Does Your Community Make You Money? It Should

Does Your Community Make You Money?  It Should

Does your community make you money?

When I ask that question, almost everyone says no (not only no, but hell no!).

In fact, most people make the assumption that communities shouldn’t make money.  They should only cost you money (paid via taxes, fees, and more).

Despite the fact that many of the services (roads, schools, etc.) provided by local governments are often worth the expense (if they aren’t providing good value for the expense, you should move), the fact that our communities don’t also generate us an income seems like a design failure.

Strangely, income is something almost everyone seems to leave out of their plans for community resilience, despite how important it is in all of our lives.   I hope people rethink this assumption before D2 (the second, and much greater, economic depression) resumes its march.

NOTE:  When will D2 kick in?  2013 might be the year that the global economy starts to slide backwards again.  The warning signs in China (a fall off in industrial energy use, massive stockpiles of unsold goods, etc.) point to a BIG fall off next year.

How to generate an income as a community

Here are three smart methods to get you thinking in the right direction (I’ll elaborate on these methods more in a future report):

  1. Take the Johnny Appleseed approach.  Get a productive business started and set up a community co-op to manage the costs and the benefits.  If you don’t know, Johnny Appleseed was a classical Yankee entrepreneur (which is very different than the financialized poseurs we have today).  He started hundreds of orchard co-ops.
  2. Build a community around a working farm.  My friend Simon Black is building a resilient community in Chile from scratch, that I’m advising him on.  Every resident of this Chilean community is part owner of the farm it is built around.  This resilient community is being built to bounce back from a hard (economic and infrastructure) collapse in the northern hemisphere.   If you want to get more information on this community, you can sign up here.
  3. Make it a community service.  Use vacant public land and underutilized facilities to build services that reduce expenses for community residents.  For example, the town of Totnes (in the UK) planted 186 nut trees around the town to provide an extra source of food for residents.  For more, see this video on the project.


The Sepp Holzer’s Method for Transplanting Fruit Trees

I’ve had only mixed success with transplanting trees sold with wrapped root balls. I’ve always blamed myself for the failure, but I may not be to blame. The method of the packaging and preparing the trees for transplanting may have been the cause of the failure.  Here’s a method from the legendary farmer, Sepp Holzer, that may work much better.

NOTE:  Sepp’s book on farming techniques is well worth the read and affordable.

For late season transplants, Sepp takes an additional step.  He lets the leaves dry out (die) on the transplant, while keeping the root square just moist enough to prevent damage to the roots.  When planted and generously watered, the unburdened tree (it isn’t supporting a full compliment of leaves) will quickly sprout new leaves.


Here’s some homework:  think about how your community can generate income.

Live well!


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  • JL

    Question for you. What are some places I might look up or network with existing people into RCs? I’m currently living in a foreign country. Finding resilience-interested locals is a top priority of mine outside school.

    • John Robb

      Working on that.

  • Glorie Iaccarino

    I am very interested in your work and subscribed to your newsletter.

    Two groups I work with (The EcoArts Council Quad Cities and Watertown Community Empowerment Coalition) focus on building community but with different approaches. My questions is, what resources are available for “CREATIVE COLLABORATIVE NETWORKING” in pursuing similar goals – especially the suggested ideas in this article? Is there a directory of RC activists, training material or how-to-guide, a mentorship program? Are you available to communicate and counsel a group of community leaders who seek to accomplish the things you speak of via phone, email or such?

    EACQC serves to support and advocate for the Quad Cities as a developing place of:

    · Creative and celebratory environments in which encouragement is given to innovative events that incorporate nature/ecology, arts and cultural appreciation

    · Participatory arts projects and educational programming indoors and outdoors

    · Public land and beautification development including urban and landscape gardening

    · A destination for eco-artist residencies – for advocating, demonstrating and creating works that celebrate the Midwest Region and Mississippi area life and environmental issues of our home in the Quad Cities area

    · Advocate of Natural Living lifestyle approaches, education and advocacy

    It is the belief of the EACQC that people sense of identity, attachment and sustainability to their hometown can be improved with these provisions.

    WCEC mission is to create, provide or promote and environment that draws upon the resources of the community to empower and enhance opportunity through assistance in education, life services, and healthy activities for the welfare of its members.




    Your input is welcomed and I look forward to future issues of your newsletter!

    (I imagined a great discussion and organic dinner with you, Richard Louv, Pam Warhurst and Jonathon Rose creating an exquisite plan to develop new healthy and prosperous communities based on all your cumulative knowledge and experience that would transform and revolutionize small towns and growing communities.)

  • Lillian Davenport

    How about that? This article is helping me to tie together some different subjects that I’ve been researching and going over in my head, re: communities, permaculture, the next financial shift. Very exciting stuff! I can’t wait to learn more.

  • Dustin

    Land is a scare commodity everywhere. Moving to a foreign land doesn’t solve any problems. At best, you’re despised by the locals. At worst, you have to fight them. If this were the 18th century and there wasn’t +6 billion people on this tiny rock you could sell me this solution. Not now. Humans are running out of resources and running out of time. There are five futures I envision:

    1.) Grow exponentially until the environment can no longer support such growth. Everyone lives in squalor and famines are common.

    2.) Institute population controls. This probably entails genetic engineering and selective breeding.

    3.) Continuously murder each other down to a manageable population. Let’s have a World War twice a century!

    4.) Pray for a cataclysmic global natural disaster.

    5.) Move off-world. The moon, Mars, space stations, etc.

    I don’t know about you guys, but I hoping for solution 5. Until then, I’d like to find ways to become more productive through technological innovation with ever decreasing resources.

  • Matt

    The reason for pruning fruit trees and grape vines each year is to make the fruit tree produce fruit. Unpruned fruit tress will not always produce a sizable harvest each year but only one every other or every third year. Pruning the tree makes the tree believe it is being eaten or otherwise threatened and thus it will attempt to reproduce itself via making loads of fruit.

    • John Robb


      Sepp would probably tell you that a tree that rests every couple of year produces more fruit long term, and is much healthier. He plays a long game.


  • vera

    I don’t understand… is there a typo? “Every plot in this Chilean community” — should it be “every resident of this Chilean community”? Plots don’t own… people do… 😉

    • John Robb


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