250 years of co-operation

Hey, ok not 250 years exactly, but this month we celebrate 250 since the birth of one of Wales’ most important sons, Mr Robert Owen.

Looking back at his work you can’t but help feel this man fully embraced permaculture ideas, even coming from such a different time and place. When I began my permaculture journey back in the early 90’s I realised that having a greater degree of control over my life was central to be able to make change in the world. For me this started with housing, land, instead of being a penniless tenant in drafty uninsulated damp rented house I wanted to be able to shape my world to a much greater degree. I asked, I looked, I had no idea how to do this.. until I stumbled onto co-operatives. And this is the theme of my post because without Mr Owen all those years ago would we even have the idea of a mutual company, one that existed for the benefit of its customers and users and for not its owners or investors?

In 1995 I was a co-founder of Chickenshack housing co-operative in Meirionnydd, 3 houses, 4 acres of land and an uninterupted view. Dedicated to permaculture and trying find the leading edge of the ecological shift, 8 of us moved in and an amazing adventure began. Robert Owen was manager of the World’s biggest cotton mill in 1800, he found the workers living in squalid unsanitary condtions working 7 days a week in a badly lit and dangerous factory making a fortune for its owners. He was appalled and this is what transformed him into a social pioneer, rejecting child labour, bringing in education, sanitation and access to land to grow for the workers. Before he left he created the first mutual company, a store that traded to benefit its customers, giving value and quality on basic products that previously were over priced and aldulterated. Loyal customers were retured a divident, a share in the profit of the store.

Owen saw the links between things, what makes a business thrive, what makes healthy soil, to invest in people to see their potential. Inspired by his work in 1844 the Rochdale pioneers created the first true co-operative and the quiet revolution began.2021, I now live at Dragons co-op in a different part of Wales but i am still building and working to those same values and have connections to a wide range of permaculture initiatives and projects and people.I would love to hear from people with similar interests who are on the same path.

I believe humanity must make a hig evolutionary step, this decade. To incorproate the reality that we are merely a part of a huge interconnected ecosystem called planet Earth, or rather the bioshsphere, that thin film of air and water in which we all swim. There are no countries, no divisions, those we see are a flaw of our own imagintion, homo sapiens is a single species, no race, no nationalities other than where we might happen to find ourselves within our bioshpere. The air we breath in was breated out by plants, as we continue to erode into our natural capital we erode into any possibility we have for a bright and abundant future. We have to do so much better than we are, and increasing numbers of people are realiszing this. Lets get busy and i would love to hear from you.

Steven Jones May 2021

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Dragons allotment notes March

Some notes to try and help on track of the allotment.

The Llanrhaeadr allotments started in the mid 200’s I think, and Nina who used to live at Pen y Lan wast the previous owner of ours. She had done a pdc and had a nice approach to it. When she had the twins it was too much for her so Grace and i took it on for 2 or 3 years, then it want back to Nina. That was when we agreed and the 7 ridge and furrow beds, and the idea was to use minimum of tillage. No dig is the aspiration.

We agreed to tray and maintain a good mix of perennial herbs on the ends of each beds to promote overwintering insects and keep the soil alive etc.

Bed 1. Mainly perennials on there.. Rhubarb, comfrey, cardoon. All produce lots of biomass for compost, and you can of course eat the rhubarb. We grew onions on the far ebd last year, and shallots. The bin is to force the Rhubarb to be tall, it seems to make quite a difference, we fed it heavily with grass cuttings mainly so far.

Bed 2. This was the main brassica bed in 2020. We grew Kale, chard also

Bed 3. We got a really good crop of leeks from 2020, still in march 2021 there are 60 to be harvested still

Bed 4. We called this the poly-bed in 2020 and tried mixing lots of things together, to varying degrees of success. The curly kale did well, over wintered and is starting to really grow again as it warms up.

Bed 5 We have been playing around with green manures, this has some phacaelia on it at the moment. It was very clumpy, we did crimson clover also last year. We did our main spuds here tin 2020 with as mulch on top as we could find. We could have done better though as the rain washes the milch down the raised beds so we had some green potatoes. but making it a little wider can fix that.

