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EcoReality Co-op Newsletter

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Finances, Fences and Water

Fencing at EcoReality is in need of repair!

It's been an interesting month at EcoReality.

The four of us had a series of meetings about time and money. According to Ma'ikwe Ludwig, of the Fellowship for Intentional Community, these are the top two sources of conflict in community. Our situation is unique, in that we have two people living here full-time who make this their life and livelihood, and two who have city commitments that keep them from fully participating on a day-to-day basis.

In preparation, James had polled a number of other communities about our situation, and most of them replied with variations of "Are you nuts?" Well, it wasn't quite that emphatic, but all the other groups James contacted said such a situation would be difficult. They did have a lot of good advice to offer, and perhaps James can write that all up as a newsletter article some day.

In the end, we agreed on two basic changes that we're confident will better align capacity, responsibility, and authority:

  1. We reduced our mandatory time and money commitments, replacing them with a more flexible "pay as you go" system. Previously, we had been paying $50 per member per month, and requiring 20 hours of labour per member per month, and then splitting co-op income and expenses on an ad-hoc basis, as situations arose. Now, the full-time residents will be managing co-op income and expenses, and part-time residents will pay fixed fees for time spent on the site, with the mandatory assessments reduced to $25 and 12 hours per member-month.
  2. We agreed that the full-time residents will have greater autonomy in the day-to-day operation of the site, as fitting of stewardship. Site stewards will still be accountable to the full membership for their actions, but will have greater freedom in day-to-day questions like "where to plant the peas."

During this process, we consulted with our previously agreed values and other guidance documents, and were able to work through what could have been a difficult process, and still be friends afterward!

WWOOFer Sara Defoor departed on the 14th after a three week stay, continuing her tour of SW BC organic farms. She put in a lot of "hard fun" during her time here, and we're grateful for her help and wish her the best of luck on the rest of her summer, which will involve an extended bicycle tour.

We had an interesting interview with Sheri Nielson of the BC Environmental Farm Plan Program. We went through a long check list of environmental practices, and were gratified to find out that we're doing most things right. But we did discover that we may be able to qualify for grants to improve our fencing and water management, so we're in the process of trying to turn that experience into a little financial help for our Permaculture design for the site.

Now that we know we'll have help, we've committed to purchasing two 10,000 gallon water tanks and capturing rainwater from the metal-roofed shop. Unfortunately, they won't arrive until July, but we'll be ready for any summer rain we may get, and we'll certainly be able to fill them next winter.

This is a future chicken tractor. Really!
In other news, we've been trying to make our chickens happier. We were offered free chickens, and threw up a quick makeshift structure, built with little more than garden stakes, wire fencing, and tarps. I set about designing and building a coop, but I knew I wanted it mobile (in the manner of a "chicken tractor"), and was wasting way too much time figuring out how to attach wheels and where to get them. Then we saw and old camping tent-trailer at the recycling depot. It's fabric had long ago left, but what remained was mobile and a good base for a coop. Unfortunately, the recycling depot wouldn't let go of it.

So I asked Harry Burton, a local orchardist, to send out a request for such a thing on his email list. I got five offers of old trailers! It turns out that everyone has an old trailer on the back of their property that they want to get rid of! So we picked up one, and are in the process of making nesting boxes and walls for it.

But the most enjoyable part of the month was our open house. We had some 30 people drop by, including almost all our immediate neighbors. We heard fascinating local history from 30+ year Sharp Road residents Mary and Isabelle, and made some new friends. I hope we can do this again next year!

--Jan, Communication steward

Lavender eye pillows

Carol working on a chicken tractor in between pulling weeds out of the lavender.

Last year, we weren't around as much as we'd like, and didn't have time to do anything except harvest and wholesale the lavender.

This year we are planning to keep the lavender and to add value by making value products ourselves!

I purchased some hemp/silk fabric with the intention of making something for myself to wear, but I think it will be great for lavender eye pillows instead.

