RSO BOD: Financials


Since our inception, the member-owners of Rising Sand Organics have met monthly for Board of Directors Meetings (BOD), to discuss the present and future outlook for our farm, and the pressing business of the day. Thursday night marked the date for this month’s BOD, and the primary topic was financial. The slim margins of organic farming — coupled with perpetual conflicts between time and money; present and future — dictate the necessity of intensive financial management, leading us regularly into complex interpersonal waters.

Our unique status as a second-year, cooperatively-owned business requires that we revisit our compensation model regularly, making individual monetary requests in the shadow of the big picture business we co-operate. At this early juncture of our existence, it is in our best interest collectively to reinvest a majority of our generated capital back into Rising Sand Organics, for infrastructure and land development. The more we can invest in the way of greenhouses, trees and soil development, the greater our outlook for a sustained, thriving existence into the future. The more time and money we pump into this organism that we collectively nurture, the further we advance towards eventual financial self-sufficiency.

Time, however, is of the utmost essence, as farming is a great demander of labor as well as capital. Herein lies the perpetual catch-22 of our existence. Were each of us to garner sufficient off-farm incomes to meet our costs of living, our minimized collective labor time would greatly limit the capacity for infrastructure projects and satisfactory vegetable growth, rendering our farm anemic and unfit for sustained existence. Contrarily, were we each to maximize our on-farm presence and pay ourselves accordingly from farm income, we would sink our business into the red in short order, rendering the farm anemic and unfit for sustained existence. The result is a continuous balancing act between individual demands and collective necessity.

This plays itself out in planning sessions around the conference table of the IDEA Center, in which we look our friends and colleagues in the eyes and say, “This is what I am willing and able to contribute, and this is what I require in return.” This requires the utmost transparency and legitimacy on all our parts; and, to our credit, we’ve navigated these uncomfortable conversational spaces with exceptional grace. The fact is that we’ve got to. The crunch is especially tangible in the spring, as the workload and expenses ramp up in advance of the growing season, with little income potential until later in the summer. The unfortunate fact of the matter is that we simply cannot afford to pay ourselves accordingly at this point.

So we gathered around a table of frankness Thursday night, hashed out our options and came to decisions. We will delegate our labor budget to those with the greatest financial need and dedicated time commitment, and backpay the rest when numbers allow. We will ramp up our collective CSA recruitment efforts, to level our income stream and soften the blow of the moment. Given the harsh realities of our business, we’ve got little choice.

In light of all of this cold pragmatism, let it not be forgotten that we love each other. We value greatly the moments we’re blessed to share, and our sacrifices are paid back tenfold in our lives of shared meaning, purpose, and self-actualization. That said, however, let it be known that Rising Sand Organics runs not on magic and mayhem, but strategic decisions and difficult conversations.