Suburban Permaculture Pioneer

Harmony with Nature

Suburban Permaculture Pioneer

Jan Spencer hopes that when you look at his neighborhood in Eugene, Oregon, you’ll see a preview of suburbia’s future. The River Road Resilient Food System (RRRFS) isn’t a formal intentional community, but a network of suburban homes in various stages of transition to sustainability. Though suburbia has gotten a bad name as the nexus of overconsumption, Spencer says these residential areas actually are uniquely set up to quickly transition to robust, localized food systems. The large properties with perfectly manicured lawns can become organic gardening havens. Motivated by a desire for constructive response to the global challenges facing agriculture and a belief in the benefits of localized food production, River Road neighbors have taken on that process enthusiastically, Spencer says. “Food Not Lawns” is their organizing principle.

Spencer (who blogs for MOTHER EARTH NEWS) is a suburban permaculture pioneer who began turning his lawns into a garden 15 years ago by taking a jackhammer to his driveway and replacing concrete with vegetables. At about the same time, his neighbors Ravi Logan and Michele Rene built a cob and straw bale studio in their backyard for a yoga meditation space. Their center, Dharmalaya, has become a focal point for community.

“Six other permaculture projects are in process within a five-minute bike ride of my house,” Spencer says. “My next-door neighbor took out his gravel driveway and turned it into a garden. He has bees and a fair amount of edible landscaping. Neighbors on the other side have cold frames on multiple raised beds along with several chickens — and still plenty of grassy backyard. We started with a handful of neighbors and now have more than a dozen properties involved.”

Clare Strawn, who moved to the neighborhood in 2010, says the community is loosely organized and accomplishes its work project by project. Because this is the Pacific Northwest, many of those projects involve removing bramble bushes — a lot of them. In one case, neighbors got together and helped bring down an acre of blackberries to make way for a big shared garden. Neighbors have also restored and now maintain a previously overgrown, old 65-tree filbert (hazelnut) grove. Work on the grove was done in cooperation with the City of Eugene’s Park Stewards program, which helps organize work parties and provide tools and logistical assistance. RRRFS has also collaborated with several neighborhood associations throughout Eugene.

“There are thousands of neighborhood associations in this country,” Strawn says. “Can you imagine the huge difference they could make if they decided to organize local, sustainable food systems?”

reprint from Mother Earth News

Welcome to My WordPress site from Cheyenne

Welcome to WordPress.   I am Charlie Kay your host of this digital ranch in Cheyenne, Wyoming.   It is now autumn, 2015…the last



American Empire year.   This is a resource, database, medium of exchange and sharing site for members of the Cakebread Cooperative.   You have not heard of it, but you are welcome to investigate and participate, in our vehicle of survival during years of extreme change ahead of our city, nation and planet.

A cooperative, more specifically a WORKER COOPERATIVE, is a family of families that share among themselves…without owner/bosses/money-class-meddlers and “rentiers”…commonly known as corporatists and their minions.  It is a common sense method of sharing the results of our hard work and conservation of resources.  It is also a revolut*onary idea if you belong to the economic elite class of global people.

To learn more, the best teachers are Richard Wolff, David Stockman, Peter Schiff (all over YouTube) and Paul Craig Roberts (Reagan economist like Stockman).

Please engage in the learning of a new way of living, cooperatives provide. Contribute your news links to my Twitter @CheyennneCharlie,  to our blogs and YouTubes.  Check in often.  Thanks   Charlie Kay

Worker Cooperative Resilient During Industry Collapse

Basque Region Cooperative Mondragon

When the construction industry collapsed in Spain, the Mondragon cooperative division resisted, then dissolved, but preserved member’s jobs.  Read how sustainable jobs are created by cooperatives…instead of factory shutdowns and abandonment by US corporate interests, here.

What About Cooperatives as a Solution?

The Case of Mondragon


Mondragon is a cooperative that has 147 companies employing 80,000 workers. It was established by a Catholic priest, Jose Maria Arizmendiarrieta (JMA), in the Basque country in Spain. As did many priests in that country, JMA sided with the popular classes against the fascists, who—supported by Hitler and Mussolini—came to power in Spain, overthrowing an elected government in 1936. The leadership of the Spanish church hierarchy supported the fascist coup, and JMA was jailed because of his support for the republican democratic forces, as well as his opposition to the coup and to the dictatorship that it established. For many years JMA was ostracized from the church, although more recently he has been “discovered” by the Vatican and is even being considered for canonization, meaning that he could become a “saint.”

In 1956, JMA established the first cooperative, according to the principle that companies are best run when workers are their owners and participate in management decisions. Its success proves that JMA was right. Mondragon, based on this principle, has become one of the largest conglomerates of companies in the world. Of its employees, 46% work in the Basque country, 40% in other parts of Spain, and 17% in the rest of the world. The four major areas of involvement include industry (46%), commerce (40%), finance (3%), and services (1.3%). The system of governance is arranged so that the workers (members of the cooperative) own a share of their company, elect their managers (in each company and in the overall cooperative), and participate in all major decisions. The salary range limits the difference between executive positions and the lowest paid employees; the highest paid can never make 6.5 times more than the lowest paid. In other large companies, this differential is much, much greater, such that the best paid directors and top managers may make 200 times more (in some cases, 1,000 times more) than the average employee of the company. Mondragon companies are more efficient than these other companies.

Recently, one of Mondragon’s companies collapsed. Immediately, the conservative and neoliberal economists used that collapse as a means of discrediting the cooperativism movement. The company, Fagor Electrodomesticos, produced electrical material for use in home domestic tasks (e.g., washers). The collapse of the construction industry, a result of the explosion of the housing bubble, directly affected this company, as it sold its products primarily to the Spanish market.

The response of Mondragon, the overall parent company, to that crisis was quite different, however, compared to what other non-cooperative companies have done in similar situations. Mondragon lent 700 million euros to Fagor to help it recover. When recovery eventually looked impossible, only then did Mondragon stop lending money. But then, it relocated 600 of Fagor’s worker-owners to other companies belonging to Mondragon. Universal solidarity among worker-owners made the collapse of Fagor more bearable than it would have been otherwise.

There have been some problems, however, that need to be noted. One is that employees who are not owners have increased more rapidly than worker-owners, to a point that in some companies, the first are a much larger group than the second. In the supermarket chains owned by Mondragon, employing 38,420 workers, only a minority (12,260) are worker-owners, which establishes a difference in terms of whom to save in the case of collapse. In the collapse of Fagor, the transfer of employees favored those who were worker-owners, which is expected, but clearly creates a two-tier system that affects labor relations. Those who do not become owners either cannot afford to become owners or choose not to become an owner.

Actually, one of the successes of Mondragon was its ability to create a sense of identity among the workers within the company, encouraging an environment of solidarity and collegiality among them, a feeling that also extended (although to a much lesser degree) to non-worker-owners. The connection felt by the latter group has somewhat weakened, however, exposing a vulnerable point for the cooperative. Otherwise, from a business perspective, Mondragon is an excellent case of matching efficiency with solidarity and democracy.

Vincent Navarro is  Professor of Public Policy at the Johns Hopkins University

Basque Region Cooperative Mondragon

Basque Region Cooperative Mondragon


A Successful Alternative to Corporate America’s Obscene Inequality

Mondragon co-operative in Basque region of Spain

50,000 have found job security, secure homes and careers with a future at the 7th largest employer in Spain.  Mondragon was founded in the devastation after the Spanish Civil War and WWII, and has no spread to 30 countries.  Learn how this can effect your career plans, and those of your children.

Basque Region Cooperative Mondragon

Basque Region Cooperative Mondragon