About Rural System

I've tried to describe Rural System differently on 13 different occasions. I thought I failed each time. I shall try again. This time let me start with a dozen little "stories"

1 I told a logger. He saw right through it. "Oh, all you're doing is trying to give the forest landowner annual income."

2 I told a home-schooling mom about it briefly at a Christmas party. "Oh, that's just Ayn Rand," (The Fountainhead, 1943 and Atlas Shrugged, 1957) she said, and went for refreshments.

3 I told a Roanoke entrepreneur about Rural System. "My god! It's high tech and low tech, big business and small business, for-profit and not-for-profit, short term and with a silly 150-year horizon. It's ecological
The system does work
and economic, no parts will make profit but together they all can, land and water, forestry but also crops, wild animals but also livestock, poems as well as pasture, and it's 'way out there on the future of the Internet talking about rural history. Its profitable and charitable, it's citizen-owned, doing governmental things in a capitalistic way. You don't want to make great personal financial gains, but you have to prove your point that making profits is the major way to achieve a sustained high quality rural environment. It hurts! I can't get my brain around it!" I apologized and suggested taking a little time, letting it add up, letting it come together like pieces of a jigsaw, like parts of a car being assembled. When well-designed and crafted pieces come together, they, together, can be a thing of beauty.

4Another advisor said: "Write it more briefly; get it into a page. Reduce the 200 pages; group the 70 enterprises into three or four .. and give me more information about each one and add material on competition and detailed budgets." I succeeded in getting it to one page in the box.

Rural System is a proposed philanthropic, for-profit corporation, a citizen-owned conglomerate of over 70 small natural-resource-related enterprises. Some of the enterprises, subsystems, are new, some very old. The corporation is a system doing modern, sophisticated, computer-aided management of the lands and waters of an eastern US region in order to sustain long-term profits and quality of life for citizens. Concentrating on outdoor recreation, specialized tourism and rural development, including forest and wildlife management, it works on preserving some areas and restoring, enhancing, and gaining lasting profit production from the total rural resource base.

The umbrella entity may use national and state lands and waters but, most importantly, it provides opportunities for the owners of private lands and waters (often absentee owners) to experience profits related to superior land management. While managing the assets of such lands, Rural System provides related services and products from the unified business units. Half of these units work from the managed lands called Rural System Tracts (about 300,000 acres of privately-owned land), units that are under contract. A central managerial unit provides incubator-like services and allows the corporation to harvest public research investments, to achieve economies of scale and division of labor, to gain synergism, and to stabilize employment.

The enterprise leads the region in computer-aided, year-around, private land management. It shares funds with citizens and originators. It links citizens as well as visitors to the land and its long-term potentials for profits. It provides an alternative regional identity, one of a place for modern rural resource development and management. It links buyers and users with producers of certified forest products and wildland resource opportunities from well-managed rural land and water resources. Successes are achieved via diligent work with personal incentives, diverse enterprises and products, and computer optimization of a total system. It affiliates with and potentiates existing enterprises. It overcomes the old failures of natural resource management, i.e., diseconomies of small-scale operations, mixed objectives, lack of diversity, seasonal work and special events, lack of area-wide annual income, and failure to add value to products and efforts. It capitalizes on innovative uses of the Internet, global positioning satellites, and computer mapping that can provide precision in site-specific work throughout the region.

The vision for the enterprise is that its success in improving the social, economic, and environmental health of the region can allow the enterprise to become more effective and expand. It invests in private land to enhance their productivity. Thus, similar influences can be transferred, years later, throughout Virginia, then internationally. The work will be recognized as the product of a special paradigm in rural resource and wildland management. As such, Rural System will become a profitable conglomerate operating well past this century, given its 150-year planning horizon sliding forward annually.

5 Everyone wants details on the area of their special knowledge or expertise. Seems reasonable. By analogy, discussing the details of a fine carburetor will not describe the power and functions of a new vehicle. A vehicle can be sketched or shown. Rural System is a vast corporation. There are no known identical "things." ... pointing: like that! Great investment is needed for the
model, the prototype. That prototype, with the major parts being symbolized at the corners of a tetrahedron, would include:

  1. A centralized management and efficiency-gaining service group for all enterprises
  2. 70 proposed rural-resource related enterprises and about 30 products (in 6 grossly-named divisions)
  3. Rural System Tracts - private lands under contract for management, joint profit making, and many uses of the enterprises
  4. A crew serving Tracts and enterprises

6 Jake visited the farm pond of the land owner, a new contractee. The pond had been located using satellites and GIS. It fit into a design for 50 ponds working together as a total system, each favoring certain fish species, fish sizes , contests, and angling techniques ... some for children only. He used new Rural System techniques to measure the size of the pond and recorded its depths from a small boat. In the office he downloaded data that instantaneously produced a map and a three-dimensional picture of the pond for the owner but also produced data for his analysis. Then he sent his handfull of earth to the lab ... gradually building a record for the distribution of soil data for the region. Then he emailed suggestions to other System staff, one to work with the owner on the grazed forest tract at the edge of the watershed, another to get help on the muskrats in the dam (an investment by Rural System in the private land), another to record the likely new plants in a cove at the upper edge of the pond, another to get a photo of a moss-covered rocky bank for note cards being sold. Jake was one fishery staff member... but he was working with everyone for sustaining and perhaps increasing total system profits. These were essential for the company, but more importantly the rural region.