We will also make dried bouquets tied with ribbon to sell at the farmers market and at our farm stand.

We'd also like to produce essential oil as a way of adding value to this crop.

If you have more ideas about how we can use our lavender, please let me know!

--Carol, Farm steward

Membership FAQ

Brainstorming at an EcoReality meeting.

How do I become a member?

The first step in becoming a member of EcoReality is to join the Advisory Council and come to the farm and observe member’s meetings, participate in workshops and interact with the group.

The next step is to fill out the membership application. After the application is approved by the members, the applicant will become a provisional member for a period of six months. While a person is a provisional member, they can participate in all meetings and activities on the farm but they do not have veto rights. Once the provisional membership period has passed, the person becomes a full member and is granted decision making rights and equal status to all other members.

How are decisions made?

We use consensus to make decisions. This requires each member to be familiar with the process and for the group to maintain their skills by attending workshops and working with outside facilitators.

What is the time requirement?

Currently the members have meetings once a month on the farm (typically the first Saturday of the month). There are also short weekly video conferences. Each member is required to work 12 hours per month on co-op business, or pay $15 per hour in lieu of hours worked (if they do not work the full 12 hours).

Budgets and money

Currently EcoReality owns the property outright at 160 Sharp Road. Members were sold shares in the co-op in order to purchase the land.

The rough model we are working with for the future is that every member party (one person or a family living under the same roof) will be required to buy 100,000 shares in the co-op (at $1.00 per share) and will also be required to finance the building of their dwelling (approximately $20,000 $50,000).

Our goal is to create the opportunity for a limited number of members to apply with less than $100,000 and borrow the balance from the co-op with minimal interest and a payment plan. In order to achieve this goal, the co-op will require some members to buy more than 100,000 shares in order to subsidize the members who are borrowing from the co-op. These amounts may change based on how many members there are (and how many the land can support), how much the land purchase is, how much development is required for the land, and how many dwellings are already existing.

Currently there is a membership assessment of $25 per person per month which goes towards co-op operations expenses (insurance, postage etc.)

Share types

EcoReality currently has two share types:

  • Class A investment shares are what a member buys when they buy in to the co-op or when a member funds a capitol improvement project. These shares are bought and sold for $1 each. There is no limit to how many shares a member can have in the co-op. The co-op must spend the money raised from Class A shares on capital improvements (including capital purchases). Money for operations must be raised separately.
  • Class B investment shares are issued to a member when they “donate” an item to the co-op. These shares depreciate over time, similar to the rate of depreciation for physical objects.

See Coop rules/4 Share Structure for detailed information.


The long term goal at this time is to purchase a large piece of property that has enough housing densities (based on zoning) to support 10-20 families. When this purchase happens depends on when more members join the co-op and the co-op can raise the money to make the purchase. Ideally the purchase is made privately, without a realtor from owners who support the project and want to see their land used sustainably and partially placed under covenants.


This FAQ is for informal purposes, and is not authoritative. Should this FAQ conflict with the coop rules or any recorded decision or any agreement at a meeting, the latter takes precedence.

Have a question that is not on the list? Feel free to contact us.

--James, Program steward

Learning about lavender –- a “clean” crop!

Judy Binns cuts lavender at EcoReality.

The history of use of lavender dates to Roman times, when it was used in the famous roman baths. The name Lavandula is derived from the latin lavare, to wash. Romans also scented their clothing with lavender -– it was the disinfectant of choice in the middle ages! It would seem that Romans were interested in cleanliness, and thus cultivated lavenders, making it the first “clean” crop!

Essential oils distilled from members of the genus Lavandula have been used both cosmetically and therapeutically for centuries. English lavender (Lavandula angustifolia, P. Miller) is used in aromatherapy as a sedative/relaxant or to treat anxiety, and this usage is supported by scientific evidence2. Other traditional uses of lavender species (including English, French, and hybrid types) include: antibacterial, antifungal, carminative, antiflatulence and anticolic. It is administered in the following methods to treat insomnia, nervous tension or anxiety, digestive malaise & bloating: essential oil (1-4 drops in water), infusion of 0.8-1.5g dried flowers per 150 mL boiling water, inhalation (2 drops in boiling water diffuser). Its sedative nature, on inhalation, has been shown in both animals and humans1.

