Governance - Alpha Farm

Tags: Government, Alpha Farm, Consensus, Economics

Alpha Farm

Governance AF-B2

"Government- N. 1. the authoritative direction and restraint exercised over the actions of men in communities, societies, and states..."

"Consensus- N. general agreement or concord." --The American College Dictionary.--

From the beginning it was clear that Alpha should govern itself by consensus, that is it should exercise direction and restraint through general agreement and concord. In that regard our form of self-government was borrowed directly from the experience of Quakers, or the society of friends, in organizing their business affairs over the past several hundred years.

Alpha's form of government is both the most conservative and the most optimistic ever invented. It is conservative because the status quo is preserved until every member of the governed is in agreement prior to any change. It is the most optimistic because it assumes that every member of the governed, in response to "that of God" within one, will allow the progressive truth of that spirit to govern.

Consensus is also probably the hardest form possible because it demands total participation and unselfcenteredness to work correctly. When properly exercised, consensus government insists that each individual accept full responsibility for the decision made, since any one individual has the power to nullify any proposal. Simultaneously achieved is a fully unified group, without any of the divisive influences of voting.

Especially during the early days of Alpha, we discovered that sometimes individuals had not really participated in the decision--they had differences of opinion with the rest of the group but did not voice them. Such behavior effectively aborts the entire process. Each individual has the responsibility either to speak up and discuss the matter until he has either come to terms with it or decided to hold it up. In this way nothing is decided with individuals feeling overruled or holding grudges. It is important for the individual who is in the minority to first carefully consider ones thoughts and feelings presuming always that others are sincerely seeking the guidance within. If one continues to differ, one should be willing to examine their reasoning or feelings with the group. And as for these in the majority, it is important always to be respectful of the lone dissent-- for it is fairly common in the history of consensus for the lone dissenter to be vindicated as the solitary conscience of insightfulness present. Where differences remain, the following are the usual alternative; a. Action is postponed for further reflection, prayer, or investigation. b. Those with objection may "step aside" from the decision and allow it to proceed. By doing so they are taking full responsibility for allowing it to proceed, but stating disagreement with it. Usually the group will not proceed should significantly more than one person by stepping aside.

Alpha Farm Cooperative, Inc. is incorporated under the laws of the State of Oregon as a cooperative -- that is, shares are held by members and not by others. They may not be sold on the open market. The statement of purpose registered in Salem is: "To provide for the material, psychological, emotional, and spiritual well-being and development of its members and other members of the universe." The following paragraphs should be read in conjunction with the by-laws;

Governance: All of the members compose the governing body, and the members reserve to themselves the right to make all decisions. In practice, the Board of Directors (member's meetings) delegates almost all decision making to the full house (business meetings) but reserves the right to make all decisions if it so chooses. Glenn is the Registered Agent of the Board.

Membership: All members must participate in the decision to admit additional members. The provision for expelling members is the only voting procedure at Alpha.

Finances: Provision is made here for both "capital" assets and personal property. Both technically become the property of Alpha upon membership, but it is specified that the individual shall have "prior use rights" on their personal property -- that is, it remains in their exclusive care unless it is sold, at which time there is a maximum amount of cash (currently $ 200.00) per year which the individual keep; the remainder is handled as capital assets. While a member is at Alpha, all income, whether earned or unearned (for instance, whether done by delivering mail or received as an inheritance) belongs to the cooperative. As with selling personal property, the individual may keep for personal use the set maximum amount per year; the remainder is handled as capital assets. The intent here is to provide a guideline and an expectation -- although not total rigidity, as indicated by the notation that members as a board can make exceptions.

It was intended that Alpha not be a "smart" economic investment, and that there be economic contribution to Alpha, since so many people still have the tendency to carry their money in their hearts, so to speak. But neither is it intended that people be financially unable to leave. Therefore, even while in the midst of this mini-society where we are all virtually equal financially, provision is left for a return to standard societal economics. There is provision made for payback of shares whether they are accrued through initial investment or through living here over time. For capital assets, one share is assigned for cash $100.00. In addition, The Board of Directors annually assigns all members an equal number of shares (in past years this has been five shares). Thereby an individual gains equity in the Coop. regardless of investment. The Coop. is obliged to be cautious, however, not to assign out so many shares that they could not be reasonably paid back. If a member should join who has debts, the Coop. assumes liability for the debts and the value of the debt is subtracted from shares accrued over time.

In an amendment to the bylaws, the members made provision for large sums of money. The Coop. does not wish to accept amounts beyond its likely ability to pay back. Therefore a limit of $50,000.00 was put on investment in the Coop.; amounts above that will be held in trust (for example, bonds) where the interest will go to the Coop. without additional shares allocated to the individual, and the capital of the investment may rise or fall and the gain or loss will be the member's individually. The entire trust would be immediately at the disposal of the individual should they wish to leave.

The payback procedure for shares is as follow: the Coop. will pay the full value of shares or the proportionate value of the shares, depending on the net worth of the Coop. Especially since the value of the land is high, there is little question that the value of the Coop. is greater than the number of shares outstanding. Should an economic upset occur and the number of shares be valued at more than the total worth of the Coop., the number of outstanding shares divided by the net worth of the Coop. would give the proportionate value of a share.

The Coop. is not obliged to pay back more than $5,000.00 a year. The normal schedule is one half or up to $5,000.00 in succeeding years until paid off.
The bylaws hold provision for paybacks in case of dissolution of the Coop.

Upon accepting membership, each person shall make a will for their estate, including the provision that the named heirs will receive 70 percent of the total value of the estate. In effect then, each member is contributing 30 percent of their assets to Alpha at death.