A Joyfully Eventful Day: Celebrating the Justice, Ecology and Democracy Collective's Land Purchase!

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by the Justice, Ecology and Democracy (JED) Collective

After more than seven years of planning, negotiating and organizing, the JED Collective has taken a big step forward in our work to build a rooted, sustainable, long-term collective land project. With the help of a generous and inspiring community of lenders and donors, JED has purchased 30 acres of land and secured conservation agreements on a surrounding area of more than 300 acres.

Located in the town of Greene, Maine, the JED Collective is a small, robust cooperative community of organizers, parents, cultural workers, farmers and healers who share a commitment to living in mutually-supportive community, building self-reliance and cooperation, and working in diverse ways toward social and economic justice, ecological health, and a culture of solidarity and care.

Our land purchase has been a truly collective effort, and we at JED affirm and deepen our commitment to caring for and sharing this land as space to nurture and support each other, our communities, and movements for justice, ecology and democracy. 

Building On Our Strengths With New Structures

Our purchase also marks the beginning of a new structure for the JED project, one that has been long-in-the-making and that we believe will support our work for the long haul.

JED garden and peopleThe land on which JED is rooted has been purchased by a newly-created nonprofit organization called the Clark Mountain Community Land Trust (CMCLT). The mission of CMCLT is to acquire and to hold title to land in order to develop and support models of democratic, cooperative and ecologically sustainable land stewardship, land-based livelihood, economic self-organization and intentional community.  As a Community Land Trust, CMCLT is made up of both Resident Members (people who live on land owned by the organization) and Associate Members (people who live in the larger community and support the mission of the organization). Together, these groups democratically govern the land trust, ensuring that the land is protected and held in common stewardship to fulfill the organization's purpose long into the future.

The Community Land Trust model effectively removes our land from the market and places it in the hands of our community. We hope that CMCLT, with the help of friends and supporters, can evolve over time into a broader organization that can hold and protect land for other land projects throughout Maine.

The JED Collective is incorporated as a separate organization, owned and cooperatively-run by the community of people living on and caring for the CLT-owned land. With a 99-year lease securing its long-term stewardship of the land, the JED Collective owns the buildings and provides the structure through which residents of the land collectively plan for the future, develop infrastructure, maintain a community of mutual-support, manage the gardens and orchards, and share financial and other responsibilities.

Clark Mountain CLT and the JED Collective are committed to working together to build on our successes toward our long-term visions of growing the size and diversity of our collective, further developing our gardens and orchards into a full-scale subsistence and community-supported farm, and developing--together with our broader community--a popular education and movement-building resource center on the land.

Financing Without Banks: A Community Alternative

Thanks to the generosity and trust of our community, our land purchase is happening without a single loan from a conventional bank. Half of the money we've paid has come from members of our community of friends and allies (the other half is owner-financed--more on that later). "Community financing" is a practice that is as old as money itself, arising from practices of people lending to each other informally in relationships of trust and mutual aid. We learned and adapted our particular form of Community Financing from other cooperative housing and community-building projects, most notably the Walnut Street Co-op in Eugene, Oregon.

JED big gardenHow does it work? We have asked our community to support our project with small and medium-sized loans at low or no interest rates. People offer loans starting at $2,500.00 with interest rates between 0% and 4%. The loan terms are anywhere between five and twenty years, depending on the lender and their needs. The Community Land Trust pays these lenders back as if their loans has 30 year terms. This makes the regular payments more affordable for the CLT. At the end of the agreed-upon loan term, the CLT makes a "balloon payment," repaying the remaining balance of the loan. These payments are made through refinancing with new lenders in the Community Financing network. Over the course of 30 years, members of our community will "pass the baton," lending for as long as they are able and allowing others to step in when they need to use their financial resources elsewhere.

You can read more details about Community Financing on our website here:

http://www.jedcollective.org/index.php/component/content/42?task=view

We're excited to share our experiences, model documents and energy with others who wish to build projects with the support of community-based loans. Please get in touch! This is one small way--among thousands of others--that we can begin to build structures of real economic solidarity within our communities and decrease our dependence on the dominant economy that is (as we see more and more every day) fundamentally unstable, unsustainable, and unjust.

Gratitude to Our Community, And An Invitation

We close with a great embrace of gratitude to all who have helped to build and support JED over the past eight years--all who have lived on this land, cooked in our kitchen, shared music and stories and laugher around campfires, planted garlic and pressed apples, shared delicious food in cold Grange halls in December, left notes in our guest book and footprints on the land, swam in Berry Pond, wandered the woods, organized meetings, traveled from afar, participated in discussions, debates, and dialogues, offered wisdom and critique, donated and loaned, encouraged and inspired. We are blessed to be a part of such a community. May we be able to give back at least as much as we have been given.

And finally, two invitations:

First, we invite you to participate as lenders, if you are able, in our Community Financing project, helping us to raise the second half of our purchase payment ($100,000) to close the owner-financed Mortgage and place the land securely in the care of JED, the CLT and our larger community. Please get in touch if you're interested in this aspect of our project.

Second, we invite you to join us in envisioning, planning and building a vibrant, long-term future for the Community Land Trust, the JED Collective and whatever other seeds may sprout on this shared land. We are not buying the land for the group of people who currently live here, nor are we buying it simply for JED or for the CLT. We are buying this land so that it may be shared for generations with people, now and yet to come, who wish to sink their hands into the rooted work of building social and economic justice, ecological health, and a culture of solidarity and care. You are all a part of this work, and we invite you to dream it and build it with us on this land and beyond.

 

Photos courtesy of the JED Collective.

When citing this article, please use the following format: JED Collective (2009).  A Joyfully Eventful Day: Celebrating the Justice, Ecology and Democracy Collective's Land Purchase!. Grassroots Economic Organizing (GEO) Newsletter, Volume II, Issue 4, http://www.geo.coop/node/401

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