There are six houses within the property, which has a total acreage of close to 600. The Coop has been in existence for over 25 years, with present membership stable for approximately the past 20. Some of our members are in the process of moving on, creating both the need and the opportunity to move ahead into the future. We are now primarily seeking younger families that share the values of sustainability, are committed to cooperative rural living, and wish to do some sort of serious agriculture on the land.
Lately we've been thinking more about permaculture and agroforestry. Our land is marginal by conventional farming standards, but the techniques needed to work it are the necessary farming of the future. Balanced with this is the simple fact that people have to make a living; this often requires both compromises and a piecing-it-together approach. Enterprises in herbs, small livestock, poultry, agricultural mycology, small-scale dairy, and value-added products could all be part of the picture—as well as things probably yet undiscovered. We will shortly be launching a permaculture design process to assess the potential of the land. We don't expect Coop land to provide a family with a hundred percent of its livelihood; but at least one site should be given over to some sort of anchor farm that other members could actively support. We have close ties with the agricultural community that increasingly surrounds us—in particular with Crossmolina Farm, a vital and successful farm/CSA just down the hill. There is growing interest in biodynamic farming and gardening, as well as regenerative agriculture in general. Agriculturally, this is by any measure a happening part of Vermont; we're fortunate to be located in the midst of it.
Our mission also includes modeling better ways of farming and living. We intend to develop educational programs on the land—possibly with dedicated facilities—but wish to base them on actual practice, not just abstract ideas. All of our member families have been connected with Waldorf education, which values hands-on learning—in particular with the Wellspring School, which was started by some of our members over 25 years ago. Unfortunately the school succumbed a few years ago to financial pressures (this is not an affluent part of the State), but cooperative home-schooling has since become prevalent in the area. We see the latter, not simply as a recourse forced upon us, but as a means of instilling positive values into a community.
The Lost Meadow property is part of the Orange County Headwaters Project, which some of us were involved in starting. Its target area is nearly 40,000 acres in the towns of Corinth and Washington. A great deal of land abutting us has been conserved through this project, with the result that our surroundings are unusually well-protected from development. Wildlife is abundant, tree and plant growth fertile and diverse. One can leave one's dooryard and walk for miles in unbroken forest marked by winding trails, scenic vistas, stone walls, old abandoned homesteads, and remote ponds and brooks. We're committed to maintaining the integrity of all this through land conservation and good forestry practices, and work closely with our foresters to that end. We've been in Current Use from the outset, and carefully follow the management plan that goes along with it.
Finally, a less tangible but no less important aspect of our identity as a coop involves a consensus process in our decision-making, and a commitment to active principles of conflict resolution. We take this very seriously. Our founding assumption—borne out by 25 years of experience—is that no legal or organizational structure, however well-designed, can fulfill its goals without such a commitment on the part of its members. Conflicts and stresses inevitably arise in any group situation; success depends not so much on avoiding them, or reasoning our way out of them, as it does on our willingness to listen, to open our hearts, and to view all points of view with respect and compassion. We subscribe to no common spiritual path or ideology, but this is our bottom line.