Annual report 2013

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EcoReality Sustainable Land Use and Education Cooperative Annual Report, 2013

One of many successful work parties, focused on the greenhouse.
Thank you for your interest in EcoReality. The following reports outline the activities of the co-op over its seventh year.

EcoReality was founded in April, 2006, for the purpose of creating an ecovillage on Salt Spring Island. Within days of incorporation, we purchased a 4.8 acre farm on Salt Spring Island, knowing that was but a test-ground for ideas, and that we'd require more land to accomplish our goals.

In March 2008, opportunity struck, and we negotiated the purchase of 43 acres of lovely irrigated farmland with two houses in the Fulford Valley, next to 61 acres of community farmland. We spent our first night here June 3rd of 2008.

Our ongoing goal is to attract additional members, raise capital, and engage the public and political processes necessary to house perhaps 15 to 30 family units in a sustainable, low-energy and low-cost manner.

2012 Overview

2012 began in turmoil, with conflict over management and communication styles causing continuous upheaval and stress for everyone. Resolution of these stressor is not yet complete, but progress continues.

EcoReality goji-goldenberry salsa, ready for labelling.
This stress revealed a structural flaw in our co-op rules, in that the only mechanism for changing ownership of co-op shares was through formal redemption by the co-op at par value. We agreed to remedy this situation, such that private transfer of shares can now happen, subject to approval by the directors. Such a transfer can be at any value, allowing share prices to more closely follow general real estate prices. This also allows non-sequential changes in share ownership, as a private transfer can happen (with approval of directors) between arbitrary parties, rather than strictly by redemption request date.

With these structural changes in place, we agreed with Ron Pither to begin a process of dis-involvement, allowing us to obtain income from resources that were previously tied up, which allowed EcoReality to be in the black for the first time.

Salvador Dali Lama entertains a huge crowd of people celebrating the completion of our greenhouse.
The next major accomplishment was completion of our new commercial propagation greenhouse, funded by angel investors Brad and Jennifer McArthur. This 3,550 square foot facility has since become the centre of our horticultural activities, mainly through providing starts for our market garden, but also for direct sale. We chose to use a "minimal plastic" strategy, using plastic-free soil blocks instead of plastic plug trays.

We also agreed on an overall plan for the east field, including relocating gates and earthworks, which were subsequently started and are still in progress. The earthworks have allowed us to use this field a full month earlier than in past years.

Carrie and Ben working with soil blocks.
Under the capable stewardship of Ben Corno, and with the help of many enthusiastic volunteers, the greenhouse and market garden flourished, and once again, we increased our food production over 2011 by 36%. We surveyed the east field and laid out beds on contour, in preparation for gravity-fed irrigation from the reservoir as well as improved drip line irrigation from our well. We grew 78 products, from apples to zucchini. When you include value-added and other non-raw products, we sold 104 products. We logged over 7,000 hours of labour in doing all this.


Carol with buckling.
On July 11th, Carol announced her intention to begin dis-involvement with EcoReality, and we began the sad task of figuring out how to cover the numerous roles she's filled over the past six years. At around that time, our mortgage lender denied our request to increase our mortgage in order to pay off investors who had requested redemption. The directors reluctantly took the initial step of approving sale of EcoReality assets.

However, we actually made $1,502.94 on $52,761.46 of gross revenue -- a respectable 2.8% profit margin and the first profit ever in our seven years of operation. So the directors have since decided to continue operations, in the interest of providing the best result for our shareholders.

Looking Ahead

Although 2012 began and ended in turmoil and uncertainty, there is much to be hopeful for. We continue to work with a number of people who are interested in the long-term vision for EcoReality, and some of them are in the process of increasing their commitment to EcoReality, in both time and money.

Jan teaches cheese making in a workshop.

Our greenhouse continues to be a huge asset, and dairy continues to be a strong and reliable profit centre, with nearly a thousand litres harvested. We continue to make progress on a number of current projects that will both increase revenue and make us more attractive to those who seek a sustainable future.

--Jan

Communication Steward's Report (Jan Steinman)

Duties

The communication steward is responsible for acting on behalf of efficient and understandable communications, both within EcoReality, and between EcoReality and the outside world.

This includes:

  • Service as statutory Secretary:
    • keeping and maintaining legal records, such as incorporation certificates and meeting minutes,
    • recording and maintaining legally required information, such as member and investment shares and shareholder information, working with the Finance steward as necessary,
    • taking meeting notes and/or minutes, or seeing that such is delegated and properly executed by a delegate,
    • maintaining and arranging access to public records,
    • filing required reports.
  • Providing mechanisms for organizing, maintaining, storing, and accessing our internal documents, information, and agreements, such as:
    • serving as librarian,
    • maintaining resource inventory,
    • maintaining information infrastructure,
  • Presenting EcoReality's "face to the world," including website, press releases, promotion, and recruiting.
  • Balancing our commitment to radical transparency with the need for personal privacy.

