Thursday, September 8, 2011

People on My Gulch: A Barter Network

Aside from bringing people in to live with me and help out with my farming, another idea I've had is the establishment of a private barter network. This would involve people outside of my farm, where I would establish intimate connections and form agreements as to what we would do during bad times. My idea differs from today's barter societies and those that may prop up in the future in that it would be more private: It would involve a limited group of people aware and desirous to trade for particular people's products, rather than offering them to the public at large, though the two selling fronts aren't exclusive.

Now I not only know that I'll have to give some things up to live this farm lifestyle that I envision -- like tropical produce (e.g. cacao, bananas, coconuts), free time, and maybe even internet and electricity -- but that I'll also be unable to produce everything I want. For instance, I don't have any sort of fish incorporated into my plans, so unless I bring aboard a fisher or fish rancher that's a culinary thing I might have to give up. However, what if I can convince the right people to connect with me and trade me fish during dire times when the market could have it unavailable?

In more stable times what I could do, along with my Gulch participants, is contact people with those desirable goods such as fish, talk to them about the farm and why it exists, and see if a private contact can be established so that we can agree to trade our goods once the market does become hostile. Successful agreements would mean that me and my employees would have access to even more good and services than the economy would otherwise allow, and that in bad times we'd have to give up even fewer values, all without necessarily integrating any more people in the farm. The people within this barter network would remain distinct and separate, so the purpose would be to create a web of contacts who would agree to trade goods on the basis of material products, not money, once it becomes either too difficult or impossible to obtain them in the market. Beyond securing a supply of certain products, it could also be a good mode of activism in spreading ideas regarding the objective estimate of the culture, the wall our economy will likely hit, and how we need to prepare to survive for a future worth waiting for.

I envision this network having two facets: a web of communications that's pooled together for the viewing of the whole network, and an additional tier in which the producer(s) only agree to make their information available to my farm in particular. In the former, the goal would be to establish a private kind of society where each member may or may not have communicated with each other in particular, but would have contributed their information to be visible to all those who join in this network, so a game meat producer and fish rancher may become aware of each other's willingness in the future to trade on the basis of goods despite never having communicated with each other. In the latter, a producer could opt to keep his information exclusive to my farm solely, which would both give people more options for levels of privacy and grant my farm a more exclusive access to a set of goods, and I anticipate some people desiring that option since I want my farm to be extremely varied and broad in what food offerings it provides, allowing a completely sufficient nutritional regiment all on its own.

What I think would make this idea easier to accept amongst local producers is that it would be an emergency backup plan by default, meaning there'd be almost nothing in the way of required action except regular communication to keep clear sincere interest. In better times, that's all we'd do: Talk. We'd continue producing as usual and using the market as usual, not interacting with each other in any way except through private contact and updating the list of open traders. Only once things get difficult, for some of us individually or everyone, would we actually make use of our agreements and begin bartering, negotiating what goods we'll accept for ours.

Aside from securing goods, it could also help me and my Gulch participants have an easier time remaining productive within their loved trades, since my project is about pursuing happiness and growing one's abilities after all. Each member could engage in the establishment of the barter network in his own way. For instance, I could set my focus on securing food goods, such as game meat from a group of hunters or fish from a rancher, while a carpenter could consult with a tree farmer for timber to fell. I can't think of many examples, but you get the idea. I could not only achieve a self-sufficient farm, but an even larger self-sufficient group of people. The barter network wouldn't be necessary, but it'd be a huge addition of value if my participants and I pull it off.

The economy may be geared for an eventual downfall, but the more and more I think about it I find there are plenty of ways to not only survive, but to also protect and cultivate your happiness as well. You just need to think, make the appropriate actions, and make peace with what difficulties you'll have to face and what values you'll have to give up. Tough decisions will have to be made and hard work will be required, but you'll be all the better off for it.

