Our first annual meeting of the Windswept Farmstead Cooperative, LLC took place in front of a roaring masonry heater in the Farmhouse on a blustery March evening ahead of sharing a dinner. Following are the items discussed and/or decided upon for the upcoming year. Attending were the current tenants and current members.
We reviewed several areas that were in need of repair, as well as improvements that the tenants would like to make (and pay for as allowed for in our LLC Agreement) and sought the Consent of Members for them. The tenants are planning a big event in the fall of 2015 and there was some discussion about the timeline and use of sub-assets for that event.
In addition there were some areas where the tenants wanted instruction, and we all discussed the best way for them to learn about these areas, either from one of the LLC members, or from a recommended outside source.
Transferring access to farm land (partially or completely) using a Farmstead Cooperative is not easy. In fact when compared to a cash sale, mortgage sale, or lease agreement it’s probably the most difficult method for a seller to use. Significantly, while it allows for shared access to land, it also demands shared responsibility for that land as long as one remains an equity member of any fraction.
The Farmstead Cooperative idea became the only way I could achieve our goals of keeping our farm agriculturally viable into the future, and offering a new farmer fair equity when they worked to maintain and improve the land. As we began the formal process of creating an “entity” under which we could organize the idea of a working Farmstead Cooperative, I sent a letter to the lawyer that we had chosen to work with on the transfer paperwork. He immediately dubbed it “The Manifesto.”
The letter reworked the outline we had sent to a lawyer friend who helped us find a Maine lawyer who specialized in land use issues. I used the letter to organize and clarify the ideas I had been thinking about around this effort, and to help me communicate to the lawyer what we wanted to create.
My wife and I moved to mid-coast Maine from Boston in 1990. We both had grown up in the suburbs, and we both had lived an urban life after college. We enjoyed the Big City, but we wondered what was out there beyond the last street light. Mostly I wondered — having worked in many food services positions (cook, waiter, bakery manager) through high school, college, and post-college — where did the ingredients prepared and consumed come from before they were hauled through the service entrance in boxes, big bags, and tubs? I thought, “surely we could spend a year investigating that mystery and then return to Boston with wisdom and experience well beyond our peers?”