Cooperative Spirit

I was on the phone with Oren, having just agreed to take on coordination of foodservice for a Conference that he, Polly, Danny and others are planning. The Conference’s name is CoopCon; the subject matter is the formation of cooperatives, and it’s slated for the 1st and 2nd of November, right in Stevens Point. And the food will be provided by me, I guess.

We got onto budgets and logistics, and I asked how many people they were expecting, and how promotion was progressing.

“Well, the budget really depends on how many registrants we get. The speaker fees are set, so the more people we get to sign up, a proportionally higher percentage of the registration fee will go towards a budget for food and other things. Does that make sense?”

“Yeah, just keep me posted as you get some numbers. How are you promoting?”

“We’re just starting to flush that out right now…

So here’s the question for you: one week before Danny came to you with the proposition for starting a cooperative farm, how interested were you in cooperatives?”

“Not interested at all.”

“Yeah, and at that point, what was some language that could have made you interested?”

It was an interesting question. The truth is, before RSO, I didn’t think about the word “cooperative” much at all. I saw it around; didn’t really know what it meant, and, frankly, didn’t care much.

But that has all changed now, and with the exception of marriage and the birth of my daughter, I can say with certainty that the formation of Rising Sand has been the greatest and most consequential event in my recent life. It has changed everything.


Now, I cook dinner for the farmers every Friday, just because I want to. I know they are working hard on harvest, and I know how great it is to have dinner taken care of after a long and late day in the field. Plus, I care enough for each of them to take care of it. It also gives me and Ella an excuse to get out of Fanni’s way while she bakes, and explore the farm together a little bit.

Plus, I now have land that I call my own, where I can work on shared projects, or just walk with my daughter and socialize. That’s something I would never have dreamed possible a couple of years ago. Though I’d had vague ambitions of opening a business of some sort, I’d never imagined a partnership of load and resource-sharing, and the cooperative model has made the impossible possible.

But the cooperative goes well beyond the land and business aspects. It’s a lifestyle and worldview of sorts. I now feel that I exist within a framework of people, who work together to hold each other up and share resources, ideas and inspiration. This plays out in many ways.

Fanni and I are in a limited-cash situation presently, and sought the right person to rent out a room in our house. Asher’s lease was up in August, and after months of shared work, we knew each other well enough that he moved in, to mutual benefit. He gets affordable and easy housing; we get a great roommate and some cash influx, and we can cook dinners and process veggies together. It’s been a wonderful arrangement.

When Monica has dance performances, or Danny plays shows, it’s not uncommon for most or all of the Sand Risers to come out in support; to enjoy the art and be a part of a passion project of one of our members and friends.

Together, we can share ideas, knowledge, and inspiration as we build out infrastructure and landscape on our shared property, working with the relative confidence that every problem and logistic is not ours alone. Great possibility exists, as we continue to develop a beautiful and productive space, and wonderful relationships.

Last Sunday morning, I cruised in Oren’s truck through the early morning mist, listening to Dylan Days on 90 fm. Trailer of woodchips trailing me, and bed full of cider pressing supplies, I enjoyed the use of the truck and trailer for a house yard mulching project. Without RSO, we’d have no fork, woodchips, truck, or trailer; and without me, Oren would have had to make a special run out to the farm, compromising valuable cider pressing time. I enjoyed the drive, suffering through an unseemly cut from 1988. It certainly wasn’t Bob’s best, but I enjoyed it nonetheless — grooving from behind the steering wheel of Oren’s truck.

Well, ya never miss you water till your well runs dry

Come one, baby, give our love a try, let’s stick together

Come on, come on, stick together…

You know, Bob, I thought, that’s not a bad idea.