheTrees helpful to the permaculture movement?

WeTheTrees provides a multifaceted tool to every permaculturalist, and can be used very creatively to not only raise funds for a project, but also to fundraise for a course, assess the market potential of different ideas, and even to pre-sell products that will be produced with aforementioned fundraised capital, allowing the farmer or eco-social entrepreneur to feel more secure in their undertaking. WeTheTrees can also function as an excellent way for a community to collect money for cooperative endeavors.

And furthermore, WeTheTrees allows a wonderful and meaningful way for anyone to be able to contribute to positive change on this planet. Just browsing through the site can be enjoyable, seeing all the interesting projects that other folks are raising money for, and when a person sees one that really excited them, its just a click away to become a contributor.

A few examples of how the WeTheTrees platform could be a useful tool.

1. The Traditional Fundraiser – Lets say a family wants to install solar panels on their roof to supplement their electricity needs from a renewable source. This family (let’s call them the Kimbles) could post a campaign on WeTheTrees to do just that. The Kimble family posts a campaign to raise $1800 for fifteen 100W solar panels. This will give them a big start on their grid-intertied solar system. They set a goal for $1800 and a campaign length of 90 days. On WeTheTrees, all campaigns must offer rewards. Because the Kimbles assume that most of their contributors are going to be friends and family, they offer what they have in abundance. It does not actually need to be related to the solar panels (as it would be difficult to give away electricity as a reward).

Their rewards could look like this:

  • If you contribute $5 we will send you a personalized thank-you card.
  • If you contribute $10 we will give you a quart of our canned apple sauce.
  • If you contribute $25 you will receive an invite to our “Going Solar” installation party and bar-b-que.
  • If you contribute $100 you will receive the invitation as well as a set of our home made artisan bees-wax candles.
  • If you contribute $250 you get all of the above plus a hand made Shaker bench made by Mrs. Kimble in her wood shop.

2. Fundraise to take a course – Shu Mei has been wanting to take a PDC course for a long time, but felt that she could not because of the price of the course. Using WeTheTrees she was able to post a campaign to raise the funds to take the PDC course. She set her fundraising goal at $1200 ($980 for the course itself and $220 for travel and expenses). In her description of the campaign, she explains how the PDC course will support her in moving toward what she wants in her life, and true independence on her path. She promotes the campaign by sending it out to her family and friends, and is easily able to raise the money needed to make this inspirational course a reality for her. On WeTheTrees anyone can fundraise to take any course that is related to the environment, social change, or permaculture, and there is already a list of organizations and institutions that are encouraging their students to do just that. For rewards, she may offer to do permaculture designs for people contributing over a certain amount, or give an evening presentation about what she learned during the course.

3. Pre-selling products and gathering market potential on an idea- All campaigns posted on WeTheTrees must be finite and definable; they must be clearly stated and have a clear end. A person can fundraise for “the purchase of a cargo bicycle for delivery of fresh baked organic bread” but cannot fundraise “to start a bread business”. In this case, Mary Breadmaker may post a campaign on WeTheTrees that invites anyone who feels moved to contribute toward the purchase of this bike, which she will then use in her bread making business to do home deliveries. “Fresh on your doorstep in time for breakfast!” She sets her fundraising goal at $2,500, sets her campaign length to 60 days, and offers rewards for the contribution.

  • If you contribute $5 toward this campaign, you receive a coupon for one loaf of her classic sourdough.
  • If you contribute $10 toward this campaign, you receive a coupon for any of her dessert breads.
  • If you contribute $25 toward this campaign, you receive a coupon for four loaves of your choice.
  • If you contribute $100 toward this campaign, you will receive 20 coupons and be given a special thanks in her newsletter.

Mary could post this campaign with complete uncertainty as to whether she will achieve her goals or not. She sends it out to all her contacts and invites them to check out the campaign and share it with their friends and neighbors. Because Mary lives in such a supportive community (and she makes such good bread), she exceeds her goal by $500 and is able to purchase additional equipment on top of the bike. She already has hundreds of loaves sold and is off and running. Had she failed to meet her goal, she receives nothing, and contributions are never debited. She would have learned about the market potential in her area, and that there isn’t enough interest in her community for her bread at $5 a loaf, and saved the effort and heartbreak of starting up and failing.

