On Sept 18 – 20 we held a weekend workshop on local economy at Ananda Gaorii. It was the last in a series of four annual workshops on Ecovillage Design organized through the Danish Ecovillage Association and held at different Danish Ecovillages. Approximately 30 people participated including people living or wanting to live in Ecovillages and curious residents from the local area. 14 came for the entire weekend and the rest were day visitors who came to listen to specific presentations. The topics presented included alternative economic models, key aspects of successful local economies, present condition of Danish farmers, gift economy, money and relationships.
We had generally good feedback for the course especially from those who had very little experience with economy. A few of those who were more experienced requested more practical guidance on e.g. – how to start a cooperative, how to start and run a successful project. People liked the progression from global to local to personal. They also appreciated the fact that we included meditation, yoga and music together with the “dry” subject of economy. The networking aspect was appreciated and the opportunity for participants to discuss their own projects in the Pro Action Cafe was appreciated too.
Our weekend included a visit to nearby Fri and Fro ecovillage where we saw their wide array of interesting eco houses and heard about various challenges they had faced and were facing in their ecovillage. Fri and Fro is interesting also because of their close cooperation with the adjacent traditional village. They have formed a local business incubation center dedicated to growing the local economy. While at Fri and Fro we also heard a talk from a local organic pig farmer who explained the current crises in farming where only the biggest most mechanized farmers can compete with Eastern European farm produce. The cost of this is huge investments and enormous bank loans which make it almost impossible for young farmers to enter the business. The need for coop banks and local credit unions was discussed and this was explored further when we returned to Ananda Gaorii and listened to a talk from Thorkild from the island of Samso. On Samso they are experimenting with community financing at low interest rates which is allowing smaller farmers to enter the business more cheaply and compete effectively due to the much lower cost of their financing. We were very happy that people from our local area were getting exposed to these new ideas and solutions and we would be interested to organize a talk by Thorkild specifically for local farmers. This is a useful role we can play at Ananda Gaorii.
The volunteers did a fantastic job cooking for the participants and seemed to have a great time doing it. We got lots of compliments about the food and the place and a few requests to come again to visit or volunteer. A followup workshop was also requested and we plan to repeat the workshop in 2016 also.