Individuals may pick and choose what ways and on what
levels of involvement
which they participate in the larger Burr Oak Center project.
Board of Directors members | core-community members | primary partners | associated partners
support-team members | interns | volunteers | guests and visitors
Board of Directors members
Since TRACES inception as a non-profit 501 (c)(3) organization in September 2001, Board of Directors members have played a key role in its existence. Teachers of elementary to college students, farmers, real estate agents, scientists, artists, civil servants and other professionals have represented TRACES’ mission while also overseeing and monitoring its operation. (Click here to see a list of former board members.) Current members serve to advance both the organization’s historical and its expanded, ecological mission, for with its new Burr Oak sub-project TRACES ventures into new territory. As in the past, Board of Directors members may vote to approve or reject proposals, but they may not profit financially directly from their association with the project. They receive neither salary nor wages from TRACES, nor may (for instance) market produce raised on their land with intern labor, even if TRACES “borrows” land from them for instructional purposes (i.e., how to establish crops, prepare beds, control weeds organically, etc.).
Board of Directors members meet four times a year to consider proposed courses of short- or long-term action, policy revisions and the organization’s economic vitality, regarding both the historical and ecological parts of TRACES’ multi-facetted project. They also often serve as the “public face” of the organization, representing it in a variety of contexts. Any time devoted to advancing this work beyond the four seasonal meetings is purely discretionary, greatly appreciated and seen as a “free-will offering”. Board members are not obligated to meet any of the “norms or expectations” assumed of those who choose closer involvement with the project.
An ever-shifting collection of on-site staff, resident interns and rotating guests constitute the long- as well as short-term residents of the Burr Oak Center. Non-transient residents who have fulfilled the membership application process constitute a “core community” that forms the nucleus of the numerous “particles” that orbit the heart of TRACES’ ecological project. Core-community members live, work, and recreate full-time in a set of houses owned by TRACES that comprises the Burr Oak Center campus. (At present, they live primarily in the so-called Big Blue.)
Generally, each member fills a specific role in the larger project. On one level, they serve as the instructors for resident interns as well as committed laborers who carry out the work needed for the overall project to function. On another, they constitute the stabilizing heart of what sustains TRACES’ overall ecological project.
Core-community members may own shares of the project’s financial stock, if they wish. They possess the right to vote during core-community meetings but may not, however, belong to nor vote with the Board of Directors, due to conflicts of interest. They agree to live by or amend a continually evolving set of “norms and expectations”; a kind of covenant with other core-community members, the cooperative and community documents codify how some seven adults and perhaps a handful of children share the work and financing necessary for the Burr Oak Center project to thrive, let alone survive.
As of this writing (December 2009) 19 people—as individuals, couples or families—are primary partners of the Burr Oak Center for Durable Culture, living at five sites in two states (four in Monona County/Iowa, one in rural Nebraska, about an hour’s drive west of Omaha). Among them, these people work, socialize, eat, laugh, dream and, yes, at times disagree or even conflict with one another. We support each other in tangible as well as non-materials ways. We are, in short, a multi-site project, which centers around an extended community of people with common goals and some core shared values. The number of community members will expand and contract, as some fall away, for whatever reason, others come as resident interns or “significant others”. Each brings unique experiences and special skills; all are building something new and precious. What endures is a project far larger than any sum of its participants.
Primary partners are those individuals, couples or families who generate organic produce or related services, and participate in the basic operation of MORIVA, the cooperative marketing structure, the geographic reach of which stretches from Yankton/South Dakota to Nebraska City/Nebraska. Primary partners help steer the coop’s development and sustain its well-being; they may, or not, own shares of its financial capital, or staff counters or stalls at farmers markets, etc., as suits their needs and abilities. They likely participate in MORIVA’s “equipment library” or “intern pool”. Like Board of Directors members and associated partners, primary partners should be aware of and respect the core-community’s “norms and expectations” but are not expected to live by them.
Individuals, couples, families or organizations that cooperate with the Burr Oak project may never visit the Center in Turin/Iowa—or, they may come regularly, under various contexts. No matter the degree to which “partners” interact with it, though, just through their association they help the Burr Oak Center make a lasting contribution to finding new, more fulfilling ways forward.
Associated partners include other organic producers who market their goods (or complementary services) through MORIVA, or participate in its equipment library or intern pool, but who do not participate in its decision making or execution. If they wish, they may buy shares and may volunteer to staff MORIVA’s market presences—but they are not expected to do either. Associated partners can consist of individuals, couples, families or—unlike with primary partnerships—organizations, the members of groups such as other cooperatives, non-profit educational bodies, nature-conservation societies, etc.