7 One day while pondering the economics of the wildlife resource, I tumbled over the analogy of American football. Of course, the leather football on the playing field is important, but the total football enterprise is very large and diverse. It includes uniforms, the stadium, food, drink, clothing, advertising, grounds, publications, fan clubs, and more. Wildlife is like that. The ball is important, but, compared to the greater football enterprise, it is almost irrelevant. By analogy, the wild animal is essential, but in the context of a total regional rural recreational and viable economic land use system, that entity may be almost irrelevant. Perhaps people in forestry or wildlife management or farming have had their "eye of the ball" too long. Perhaps just attracting visitors (as in ecotourism) or producing more wild animals has not served us well and now it is time to concentrate on the total rural and natural resource enterprise, or more specifically, on profits from any and all legal reasonable means that enhance the quality of life.

By analogy with football, when it comes to the regional problems, we have talked about "ball handling" too long. We have talked about trees, raccoons, and about fish, and complained about environmental regulations. We've been "brought up" to ask for agency and government help. We can ask for help, but that has not been and may not be forthcoming, and then it can be stopped just before a payoff, and there has been little change after 50 years of spending the little that has been provided. We are in the grip of all of the limitations of the single "cottage industry." We have rarely pondered the potentials of an integrated regional enterprise. We have been independent landowners! We can be independent ... and lose something we hold in common, the vital county. We need some group work.

8 The Owl Story - Once upon a time Rural System's Owls Group advertised an adventure. A great meal at a fine local restaurant was followed by a comfortable bus trip to a nearby area, and the people filed out into the dary and were led along a soft path to an area where staff played a record and "called up" a large owl, later a screech owl. Standing there, the group was told more about the owls, their ecology, their needs and threats. Night-vision devices were displayed and discussed. The group went farther down the path and there experienced a remarkable campfire, music, stories, and then a pleasant return to town. The evening was profitable for Rural System, helped with employment, stimulated a research research project, initiated a library study on a species of shrew upon which the owl preys, allowed 4 people to start a bird-species-observation life list and 2 others to add the owls to their life list, gave a graduate student lecturer experience, stabilized bus,restaurant, and catering services, used land of a Rural System Tract, and encouraged two local artists... and no one shot or ate an owl! The rural resource was used and the unique, mysterious, tingling evening event lived in the memory of 30 participants forever. ... and 30 such events were conducted each year.

9 One listener, just hearing about hunting, hiking and camping, said, "With so much public land, what makes you think this will work?" Public lands are over crowded. The quality of experiences there declines. They have shifting, unsure objectives. We work for diverse experiences. We assure high quality, safe experiences. We favor members who have at least minimum education about expectations when visiting our lands and waters under contract. We'll compete and will work on private lands, the vast US that is hardly addressed by current agencies, understaffed for the special areas they now hold and on which they do little management. Of course we will contract with them for special services, but our work is making private land , the working platform, more productive and converting that productivity into profits for the land owner. We have to sustain that profit by careful controls, increasingly precise information, creative strategies, and by using computer optimization. Will it work? It has to, or all of the articles about modern conservation, sustainability, ecotourism, and ecosystem management have wasted a lot of paper.

10 "Let's just talk about forest profits," said one eager participant. I told him that land owners don't pay taxes on pines, pigs, or pastures. They pay on everything, all together. Annual profits are not average over time but totaled over land. Profitable forestry only makes sense within the profitable farm. Superior livestock raising mean nothing if the farm is in bankruptcy. "Sustained forestry" is silly unless it is profit from wood that is being sustained. It is equally silly to ignore the other financial gains possible from land in the name of sustained "anything" if it destroys the resource base, employment opportunities, the tax base, and the scale of operations essential for community services. We know land is beautiful, historical, even mystical and all of that, but we think of it as a creative rural platform, an artist's pallet, on which we can do anything just as long as it is legal, region-enhancing, and profitable within bounds over a period of at least 150 years, sliding forward a year, each year. We tend to favor the natural conditions and energy budgets to reduce costs and avoid risks but we are not constrained by them.We have to restore, enhance, and manage the total land resource (including above and below the surface) very, very carefully, and that is only possible with computer help, if we are ever to achieve profitability that sustains such activity.

Above is a graph of likely managed system profits over the planning period. Forming the desired condition for 150 years is difficult. A is the decided objective.B is the upper bound for the objective. C shows poor management or weather, competition effects, or other problems. D is the lower bound for the objective. It may not be the same distance away as B. Diversity and other action can allow the system to recover from environmental, market, or other slippage (shown at E). Keeping F, the measure of profitability, within the bounds over time is the task.Maximizing it briefly will not sustain it, resources, or the people dependent upon them.

11 Some people like to see sketches of organizations. Here are four ways that Rural System or its organization can be seen:
A - System Central
B - Shared Work Crews
C - Enterprises
D - Land
E - Concepts and
Computer Functions

12 Rural System, or something like it, is needed to assure that private productive lands (a Virginia region...but eventually Earth-around...consistent with the World Bank's environmental strategy) are restored, protected, and managed for us and our children. It is for investing in ourselves for our own well-being. It is for learning how to manage where we live and work, where we find peace, and where we feel good about producing food and fiber and other things (SPSEOVIIIMM) needed by all citizens trying to gain happy, successful, fulfilling lives.

No more stories. Who are the people that do it? I believe in something based on trust and the workers! Link to the answer.
The bottom line ?

What's it really?

An advanced for-profit corporation with many computer-aided enterprises seeking ways to improve resource use and thus conditions in rural areas of the US and Earth. Enhancing the environment and providing employment are expenses of the diverse, value-adding, synergistic work of the incentive-driven team that has found ways to overcome the limitations of small-scale farm operations, thus benefitting rural areas of a region. Franchized regionally, it exploits high technology, research results, and new uses of private lands and waters.

October 20, 2004