Annual report 2007

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EcoReality Sustainable Land Use and Education Cooperative Annual Report, 2007

Thank you for your interest in EcoReality. The following steward's reports outline the activities of the coop over its first year.

EcoReality was founded in April, 2006, for the purpose of creating an ecovillage on Salt Spring Island. Our most salient accomplishment since inception was the purchase and ongoing operation of a 4.8 acre farm on Salt Spring Island.

Our ongoing goal is to attract additional members and raise the capital necessary to form a full-fledged ecovillage of perhaps 15 to 30 family units.

Communication Steward's Report (Jan Steinman)

In September of 2005, a dozen people met, dreaming of a sustainable future in community.

By April 2006, four of us decided to pool our financial resources, form a legal entity, and buy a small farm on Salt Spring Island. We had our first co-op general meeting on May 6, 2006.

Following are some highlights of the past year, some problems we've faced, and some future plans.

Duties

The Communication Steward takes care of organizational aspects of the co-op, including tasks that would normally be handled by the "secretary" of the co-op.

Accomplishments

Website

Our website has, by most measures, been a successful communications vehicle for EcoReality:

Correspondence

  • There have been 2,319 separate emails to all members or advisors
  • We've added 72 people to our Advisory Council
  • Since November 2006, we have published four monthly email newsletters
  • Weekly video conferences between members
  • Contact with 16 volunteer workers

Organizational History

  • We have had 19 documented meetings in the past year, all with minutes recorded on the website.
  • Besides meeting minutes, we have structured facilities for tracking:
    • decisions
    • events
    • news
    • projects
    • proposals

Other Outreach

  • We have business cards
  • We have published articles in Communities Magazine and Permaculture Activist
  • Our first open house is tomorrow!

Improvement Opportunities

A number of planned initiatives have yet to be accomplished:

  • logo (in progress)
  • brochure
  • on-line resources:
    • library search
    • resources inventory and tracking
    • time logging system

Challenges

  • labour for doing things is limited -- less than a few person hours a week
  • members being split between two locations causes misunderstandings
  • seeming lack of interest and involvement in our Advisory Council

Future Plans

  • In the next year, I'd like to concentrate on more public outreach efforts on Salt Spring Island. Our strong Internet presence is not bringing us new members nor investors, and so perhaps our efforts need to be more localized.
  • More web-based formal mechanisms for project tracking, time logging, etc. will make life easier for all of us.
  • Continued monthly publication of our newsletter, which has generated good feedback.
  • Working together with the Program Steward, more publicity for local events that we sponsor.

Respectfully submitted, Jan Steinman.

Ecology Steward's Report (Shannon Cowan)

Ecology is the study of relationships between living organisms and their communities (living and non-living components). One of the core principles of Ecology is: All ecological cycles act as feedback loops, so that the ecological community regulates and organizes itself, maintaining a state of dynamic balance characterized by continual fluctuations. All energy is solar, and thus optimization of harnessing, using and re-using that energy is the natural state of ecological systems. Metaphorically and literally, that is how the first year felt to me at EcoReality 160 Sharp Road – a year of perceiving energy in and around me by listening to the land and the creatures that make their homes and playground here, listening to each other and listening for what is cyclic and what is new each season, each day, each moment. The natural state of this open energy system is to allow energy to flow from high potentials to lower ones, building complexity in structure as it moves yet waning in intensity. The complex plant food resources that EcoReality land base yields up to us humans, to the birds, the deer, the raccoons, the chickens, and the other multitudes of animal life are amazing to behold as they fluctuate in form, size, abundance and availability over the course of one year. Through an interplay of creativity, death and mutual adaptation, life evolves on our nearly 5 acres, and in the areas adjacent to it.