For my final planned article in the series explaining my various ideas about my farm, I'll make an efforts to construct a coherent, lengthy, and persuasive advertisement about my project to explain the nuances of the mechanics and call for people to join up with me. Given my other life interests and finickiness about time spent, these recent articles have just been dashed off to hurry and make note of something, so next time I'll exert more effort to integrate the information and elaborate on specifics, as well as attempt to persuade the heroes among us that my endeavor will be conductive to their happiness and worth joining in.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

People on my Gulch: Farming Talent

Alright, now I mentioned in my last post that I've decided to pursue bringing other people into my Galt's Gulch venture with me, so that I'll have help on my farm. Originally I planned on doing it alone, but all my ambitions would make it either extremely hard or nearly impossible to achieve in their ideal state, so rather than compromise I'd like to bring people aboard. Among other things, they would help with planting, dairy, harvesting, animal husbandry, livestock slaughter, and other things, but in thinking more about Atlas Shrugged I realized there's potential for something greater than that.

In short, on top of bringing bringing in people to help me complete certain tasks either difficult or impossible to do alone, I want to seek out and bring out other people skilled and talented at things beyond farming and use my farm as a way for them to cultivate their skills. In return for food, shelter, and other things, they'll trade me their own goods and services. Aside from being practical, this would also further contribute to the protection of my and others' happiness in economic crisis, as we'd be forced to give up fewer values than the economy would otherwise force us to.

What would motivate people to join me is the same motivation I have in doing this project to begin with: To protect, secure, and cultivate my happiness during economic collapse. To restate some points, my project has always mainly been concerned with happiness and the growth of talent rather than with mere survival. Sure, cultivating my own produce and livestock is practical from a survivalist perspective, but since I want to become a culinarian my ultimate aim is to grow the ingredients with which I'll use to foster my culinary practice and education. Most importantly, during any time in which supermarket shelves become bare and stories of people starving become prevalent, my own health and spirit will be virtually immune to the disaster, as with my preparations I'll still be able to roast red peppers from the garden, grill my home-slaughtered and butchered steak, spread my own crafted butters, and so on. I won't be able to cultivate everything, such as coconuts or ostriches, and will certainly have to give up some major values, such as chocolate, but the essentials will be there. At the worst of times I'd still be able to nurture my talent, expand my knowledge, and maintain, maybe enhance my physical well-being, albeit with a less conventional, more difficult and laborious lifestyle. The important thing is that if I achieve the farm the way I envision it, the worst of economic times won't stop me from pursuing and gaining my happiness.

This is what I view as what could be the main appeal for those not exactly interested in farming. If the economy goes to pot, then everyone in every trade is going to be affected in some way, and trying to depend on a failing economy could very well hurt or destroy their ability to pursue their trade. When the value of the dollar finally goes under the hair stylist will have empty chairs, the seamstress with no materials to sew, and so on. In other trades outside of my culinary interests, a failing economy means those people in love with their career will be hindered in their pursuit of happiness, if not totally stopped.

I propose my farm as the remedy. Everyone would have to step out of their boundaries somewhat, as I am in cultivating my own food rather than depending on cooking pre-made stuff (e.g. vegetables and beef from other farmers), but if they too exert their minds and efforts they'll be able to find ways to continue practicing their trade on my farm and use the other workers as their clients; the only difference is that they'll have to find new methods, work with different materials, cultivate their tools, and so on. For instance, a seamstress could tend to the feeding and maintenance of fiber animals, such as sheep and goats, and maybe cotton, and then collect those materials to create garments, clothes, blankets, and more, which could be given to other farm members or barter partners in trade of other goods. A hair stylist, given a large enough staff, could tend to the hair cuts and shaving needs of the staff, for which we receive free service in exchange for allowing them to experiment on us with new styles and techniques. A carpenter could see to the maintenance and creation of the home(s?) and structures. Even an inventor could have a place, such as by being the innovator who could help figure out practical solutions within limited means, such as generating self-sufficient energy.

So at a time in which a failing economy would prevent these people from using their skills to trade with a broader group of people, I can provide them with a means to keep at their jobs to continue developing their skills and talents, with the insignificant caveat of trading with a greatly reduced selection of people. (An insignificant caveat given the alternative is not being able to work at all, plus maybe being out in the street and starving.) Consequently, my aim in bringing other people aboard is not merely to get assistance in the muscle work, but to find people who connect their happiness to their trade and would like nothing more than to continue being engaged in it whether the economy prospers or fails. By searching for these people accordingly I could not only keep and protect values I wouldn't be able to otherwise, such as haircuts, I would also gain a highly self-motivated staff that would find it easier to find contentment in their security of shelter and food, and the ability to practice their trade when I'll likely be unable to pay them anything else, though I think I could figure something out.