Shan prepares lavender for drying.
Why is it useful as an antiflatulence and anticolic herbal? Perhaps because lavender has been shown to have a spasmolytic activity (ie. it stops the nervous system from triggering smooth muscle spasms) in vitro in guinea pig and rat smooth muscle systems, and it also decreases the tone in the skeletal muscle preparation of the phrenic nerve-diaphragm of rats. The mechanism of action was postsynaptic and not atropine-like - most likely mediated through cAMP, and not through cGMP. One of the major components of lavender essential oil, linalool, showed mode of action that was similar to the action of the whole oil. The mode of action of lavender oil resembled that of geranium and peppermint oils1. Many massage therapists rely heavily on lavender essential oils as adjuvants to massage oils used as lubricants: the calming effects of this herb are effective treatment of psychological and nervous system tension, as well as muscular tensions.

While often inconclusive and controversial, there does seem to be both scientific and clinical data that support the traditional uses of lavender. However, methodological and oil identification problems have severely hampered the evaluation of the therapeutic significance of much of the research on Lavandula spp. These issues need to be resolved before we have a true picture of the biological activities of lavender essential oil2. Variations in essential oil from lavender seems to be related to genetic composition of the plants, as well as distillation processing1.

Do you or someone you know suffer from insomnia? How about anxiety from the stress of modern times? Do you ever experience digestive troubles in the form of bloating or discomfort! Learn about lavender’s magical properties to help these and other symptoms, as well as external uses as a disinfectant. Perhaps a few days in EcoReality’s lavender patch would do you good this season! You are welcome to contact us to arrange to volunteer in the lavender harvest, or just drop by for a visit.


1: Studies on the mode of action of the essential oil of Lavender - Lavandula angustifolia P. Miller M. Lis-Balchin, S. Harh. 1999. Phytotherapy Res.Volume 13, Issue 6, Pages 540 – 542.
2: Biological activities of Lavender essential oil. H. M. A. Cavanagh, J. M. Wilkinson.2002. Phytotherapy Res. Volume 16, Issue 4, Pages 301 – 308.

--Shannon, Ecology steward

Recent Happenings

Here are some highlights of recent meetings and events. Click any entry for details.

Saturday, 5 May 2007, Annual General Meeting 
Agreed: waive appointment of auditor, approved finance report, approved annual steward's reports, re-elected current stewards, declared 2.3% dividend on Class A investment shares.
Saturday, 5 May 2007, Monthly Members' Meeting 
Agreed: canceled July members' meeting, cancelled future Advisory Council meetings, cancelled future work parties, new monthly members' assessments, site lease, part-time residents' contributions.
Sunday, 6 May 2007, open house 
Many neighbors dropped in for a visit and to find out what we're doing. A good time was had by all.

June 2007 Events

For details, please go to the meetings page on our website. All activities are at EcoReality, 160 Sharp Road, Salt Spring Island, unless otherwise noted.

Saturday, 2 June 2007, 10AM, Monthly Members' meeting 
the usual suspects
Sunday, 3 June 2007, 10AM Preparing to plant winter vegetables 
presented by Island Natural Growers at the Farmers' Institute
Sunday, 3 June 2007, 4PM, Party! 
James's birthday party
Wednesday, 6 June 2007, 6PM, Island Natural Growers 
monthly pot-luck, farm tour, and meeting

Thank you for supporting EcoReality with your interest, ideas, and good thoughts!

Want to write for this newsletter? Or want to see something written about? Contact the Communication Steward with your story ideas!

EcoReality Coop (directions)
2152 Fulford-Ganges Road
Salt Spring Island, BC V8K 1Z7, Canada
+1 250.653.2024
Info AT EcoReality DOT org

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