Bed 6 Onions from sets. We also popped in pumpkins and marrows around the edges all over

Bed 7 is a Hugl bed that Nina started in about 2012, we have added old rotten wood to it as much as we can, and see it as high carbon soil which will do well for propagating and growing fruit trees and berry bushes. There are the maiden apples on there that Han made on a grafting course in 2019 and some currents.

Compost plan for 2021

I want to make a classic old school hot compost heap and the allotment this spring. We have access to a good range of materials so i am determined to get it right if i possibly can. `It is all about getting the right carbon to nitrogen ration and a good airflow so that the thermophillic bacteria get get busy respiring and raise the temperate in the middle of the heap up to 70 degrees C. They are aerobic and need to breath if that are going to do all that hard work.

If a compost heap is bacterial bonfire then the best ingredients are air and moisture is a greatest diversity of microbes. We have cow, pig, duck and horse manure, all soaked into straw. Rotten wood-chip, some raw biochar and pile of half rotten weeds and clods form last years heap. Today was day there, no heat yet. Not enough critical mass to start the bonfire, so watch this space, we shall not be giving in to defeat. What i feel it is lacking is grass cuttings, nettle, too early in season for those. But I have access to horse manure.. also a palette of out of date fruit juice, so i might try feeding the heap some of that also.

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Blood donors needed in Llanfechain – this week!

30 appointments available in Llanfechain!

We urgently need blood donors in Llanfechain this week. Please book an appointment to help us save lives


30 apwyntiad ar gael yn Llanfechain!

Mae angen rhoddwyr gwaed arnom ar frys yn Llanfechain yr wythnos yma. Trefnwch apwyntiad i’n helpu i achub bywydau


Diolch o’r galon!

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Message from Wales Coop centre

You need to add a widget, row, or prebuilt layout before you’ll see anything here. 🙂
The easiest way for people to get together and create their own affordable housing solution is to set up a housing coop. A housing coop is a business whose sole purpose is to provide housing for its members. The business owns the house, but all of the members run the business and decide what goes on there. None of the members need capital. And the business can get a mortgage and find the deposit by attracting loan stock investment from supporters.

But it is also possible to lease a house as a housing coop. Bridging the capital gap and putting normally out of reach houses into the hands of people on low incomes.  This is the model used by Machynlleth Housing Coop, and you can watch my presentation about how that all works here:


But it is also now being used by the UK’s first student coop, who have had the backing of The Phone Coop. It’s a ground breaking new scheme because it leverages financial support from a large commercial organisation. It could be a model successfully adopted by Registered Social Landlords for example, or by other ethical commercial ventures who may see the benefit of having some assets in housing whilst still providing affordable homes.

Rhagfyr 11

Y ffordd haws i bobl dod at ei gilydd a chreu datrysiad tai fforddiadwy ar gyfer eu hun yw sefydlu tai cydweithredol. Mae’r busnes yn berchen ar y tŷ, ond mae’r holl aelodau yn rhedeg y busnes ac yn dewis beth sydd yn digwydd yna. Does dim angen buddsoddiad ymlaen llaw gan yr aelodau. Gall y busnes dod o hyd i forgais ac yn medru ffeindio blaendaliad trwy ddenu buddsoddiad ‘loanstock’ gan gefnogwyr.

Ond mae hefyd yn bosib prydlesu tŷ fel tai cydweithredol. Plygio’r bwlch ariannol a rhoi tai y tu allan i gyrraedd fel rheol mewn dwylo pobl ar gyflogau isel. Mae’r model yma yn cael ei ddefnyddio can Tai Cydweithredol Machynlleth, a gallwch wylio cyflwyniad ar sut mae’n gweithio yma:


Mae hefyd yn nawr cael ei ddefnyddio gan brosiect tai cydweithredol myfyriwr ar gyfer y tro cyntaf ym Mhrydain, sydd gyda chefnogaeth oddi wrth y Phone Coop. Mae’n gynllun sydd yn torri tir newydd achos mae’n sicrhau cefnogaeth ariannol gan sefydliad masnachol mawr. Gall fod yn fodel llwyddiannus ar gyfer cymdeithasau tai, neu gan fentrau masnachol moesegol eraill sydd yn gweld budd cael asedau fel tai ond yn dal medru darparu tai fforddiadwy.