4. Community cooperative action – The crowd funding tool offered by WeTheTrees is a perfect platform for building community cooperative projects and events. For example, the Clark St. Neighborhood Association as been discussing for some time the idea of putting in a playground on the empty lot on the corner. It seems that there is a fair amount of support, but it is tough to gauge whether the community will really pitch in when it comes time to pay for supplies. One of the board members of the neighborhood association volunteers to post a campaign up on WeTheTrees to raise the funds for this playground. The fundraiser is for $25,000, enough to build a wooden play castle with rope wall as slide, put up a set of swings, and to plant an edible forest garden that is child friendly (thornless blackberries, strawberries, kale snap peas, and dwarf apples, pears and plums. The community has pledged the hard labor, all they need is to see the money and make it happen. So the campaign is launched with a $25,000 goal, and a sixty day campaign deadline to help everyone in the community realize this is happening, and it needs to happen now. Besides posting the news on their facebook page and writing a blog post about it, a couple of the young association members drop fliers off in every mailbox in the neighborhood letting people know about the fundraiser, and directing them to the proper URL.

The association sets rewards low, because the main reward is having a community playground in the neighborhood. $25 contribution gets you a thank you card. $100 donation gets you a Clark St. t-shirt, $250 donation gets you a special mention at the opening ceremonies of the park, and a $1000 donation gets you a brick engraved with your name (or words of your choosing) that will be laid on the path of the park.

If the community raises enough awareness and gets the word out, they should be able to raise enough for that playground, and if they don’t raise enough, then they have ascertained that the community is not willing to give enough to make it happen. Maybe they can adjust their plan and help it meet the economic resources of their community.

What are the costs of using WeTheTrees?

It is totally free to post a campaign on WeTheTrees, and if you do not meet your goal, there are no fees at all. If the fundraising goal is met, the pledged contributions will be debited out of the contributors’ accounts at the campaign deadline. You will receive all the money from the contributors, minus the fees of the payment processors (like Paypal and WePay) which are generally about 3-4% and a 5% WeTheTrees platform fee.

A New Model of Doing Business

WeTheTrees has been set up as an eco-social business, committed to transparency, equality and the ethics of permaculture. The company was founded and is currently run only by Permaculture Design Certified staff, and all individual earnings (to employees and managers) are committed to be used toward permaculture projects of their own. Up until the launch, almost all the work done to make WeTheTrees a reality was done as sweat equity, and the company was funded only by the members of the WeTheTrees team. A true team spirit and a desire to give something back to the permaculture community are at the heart of why WeTheTrees exists.

Open Source – WeTheTrees is running using open source software called Catarse, and then adapted and stylized to fit our unique needs. The development team at WeTheTrees feels passionately about open source movement, and is glad to be able to give back the improvements and upgrades made on this site.

How can I help make WeTheTrees a success?

The platform just publicly launched on July 20th, 2012, so the greatest challenge at this point is just getting the word out. If you feel moved to help get the word out, please share this article with your friends, like us on facebook, and let your permaculture colleagues know it exists.

The team at WeTheTrees hopes that this crowd funding platform is useful to you and your community. Please come check out the site, post a campaign for your next permaculture adventure, contribute to someone else’s dream, and let others know that this resource is out there.

And thanks for all you do! Christian Shearer WeTheTrees.com facebook.com/WeTheTrees

Christian Shearer is a PRI certified Permaculture Design Course teacher and the founder of the Panya Project in Northern Thailand. He is a natural builder, a food forest enthusiast, a musician, an advisory board member to WeForest, a certified educator and has extensive knowledge of tropical permaculture systems. He has taught permaculture in Thailand, Malaysia, Taiwan and the United States and helped found Terra-Genesis International, an international permaculture design consultancy firm. Christian is excited to continue contributing to the Permaculture movement and to deepen his own understanding of how to make real lasting change on this planet.

1Photo provided free from http://www.freedigitalphotos.net
2http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crowd_funding
http://www.kickstarter.com/help/stats
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Agriculture & Farming, Markets, Regenerative Business, Regenerative Supply

Roberto Muj is an agricultural trainer and community organizer for CIEDEG in Guatemala (http://nuevociedeg.org/).

He travels widely for work and designed a home food production system based on perennial crops that could survive his frequent absences. We taught a permaculture training together in January 2010 and I was amazed by his deep and wide knowledge of permaculture plants and systems. His home is one of the finest examples of perennial market gardens that I have ever seen.

The farm is in what is considered a chilly area as they sometimes get light frosts. Avocados grow but only some kinds of citrus will survive. Elevation is about 2200 meters. Most of the year is dry, with a 4-5 month rainy season in our summer.

Here is Roberto with his 10-year old perennial beans growing on firewood trees.

