background

 What is it is that you are proposing?

• The proposal is an invitation to participate, This website is intended to invite collaboration on an open source approach to promote environmentally and socially sustainable development; including development and operation of a working farm, land based learning and community outreach center on a 40 acre property in Belize, Central America

Why?

• I’d like to get this 40-acre property up and going in a way that is beneficial to the people in the local community and to people who participate at all stages of the life cycle of the project to establish it and then operate it. I think an open source approach offers a way to base this on the best ideas and talent available.

Who are the constituents and audience?

• People in August Pine Ridge and larger local community who would benefit from employment through work activities associated with development of the property and subsequent operations – such as clearing, planting, building, caretaking, harvesting, etc. Additionally, benefits for local people are anticipated through their own collaborative activities such as preparing meals for visitors, hosting them in their homes, guiding visitors, selling locally produced crafts, foods, or other goods.

• People in the local community who would benefit from the programs conducted, outreach activities, application of successfully demonstrated approaches, training, access to resources and credit, and other connections.

• People who participate in the planning, design, fundraising, and implementation.

• People who participate in on-site programs, workshops, and training.

• People who visit to simply enjoy the opportunity to spend some time on a working field station as part of their time in Belize.

When? Is there a phase-in? What is the workplan? What do you expect to do first, second, etc?

• See schedule section for details of preliminary tasks.

How much will this cost?

• See estimate section for details of preliminary tasks with scoping estimate for initial improvements to start operation which totals about $25k US, including 25% contingency. Since the initial estimate was prepared, many tasks have been completed. The costs have been somewhat higher than planned. However, the initial estimates have not been updated.

How do collaborators fit in? Where and when and how much do you need them? In what areas, e.g. planning, outreach, community extension, fundraising, facility usage, education, etc?

• We are inviting collaborators to help right now with all the near term activities identified above and to consider go-forward programs. A few nights ago, I was asked about this project and if we are seeking investors? I paused and thought before I answered. Yes we are. But not just for money. We want to enlist people who resonate with the potential this offers and want to invest their time, energy, and modest amounts of money to get this going and work with others to shape it into what they want it to be. They can then continue to participate in it by enjoying reports of the good work being done; they can come and work, teach, or learn; or they can just come and enjoy the place they have planned and implemented.

This 40-acre rural property is located in northwestern Belize near the Mexican and Guatemala borders about 16 miles from Orange Walk Town, between the villages of August Pine Ridge and San Felipe. It is about a mile to August Pine Ridge, 6 miles to San Felipe, 5 miles to Shipyard Mennonite community, 10 miles to Blue Creek Mennonite community, and 3.5 miles to Rio Hondo: Belize/Mexico border.

We are interested in your experience and ideas for organization, participation, and business structure planning and implementation for a field station for educational, demonstration, and operation of best-in-class sustainable development based on the 40-acre property in Belize.

We are also looking to identify people who would be interested in participating as well as exploring potential cooperative initiatives. Some have suggested that to make this project really go, it would to need to invest in a charrette (I had to go look it up) - a group of sustainability experts and ecotourism specialists that could steer the project toward a tangible goal of tourism/ income and sustainability and cultural preservation. The right group could give real substance to the vision. The suggestion was this could allow my participation but not necessarily my full time leadership - a key constraint for me. Given our modest budget and the cost of air fares to Belize, we've been seeking approaches to conducting such a process collaboratively on-line or identifying other alternative approaches.

We know there are a wide variety of backgrounds among you and many of you have been at this kind of thing for a long time in a variety of contexts. We are looking for suggestions and feedback about how to proceed.
 
 
What is the story on this property?
 
I went to Belize in '74 to help my parents, 2 younger brothers, and my sister relocate to a land development project between August Pine Ridge and San Felipe. My sister, the oldest of my siblings, is 11 years younger than me.
 
Roy Carver, an American businessman, had a 24,000 acre property along the Rio Hondo River border with Mexico. My dad, who had managed ranches in Wyoming and Arizona, was hired to run the beef cattle operation.
 
I was 27 and met my wife in Belize. She was working in Belize City on a Canadian Aid Project to bring water and sewerage systems to Belize City. Almost as a lark I bought the 40-acre property down the road from the ranch. I thought it might make a separate get-away for us away from the rest of my family. In 1977, I had the semi-savannah property cleared, disked, and planted to about 2500 cashews and a few young mango, orange, grapefruit, lime, breadfruit, coconut, papaya, and lichee. Small milpas of banana were bearing. There were numerous mature native pine, oak, cyprus, and other trees on the property and a stand of large trees around an area where a house, thatched hut cookhouse, hand dug well, and outbuildings were located. Based on these improvements, the Belizean Government development concession terms were fulfilled and certificate granted per Section 6 (8) of the Alien Landholding Ordinance, so I got clear title to it.
 
We moved back to the US at the end of 1977 and I had not been back since, until August '05. I got behind on paying the taxes in ’81 or so. As I am approaching retirement, I’ve been interested in travel, property, and opportunities to contribute outside the US. Kathy reminded me we might still have the place in Belize.
 
In April of 2004, I initiated inquiries to try to determine the status of the title to the property and to see what I needed to do to come into compliance on the property taxes. I contacted an attorney in Belize who had helped me with the property years ago. Her office started working to check the title on the property and get the tax bill clarified. In parallel, through an associate of my brother, I got in touch with Eric Coleman in Belize, who got the title and tax bill sorted out before the attorney’s office was able to do so. He also arranged a visit to look at the property and assess the cashew trees with a surveyor and Thomas Tillett, then the Belize Cashew Project Manager, who had offered to assess the trees and help get the property into the Cashew Cooperative Program.
 
The image galleries include photos of the property, as it was when I left, and recent ones. The houses are gone. Before we left, we took the 2-story white wooden house to Johan Bergen’s place for him to use for his family. The thatched roof taciste cookhouse is gone. Perhaps burned as fires have passed through over the years. The property has grown back quite a bit, but the report is that it has been burned almost every year, so parts of it resemble other typical open grassy areas in the August Pine Ridge area.
 
I spent two weeks in Belize in August of ’05, with my son, Scott, and sister, Erin. We visited the property and the surrounding communities as well as a number of Belize destinations and points of interest to try to get a feel for how the property might fit as a jump-off point for these other destinations in Belize. We met with people I knew then and their surviving family members, took photos, shot digital video, and talked with them at length.

The decision was that it is worth pursuing getting this little place back into operation as a working farm, land based learning and community outreach center.

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