Saturday, March 09, 2013


"Sustainable, that's your word for the year," said my boss when we were having a discussion about park programs. Cool, that's easy, I've been using that word in conjunction with homesteading and agriculture for decades. I can do that.

And then I worked to apply it to work. Basically my understanding of the concept:
Inputs need to meet or exceed outputs.
All aspects need to be covered.
The goal is the betterment of the organization (land); community (flocks), etc.

and then I went back to the definition: (Merriam-Webster.comand the definition for non-English speakers was easier to understand )
1 : able to be used without being completely used up or destroyed 
 sustainable energy resources  a sustainable water supply
2 : involving methods that do not completely use up or destroy natural resources 
 sustainable agriculture/farming/techniques
3 : able to last or continue for a long time 
 sustainable development/growth

And then I began to question equivalencies -
If we create a great program that allows us to advertise something cool going on at the park, is it a good thing that when all the money shakes out, this program - that possibly brought new awareness of the park to X number of people - only cost us $42? Or is it a bad thing that it did not have a positive cash flow? How do we rank outcomes?

On the farm, my sheep will never make money, especially in a drought or wet or... year. But, my sheep and goats, the wool, fiber, milk, offspring, manure and mowing they provide are a vital part of our farm and our lifestyle. Through the stories I write about them, they promote our crafts and our products. The friends we have found through these stories, shows we do and online communication have enriched our lives and help support the sheep and goats through their caring, support, comments and purchases. These relationships don't have a dollar value.

And there are the unknowns. How much is my goat milk saving me on health care? How much is being outside with my animals and garden worth?

Through having a variety of fleeces, textures and combinations, I  continue to improve and create in my fiber crafts. Through hours of practice, I gain the skills to teach others these arts. Dollarwise, the flocks are never going to show a profit, but by just being there for me to care for them, they are worth what ever I can afford.

And we are back to Sustainable. What does a real balance sheet look like? Yes, there is your dollar income and outgo, but with all of life, there is more than that. How do you define Sustainable?

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