Oddly enough, this does mean the aim in my project is starting to look more like what was seen in Atlas Shrugged, where the striking producers created a self-sufficient, small-scale society within the mountains. I have no intention in making my farm so large as to, ha, support a small society or to become so self-sufficient as to have its own grocery store, but I do want to strive to bring together a number of life-loving producers who could live a meaningful, happiness-serving, and mutually beneficial life together, with the only difference that we'd be trading our goods instead of relying on monetary payments.

This, I think, is a great way to enhance the scope of my project, progressing from mere bodily survival to the nourishment of my trade, to protecting values even further beyond. I don't know how I would go about seeking those people, but since the project is mainly in its research and capital gathering phase that doesn't matter much right now.

I even already have system in mind as to how I could introduce people to the farm, mainly depending on the conditions of their life. In short, I could offer them options everywhere from allowing them to move-in and establish themselves immediately, travel to the farm intermittently to get themselves used to the setting and duties, and keeping the farm only as an emergency backup plan.

Immediate move-in: Not much needs to be said about this option. This would be for people who would be ready to give it their all immediately once it becomes available to them. This I would want to be chosen by those who would be contributing at least partway to food production, such as a gardener for the produce and muscular men for the livestock. I myself intend to dedicate myself to the farm once I do establish myself sufficiently, as the farm itself changes my life's plans significantly, and I wouldn't want to be forced to it such as by witnessing the deterioration of my local economy and getting laid off.

Intermittent travel: This would be for those who want to continue maintaining their current lifestyles, but at the same time get themselves used to the new settings and lifestyle, whether it be spending the night every few weeks or visiting every few days. This could be for less-essential, though still important persons, such as those who would tend to the dairy animals. It is of question, however, as to how I could fulfill their duties with their temporary absence. These people would move in fully either when forced to (e.g. lay offs) or when they finally choose to fully commit.

Emergency backup: This would primarily be for people who want to continue fully their own lifestyles without really being concerned with the farm until they need it. This would be mainly for less direly important people or people we could do without until things get really difficult. For instance, take a hair stylist and carpenter. In good times the staff would be able to afford their hair tending needs while the stylist would still have costumers, but in failing times, once the chairs are empty and no more costumers are coming in, the hair stylist can then proceed to move to the farm, virtually the same time the staff won't be able to purchase hair services anymore. As for the carpenter, in good times the farm might be able to afford bringing an outside builder to perform or job or we could else rest easy with what we have, but once things go to pot the carpenter, lacking worthwhile finances and costumers, would move in to help with the maintenance and farm expansion at a time the farm staff would have to direct their attention elsewhere.

This option would allow the security of knowing that an important person with an important skill will be moving to the farm once we do need them, only that they'll be received at a later date. With this option I'll have to be cautious, for I would need to know that a person's interest in eventually committing will remain sincere no matter how much times passes, and that there will be a backup plan for the farm itself if it should happen that the person chooses to protect themselves in a manner that rules out the farm. I'm not so sure about the backup plan safeguard, but one requirement I could think to employ is to contract with the person to maintain weekly contact to keep clear his interest, and to move onto other options and plans if the person should lapse in communication and fail to be contacted.

* * * * *

As my thinking progresses this project becomes more and more exciting and ambitious. As stated before, my current concentrations are to research and gather capital, and to gets hands-on practice with slaughtering and butchering, skills I think would be important to have before jumping into the farm.

If you're actually interested in joining up with me, then send me an e-mail or like communication to indicate your interest and tell me what you have to offer and will contribute. At the very least I'll be able to take note of your interest and keep you more up-to-date on a regular basis with my progress, considering I'm not updating this blog as frequently anymore. The only warning I'd like to issue is that I haven't settled on where I plan on moving, as I'm thinking of leaving the dry conditions of Texas into a place with a favorable rainfall and climate, to maximize my produce and pasture potential (particularly for grazing livestock).

For my next article I intend on elaborating on another great idea for the farm, a barter network, which would also be a practical measure for those with even far lesser ambitions. Additionally, I'll also work at crafting an appeal to advertise my farm better to other people, to gain some backers and participants.