As a servant leader, my job is to make sure our members, Advisory Council, and involved local, regional, provincial and national government agencies, as well as the general public, have all the information they need to work with and within EcoReality. --Jan Steinman 16:58, 28 March 2006 (PST)

Accomplishments

Communications Statistics

Statistic 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 Change
Home page hits 13,312 18,126 65,438 110,967 146,759 195,415 282,586 +45%
Meetings page hits 12,970 15,482 96,303 114,335 137,584 240,868 334,105 +39%
Google references 3,190 3,220 7,940 10,700 17,700 ~60,000 ~58,600 -2.3%
Agricultural production 0 82.6 358 10,569 10,029 16,028 21,876 +36%
Advisory Council 72 116 163 181 207 168 169 +0.6%
Email List 72 116 220 327 342 354 397 +3.5%
Members 4 4 9 6 3 3 3 0%
Investors 4 4 9 6 5 31 44 +50%
Volunteers 0 11 18 16 8 18 16 -11%
Newsletters 4 5 13 23 23 23 24 +4.3%
Meetings 19 16 65 71 53 35 50 +43%


  • Google references were slightly down. Given the private nature of Google ranking, it's hard to assign meaning to this statistic.
  • Agricultural production was up considerably, reflecting a large number of greenhouse starts.
  • The number of investors was up, due entirely to new Class D Investment Shares, which support our successful community supported dairy operation.

Outreach

Data Management

We continue to improve our data management capabilities, but are still not tracking expenses as well as we'd like. We've added embarrassing reports on gross productivity, or income per hour, which shows we need to learn to work smarter, rather than longer!

Our horticultural database continues to grow, and we've added links to major on-line resources, so we can quickly connect our seeds and plants to everything one would want to know about them.

Improvement Opportunities

  • With increased stability and progress, we plan to resume periodic newsletters. (We said that last year; does one new newsletter count?)
  • On-line resources:
    • Project management system needs improvement and more database support, which has begun with expense reporting.
    • Keeping track of agreements is currently tedious, and needs more database support.
    • We'd like to implement a simple graphing system, so that data trends can be easily visualized.

Challenges

  • Our major challenge is still financial. Another investor needs to be replaced over the next several years.
  • Time remains a challenge. Many communications tasks get short-changed due to current and immediate needs to take care of animals or get plants in the ground or to market.

Future Plans

  • We continue to seek additional investor-members who can help us implement our business plan and site development plan.
  • Winter plans include upgrading our database and providing graphical reports.
  • More newsletters, as interesting news develops!

Jan Steinman

Finance Report

Balance Highlights

  • Liabilities
    • CCEC Mortgage: $335,072.02
    • Class A Investment Shares as of 31 Dec 201 - $1,470,956.03 (+0.4%)
    • Class B Investment Shares as of 31 Dec 2011 - $170,087.22 (+12.7%)
    • Class D Investment Shares as of 31 Dec 2011 - $2,670.00 (+3.9%)
    • Member shares - $12,000.00 (0%)
    • Accounts Payable $15,088.02 (+764%)
  • Assets:
    • Fixed Assets $1,802,206.81
    • Shareholder Loans $12,529.23
    • Other Assets $22,270.60
    • ISCU Chequing: $4,841.79

Profit Centres

Nearly half our income came from rent, and nearly half our expenses went to overhead, which includes three of the biggest single expenses: interest ($15,022.86), insurance ($6,025.50), and taxes ($2,532.50).

Outside of rental income, dairy operations were the most profitable, at nearly 28% profit margin. Market gardening suffers from high expenses, primarily labour costs, as determined by the housing and food costs of hosting volunteers, pro-rated by the time they spent on various profit centres.

Transplant propagation and education remain as unexploited opportunities to pursue.


Click on the arrows in any column to sort by that column.

Profit Centre Income % Expense % Profit Profit Margin
Agri-Tourism $210.00 0.40% $231.04 0.46% -$21.04 -10.02%
Capital Projects 0.00% $89.27 0.18% -$89.27
Dairy $6,325.10 11.99% $4,558.87 9.10% $1,766.23 27.92%
Education 0.00% $122.00 0.24% -$122.00
Eggs $1,258.08 2.38% $1,874.79 3.74% -$616.71 -49.02%
Energy 0.00% $4.84 0.01% -$4.84
Fruiticulture $3,679.37 6.97% $2,693.47 5.37% $985.90 26.80%
Market Garden $12,800.96 24.26% $13,803.92 27.54% -$1,002.96 -7.84%
Overhead $1,929.35 3.66% $24,767.94 49.42% -$22,838.59 -1,183.75%
Rent $25,101.50 47.58% $417.60 0.83% $24,683.90 98.34%
Transplant Propagation 0.00% $103.45 0.21% -$103.45
Value Added $1,457.10 2.76% $1,447.76 2.89% $9.34 0.64%
Total $52,761.46 100.00% $50,114.95 100.00% $2,646.51 5.02%


Formal accounting documents are available here:

Balance SheetProfit & Loss
File:Balance Sheet 2012.pdfFile:Profit & Loss 2012.pdf

Future Plans

  • The three biggest expenses are not currently allocated to profit centres. To paint a more accurate picture, they should be allocated to profit centres based on percentage of some value, such as gross income or net profit.
  • Chicken feed went up considerably in 2012, and we raised the price of eggs late in the year. Egg expenses included $241.66 in vehicle expenses, but was otherwise almost entirely the cost of feed.
  • Education and Transplant Propagation need more attention. Even a modest effort in either should result in some income.
  • High labour expenses keep the Market Garden from performing. Volunteer labour is allocated to the various profit centres based upon time sheets turned in by volunteers.
  • The cost of volunteer hosting was calculated in 2012 based on per-diem estimates of $2.50 per meal for food and $2.50 per day for lodging. In 2013, we switched to actual food costs (budgeted at $7.50 per person*day), which should paint a more accurate picture in the future.

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