This year’s ecological highlights include: loss of a faulty dam structure holding the pond at the apex of the property’s watercourse – which created opportunities to clear invasive Himalayan Blackberries (Rubus discolor) from the pond and to recycle their nutrients on the land in the form of berms, these sentinels lining the natural curves of the slope between the lavender and the cedars, seasonal changes to water flows in the stream, as well as along the northern edge of the vegetable garden fenceline where we determined natural swales would help to direct moisture to a possible new pond site to the West of the shop orchard garden. With removal of the constructed pond in front of the main house, we expect a reduction in the number of mosquitoes in May and June compared to what we observed (and felt!) last year. We have contributed much to the fruit trees by pruning them, which we hope will increase their flowering and fruit production, while encouraging new healthy green stems as well. We have experienced the lushness of the many types of grasses that turned into hay for use by our neighbours’ animals, and we anticipate another bumper hay season this year! The gentle, graceful lavender plants have taught us about their effective ways of keeping herbivores at bay, while not being so naturally inclined to allelopathically repel weedy companions from the grass family. Also, the tedious learnings of the 2006 lavender harvest and sale of flowers taught us much about the sustainability of the labour:profit relationship for that type of crop, and has encouraged us to be creative in our approach this time around when the buds begin to break in late June and the variety of lavender species and cultivars stagger their greetings until the final scents die away at the end of August. Will we harvest them all at their peak time for oil production? Will we harvest only some for sale off site and process others ourselves? Many questions remain, and all of them opportunities for learning about ecology and agro-ecology. Finally, we have yet to really observe the impacts of our hens (and pending arrival of a rooster!), but we expect that the ecological services they will provide as they create relationships with their environment and the other inhabitants of the land base will be very beneficial to them, and to us~! Yay for fresh eggs!

As we have begun to use a lens of ecology and permaculture through which to view our every action at EcoReality, we work to build not only our awareness and appreciation of the balance in wildlife that nurtures and supports our physical space, but also our social and economic realities -so inextricable from balanced relationships with ourselves, our animal and plant communities. The principles of ecology are reflected in our community Values and Vision documents, and as such, they have informed the way that our human population at EcoReality has sought to design and create our space, our future both here in existence at 160 Sharp Road, as well as our potential future as a developing human scale Ecovillage. In the first year of our time here, we have experienced a burgeoning of human community among our members, visitors, renters, volunteer workers, and especially our friendly neighbours that can also be described as an increasingly interconnected web of relationships where energy and resources flow; supported centripetally by the sun, the hayfields and the stored energy in fuels. I welcome the continuity of stewarding the ecological relationships in this community for the year to come.

Finance Steward's Report (Carol Wagner)

Since the forming of the Co-op, property has been purchased at 160 Sharp Road for a purchase price of $839,553.79. Investment Shares have been issued to: Jan Steinman for $327,726.89; Carol Wagner for $327,726.90; James Cowan for $42,050.00; and Shannon (Binns) Cowan for $42,050.00.

The current balance in the checking account is: $1376.17. There is $500.00 in a term deposit of which $425.00 is the security deposit on the cottage. There is also $5.00 in Member Shares at Island Savings. All for a grand total of $1881.17.

Reports being submit to Victoria are: Cash Flow Report showing Inflows of $752,875.47 and out flows of $750,994.30, with a net balance of $1881.17. Income Statement (Profit & Loss) showing Income of $7786.73 and Expense of $9861.31 with a net loss of $2074.58. The Balance Sheet states the Assets as $842,558.91 and the Liabilities as $844,633.49 with Equity as $2074.58.

Program Steward's Report (James Cowan)

Previous events:

  • Each month the co-op held a monthly meeting for members. Business, finances and operations are all discussed and decisions made by consensus. Following the member's meeting was an advisory council meeting which friends, family and members of the public were invited to. Activities in these meetings included group brainstorming, interactive exercises and roundtable discussions. Both the members meeting and advisory council meeting were held on the same day (typically on the first Saturday of the month) and that day would draw to a close with a potluck dinner.
  • There were work parties held once a month, typically for the three days after the first weekend of the month. These work parties were very effective in planting and harvesting as all of the members lived on the farm only part time for most of the 2006 growing season.
  • August 12, 13, 14 - Diana Leafe Christian gave a workshop at EcoReality based on the principles of her book Creating a Life Together. Her input and advice was very valuable to the co-op. It was attended by 4 members, 4 advisory council members and 3 others who were affiliated with another ecovillage.
  • September 30, 2006 - The co-op hosted a biodiesel workshop led by Kelly O'Toole and Jan Steinman. The fundamentals of biodiesel were discussed and then a hot water heater was converted in to a biodiesel processor to be used on the farm. It was attended by 2 members, 4 advisory council members and one of their friends.
  • January 23, 2007 - EcoReality hosted Federal Green Party leader Elizabeth May and guests for dinner.

Future goals:

  • As of March, 2007 the co-op has themes for each month. Workshops and presentations will be planned each month in conjunction with these themes.

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