A major goal of this project involves creating decently paid, meaningful work for as many local residents as possible. Those who work with core-community members on a regular basis can become “support-team” staff after 13 months of working with the community; such status entails its own advantages: non-binding influence on decision making, access to group healthcare, discounts on child care and food, etc. Support-team members assist in carrying out the project’s practical operations. They work—waged or salaried—with core members, interns or other staff, part- or full-time, seasonally or year round. Their opinions and suggestions are important and welcome, but they may not vote at core-community meetings nor belong to the Board of Directors. Like non-resident interns, guests or visitors who pass through Burr Oak briefly, support-team members need to be aware of and respect the agreed-upon norms and expectations by which the core-community members share life at the Center, even if understanding does not denote full agreement or acceptance with them.
Resident interns include on-site learners who come to the Burr Oak School to acquire specific knowledge or skills. They may be adults of any age, for stays of at least one quarter, or up to one year. Instructors offer a comprehensive curriculum. Resident interns focus as a "major"* on at least one of ten main study areas: 1) organic gardening/farming, 2) small livestock, 3) carpentry or other practical arts, 4) alternative energy generation and usage, 5) independent or cooperative marketing, and operational financing, 6) health and wellness, 7) prairie/woodland restoration and management, 8) green "transition" methods, 9) food arts, and 10) [rural] community [re-]building. [*They may declare an additional major or two minors in any of the remaining nine main study areas.] Constituting an eleventh area to complement any of the above five a given intern chooses to study, in conjunction with the instructors, all resident interns must create an independent-study project, parallel to their other studies, which deepens their understanding of the five other areas they have chosen to learn intensively.
At this point in the young Burr Oak School's evolution, credit will not be awarded by the BOC but, if at all, by accredited sponsoring institutions of higher learning in conjunction with these internships. The BOC, however, will certifiy for all resident as well as non-resident interns the dates of their attendance, the average on-project hours per week, the tasks involved, and the skill sets either used and practiced, or acquired. Tasks related to daily life (cooking, washing, cleaning, etc.) will be divided evenly by all adult and teenage residents.
Interns may or not pay for training—depending on the intensity of their involvement and form of their “training”—and some stipends and work-study may be available. Resident interns live on-site and enrich the larger community; their opinions are welcome, but they may not vote at board or community meetings. As with others, core-community members expect resident interns to be well-aware of and fully respect the Center’s agreed-upon norms and expectations, even if understanding them does not denote full agreement.
Non-resident interns consist of non-resident, on-site learners, of any adult age, for stays of various durations. (Minors may attend weekend workshops or extended summer camps, for example, but they are not Burr Oak’s primary target age-group learners.) Non-resident interns focus on any of the main study areas, or might integrate their own ideas. All non-resident interns must work with their sponsoring instructors (if they are earning credit from another educational institution) or Burr Oak instructors (if they are solely earning a BOC certificate of a completed internship) to create an independent-study project, parallel to their other studies, which deepens their understanding of the area(s) they have chosen to learn intensively. Tasks related to a non-residential internship experience at the Burr Oak Center will be divided evenly by all affected (meals, toilet use, overnight lodging, etc.). Some stipends and work-study may be available. Core-community members expect non-resident interns to be aware of and respect the Center’s agreed-upon norms and expectations.
Individual volunteers contribute to any non-profit project in invaluable ways. Hundreds of people have donated time, materials, funds, in-kind and other assets since TRACES began operations in 2001. (Click here to see a list of former and current volunteers.) Some volunteer one time, others many times; some give a great deal, others less—but all give what they can, and what they so generously offer makes a genuine difference in the fortunes of this or any other socially-oriented/–useful organization.
Burr Oak’s “guests” include friends, relatives of members, or other individuals invited to stay at least overnight, if not longer-term, up to three weeks. (After three days, the BOC requests a donation to cover food and other stay-related costs.) They typically come for specific reasons. Either upon their own initiative or per invitation, they come to learn, to teach, to work, to play, or simply “be”. They enrich what we do, and we, in turn, enrich their lives. Together, we make the world a better place.
Speaking from experience, guests and visitors to communities often receive less than exemplary treatment. Even if they often repeat “irritating” questions already asked a zillion times and unknowingly test any number of community norms, though, in most cases they come out of genuine good will, with express interest to learn about life in community. Even when BOC residents and support-team members are tired or stressed, even if they've already greeted scores of newcomers on a given day... they attempt to treat even “imperfect” visitors or guests with respect and understanding. Who knows: they later may become allies or advocates of the Burr Oak Center—and perhaps even, someday, repeat or long-term guests.
Our visitors come to Burr Oak for up to a day and usually don’t stay overnight; they come on a more casual basis, from nearby and from much further afield. We welcome all who come to us with open minds and open hearts.