To Ramlamb or not to Ramlamb

We were about halfway through our Board of Directors meeting Thursday night, when we came to an item in the agenda sure to stir up some contention.

Ram Lambs15 minOrenDebate and decide on whether to trial grazing a small number of lambs this season.

Oren introduced the benefits of the proposal. We’ve got the pasture land; lambs could go a long way towards management and enhancement of the grasses, and it wouldn’t be all that time-intensive. Simple as that. Let’s get the lambs.

Polly, however, would have none of it. We don’t have the time right now. This would have been a proposal for last month, or July, but not right now. Not in the heat of market and CSA vegetable production, and not when it’s all-hands-on-deck. We always underestimate the time requirements of these projects, and we don’t have a half a day to spare.

Oren responded with the argument that we cannot afford to fall into a pattern of stagnation; putting all other projects and long-term developments on hold ad infinitum in favor of the annual vegetables. If we’re going to move forward, we’ve just got to do it, and dedicate our time appropriately. Logan, who has long expressed interest in getting away from vegetable production in favor of perennials and animals, clearly expressed his desire to spearhead the project, and his overall positivity towards the idea.

I, however, had to agree with Polly. I saw too many perennials burn up in buckets last year, as our veggie production underwhelmed, and our steers ran amok in and out of the paddocks. Our repeating cycle of overcommitting and underperforming is unpleasant and unnecessarily stressful. I absolutely love the idea of grazing lambs, but not at the cost of our other, established bottom-line operations. Besides, given the fact that we just planted over 400 feet of perennials earlier in the week, and have expanded our animal operations already to include chickens and pigs for the first time, fear of stagnation is not our primary concern. Fear of overextending and underperforming, however, is. At least in my estimation.

But Oren persisted. Our time commitments will increase as our interests are stimulated. It’s not a zero-sum game. Logan wants to spearhead the lambs; he should be able to, and we need to take steps in the direction of meeting our interests. Argument after argument, in tones of increasing intensity. A lawyer among mere citizens. By this point, it seemed clear to me that the general consensus fell on the side of “no,” and my annoyance eventually got the best of me and I finally broke down. “Well, it’s obvious you’re just going to keep arguing until everybody is on board with the lambs, so let’s get on with it. I want to get to bed.” I crossed my arms and let it play out. Eventually, Oren did the same, and the discussion ended with him saying, “Logan and I will look into it and send out a proposal.”

I wasn’t satisfied with this. The agenda had explicitly stated, “Debate and decide…” and we hadn’t decided. The reason for not deciding seemed clear, and I made my concerns heard. “So, it sounds like you guys just going to go ahead and get the lambs anyway.”

I was upset with Oren, and our overall decision-making process. I sat down on my couch Sunday afternoon and started typing out my frustrations, for public consumption, when his truck parked in front of my place unexpectedly. “Let’s talk about the board meeting.” he said. “Yeah,” I said, “let’s do that.”

And we did. Our collective decision-making process, we agreed, is troubled. I expressed my concerns to him, and he to me. He took ownership over his role in the issue, and brought up some valid points. What was the actual consensus? Kelly was obviously on the fence. Where had the other voices been? What had Danny meant, exactly, with his cryptic, “I would have been down to rotate the sheep today, but not tomorrow.”? Was Monica actually opposed to the lambs themselves, or frustrated with the air time they’d gotten, in comparison with the Art Share proposals she’d put forth earlier? Did Corrina care one way or the other?

It was a bit unclear, and as we talked, I realized that my sense of the consensus may have been flawed. I didn’t actually know where everyone fell on the debate. Whose fault is this? Was it all Oren, with his overbearing intensity? Had I taken up too much oxygen in my opposition, leaving no room for other views to be heard and considered? Had Polly’s bitterness sapped the energy out of the others?

Or is it every member’s responsibility to come educated and prepared to step up to the plate and clearly state their views? Is it not all of our responsibility to see that this happens? Is this not the cornerstone of the cooperative? One way or another, we need to make sure that this happens. Whether or not we actually get the lambs is a small matter, in light of the continued shortcomings in our overall decision-making as a cooperative.