Much of the farm is laid out as a perennial alley crop system. Rows of productive trees alternate with perennial herbaceous crops.

Trees include citrus, avocado, sweet gum, alder, mulberry, fig, macadamia, and giant yucca.

Herbaceous crops include aloe, alfalfa for chicken fodder, perennial beans, perennial kale, and many cut flowers including lot of Alstromeria. The cut flowers and fruits are sold in local markets, with most of the production currently being in flowers and soon to shift to fruits as trees mature. We brought asparagus seed at his request as it is hard to produce in Guatemala but there is a huge market. Roberto wants to extend this production model to more of his acres which are currently producing corn – perhaps a macadamia-avocado-alder-asparagus type of system.

Roberto’s alley cropping system:

This polyculture is in the very back corner. Rather than weeds as one might expect, every plant is useful. The large elephant ear is a Xanthosoma, not an edible clone but instead used for pesticides to kill whiteflies, a significant pest for Roberto.

The living fence is izote (Yucca guatemalensis), which has excellent and valuable edible flowers. The trees (genus uncertain) are used for firewood. Climbing them is chayote or guiskil (Sechium edule), a perennial vegetable cucurbit, and perennial beans (Phaseolus coccineus).

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Agriculture & Farming, Regenerative Business, Regenerative Supply

Permaculture designers: It’s time to get serious about profitability. Farmers & Greenhorns: You already know what I’m talking about. I’ve been working on an integrated ecological farm design for the Ashokan Center in the Hudson River Valley bioregion. The design calls for a mega-diversity of organic enterprises: Multi-species rotational grazing, hardy kiwi vineyards, mixed-fruit orchards, agroforestry & silvopasture, no-till & greenhouse vegetables, gourmet & medicinal mushrooms, and more. There are 200+ edible & useful species spread across 13 acres of farm and 200+ acres of forest.

Ashokan Center Farm

But to start an ecological farm (in the USA at this point in time) takes money. In order to justify the up-front capital expense that my clients will have to invest to get this farm going, I need to be able to show them that this mega-diverse permaculture system can be profitable. How can I do it? How can I predict the potential expenses, and calculate the possible profits? What can I show my clients to convince them that all of these great permaculture ideas make good economic sense? By using Enterprise Budgets. Enterprise budgets are summaries of actual data on the costs and yields of growing a particular crop — from asparagus to tilapia to black currants to walnuts to cattle to shitake mushrooms. The basic pattern is as follows:

INCOME – EXPENSES = NET INCOME

  • INCOME (aka revenue, receipts, gross revenue, gross income – sometimes shown with a break-even chart)
  • EXPENSES (aka costs – often divided into variable costs & fixed costs)
  • NET INCOME (aka margin, gross margin, annual returns over costs)

Pretty straightforward, right? For example, download a simple Bell Pepper Enterprise Budget from Penn State here and take a look.



Bell Pepper Production

As you move into perennial crops (like this pear example), the enterprise budgets get a bit more complex. AND, there are currently very few enterprise budgets that focus on small-scale, organic and post-organic permaculture enterprises. So we’ll need to develop based on the small-scale enterprises we initiate — this means learning the basics of good bookkeeping and accounting, and keeping good records on our expenses and yields. Some of the best current documentation on this scale comes from Joe Kovach at Ohio State University – take a look at his work here.

Kovach_Polyculture

In Kirk Gadzia’s Holistic Management module during the Carbon Farming Course, our financial planning exercise (which you can read about over at the Carbon Farming Course blog here) focused on choosing agricultural enterprises to re-invigorate an ailing farm. To bring the whole-systems thinking of permaculture into play, I needed to propose viable multi-functional alternatives to the simple and unprofitable hay production. Fortunately, I’ve been collecting every single enterprise budget available on the web for the last year — so I had many options, from seaberry & hazelnut orchards to perch & bullhead catfish aquaculture. (The systematic collation and organization of all these budgets creates the backbone of the economic design tool for ecological agriculture enterprises I blogged about here.) In order to support the ongoing development of ecological agriculture, I’m making available to you all the all the enterprise budgets I have collected in the last 2 years – more than 1090 of them. I ask only that you keep seeking and creating out new budgets to add to the collection – especially ones that use real data from small-scale organic and permaculture operations. Download ’em here – careful, this is a 130mb file. Any questions? Permaculture Designers, are you ready to get realistic about profitability? Let’s get this sort of economic sensibility into our designs. Farmers & Greenhorns, how can I make this information more available and useful to you?

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