as of October 2018:
Humble Hands Harvest is a cooperative?
Yup. Emily and Hannah are the current individuals who are worker-owners of Humble Hands Harvest. We made our cooperative agreement last winter, and we feel really good about it–it’s a structure that meets our current needs, allows room for growth, has an exit strategy, and feels like it is helping to create a better, more just and generous, world.
Here’s the basics:
- we both put in a lot of money to make this farm go
- we both put in an embarrassing number of hours of work during the growing season
- we each receive a salary from the farm of $1000/month during the growing season
- we make decisions collaboratively, sometimes working alongside each other and often working separately on different priorities
- we have massive amounts of trust in and care for each other
- we both are very committed to this land and this project, and intend to stay here for a very long time
Deeper fun fact: remember when we asked for a lot of money from our community to help get this farm started? And asked again this past winter for financial help to plant nut trees? Well, that money is accounted for separately in our farm, alongside each of our contributions of capital. We’re calling it the part of the farm that belongs to “the commons,” and we’re using it as one of our primary tools to lower the financial barriers to entry for a new farmer wanting to join the cooperative. (more on that later)
Why do we need another cooperative member?
Humble Hands Harvest is currently growing into management of 22 acres of land. We grow organic vegetables on 2+ acres, have an ever-increasing number of outbuildings on the farm, and currently pasture sheep and pigs and chickens on the rest of it, with about 300 nut trees put in the ground this year with dreams for apples on many acres as well. But: we are just 2 people and can only hire extra hourly help for the things that make us money (the veggies), and the dreams we have require more work than two people, even absurdly dedicated ones, can give.
What do we envision for the next member of our cooperative?
There are some things that we know for sure will be required of the next person to join:
- they’ll have to be committed to this place and this community of Decorah, to a not-insignificant degree
- they’ll have to find or build a place to live (we don’t have housing for anyone else here yet)
- they’ll need some vegetable farming experience, or at the very least, experience in a long-hours job that requires heavy and efficient use of one’s body AND intelligent observation skills.
- they’ll have to work approximately as many hours as we do (we averaged 50 hours/week in the vegetables this year), and will take home $1000/month. At least half of that work will be in the vegetable field.
- over their first year, they will put in $5500 as their capital contribution to the cooperative (where else can you launch your own business for $5500?); whatever is contributed will grow and be accounted for over time as the farm’s value grows.
Here’s what we’re definitely developing for 2019:
- an ever-increasing number of vegetablesales, mostly via CSA and farmers market in Decorah, but probably some in Rochester as well, as in past years.
- A 20+ ewe sheep flock, rotationally pastured in electric netting–this means lots of lambs to sell, and lots of sheep to move every day.
- More pastured pigs! Soooo fun and delicious!
- Perennial plantings: probably some more nuts, definitely some apples and raspberries and asparagus and grapes… the challenge here will be paring down our dreams to what we can actually manage!
And here’s a taste of some things we’ve envisioned for this farm, and started enacting in small ways. We’d love to see the farm creating more space and capacity for, and perhaps even generating income from:
- Events! (such as the Queer Farmer Convergence)
- Building a house
- Farm-to-table Food service (taco Tuesdays? waffle Sundays?)
- Education for teens (summer camp? regular days for homeschoolers?)
- Beautification (of the farm itself, and also land-based art-making)
- Land-based activism and justice-seeking
Cooperatives (according to this article!) exist in resistance to a “monoculture of the mind”–the way I say it is that I know that I, alone, cannot imagine what this farm will become: it will take a collective imagination, skills that I don’t have, perspectives I would never think to consider, for this farm to fully become what it wants to be.
So what now?
If you know someone you think would make a good member of our cooperative, send them our way! Obviously, adding someone to our farm is not a decision we will make quickly or lightly–it’s likely that we would work with this person for a trial year before officially adding them as a member. We’ll be making a lot of our plans for next season this December, and would love to know then what capacity we’ll have for 2019.
If you’ve made it to the end of this, I admire your dedication! Maybe YOU should join our cooperative!