A Laboratory for Collaborative Livelihood

[imgbelt img=image003.jpg]Traditional salaried work is less and less reliable. In rural Colorado, young adults are experimenting with another economy, based on barter, collaboration, and mutual help.


reading about Kipp Nash that changed everything for me. Nash had wanted to become a farmer but land was prohibitively expensive. So instead of buying his own property, he went to a bunch of neighbors up and down the street in Boulder, Colorado, and convinced them to let him cultivate their yards and buy into his Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) endeavor. The homeowners didn’t have to worry about lawn maintenance any longer, their water bills would be the same, they got fresh organic veggies, and Nash got his farm – on 13 different plots of land that first year. 

I envision that the future of our economy will look a lot like this: people using innovative approaches to provide for our basic needs. There will always be people who work in traditional jobs with steady incomes – like the residents who owned the land where Nash farmed. They will use dollars to pay for health insurance, iPods, and the mortgage.

But a second group of folks, like Kipp, will find creative ways to use existing resources more elegantly, and to offer others something in the process. This kind of exchange happens in a collaborative economy rather than the traditional one. In Kipp’s case, he used an existing resource to make money while benefitting the homeowners, too. In the process, he did something else, too: Kipp revitalized the rural virtues of stewardship and self-sufficiency in a place where farms used to be: the suburbs. 

My wife and I decided to take Nash’s model a step further. By exchanging rent in our guest bedroom for labor in our garden, we could take money out of the picture altogether while providing affordable housing and employment to a young farmer. Through our local CSA, we had become friends with an intern named Evan Lavin. Once the growing season ended, he was looking for something to do. We proposed that he put 15 hours of labor a week into our garden in exchange for rent. 

Transition Lab. When he isn’t playing with his daughter, he’s working in the garden or wandering through the woods.