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Want to join a pioneering co-operative community?

Dragons co-operative in Llanrhaeadr ym Mochnant are always interested in hearing from potential new members. Even if we dont have a place available you may join our waiting list.

We are a very small co-op but might be interested in expanding, with the help of new members and supporters. We have access to land locally and ;links to permaculture sites all over Wales and rest of the UK . We also have strong links to Uganda where members are involved in permaculture education and development. We remain committed to developing a strong base here in Mid Wales.

Dragons operates on Radical Routes model rules and has secondary rules based on the principles of permaculture design. Members are encouraged to study permaculture and to use it as an operating system for co-operation. We are financed 100% from ethical banks and private individuals, investment is not a requirement of membership but we are always happy to discuss investment opportunities with members and supporters.

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This coffee plants trees!

Coffee from Uganda – drinking our coffee can be part of your commitment to fighting climate change

Excited to announce our first batch of coffee from Mt Elgon is here, we working out the best ways to get it out there. It is excellent quality, we are really pleased with the aroma, colour and taste, its wonderful.

We hope to build a long term relationship with our friends at Mt Elgon Coffee and Honey Co-operative and through this partnership we can contribute directly in the reafforestation of this remarkable and special landscape.

The story of how this came about is a long and interesting one. Wales — Africa links are deep and strong and has greatly affected my life and many of the people I work with through Sector39. In an attempt to share some of that journey i put the video reel below together I a working on a narration. I need to make it much snappier but its an on-going project for now.

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Invest in co-operation

invest in co-operatives

Dragons aims to raise £12,000 loanstock by the end of 2020.

£3,000 to replace an existing investor and £9,000 new loanstock, offered at 2-4% to invest in essential roof improvements to the house. As custodians of a 400 year old build we are coming to terms with our long-term responsibilities to the building.

With bank rates at an historic low (< 1%), it has never been a better time to invest in the social economy. Borrowing money even from ethical banks is still expensive, they have to make their margin too, and as a small enterprise we can be charged up to 7% for new loans or 5% for a mortgage, so private investors can benefit from this disparity.

You may choose your own interest rate (up to 4%), to get this fantastic rate you are only required to commit for three years minimum.  Withdrawal is by negotiation – the larger the sum to more notice is required. There is a fully legal contract supplied and your loan is secured against the value of the house, so it is risk free. The co-op is contracted to pay an annual interest payment, usually on the same day each year.

Contact us directly if you would like to know more about this great investment scheme!

dragons housing cooperatice, #permaculture #wales
The roof facing us us is desperate need of some tlc, removing the slares, replacing any damaged batons and adding
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Investing in co-operatives – a very sound investment

There is such a thing as loanstock. Many fully mutual housing co–ops raise part of their capital by offering out loanstock to investors, a low interest investment secured against the value of the house. It is a bricks and mortar very safe investment. Money borrowed from a bank as a mortgage costs in the region of 5%, higher than domestic mortgage, but as  co-op we pay a commercial rate plus, we are customers of Triodos bank, an ethical bank with high standards but consequently not the very cheapest to borrow from. We have been offering 4% on loanstock, and indeed we have some we need to replace currently and with interest rates at historic lows its a sound bet.

I trained as a teacher, completing a PGCE in Economic and Business Studies, and later taught for 4 terms in Reading before I moved to Wales, so i kind of the subject in my blood stream. I really enjoy the Uneducated Economist on YouTube for his wry and insightful observations on economic themes. In this episode we speculates about the likelihood of negative interest rates. This chimed deeply with me, its some thing max Keiser talks about on is RT progam Keiser Report. Of course you have to get rid of cash to make negative interest rates happen effectively and it seems almost certain that we are goign to begin to experience that soon, especially as Uneducated Economist speculates when we move to UBI stimuli to try and restart the collapsing world economy.

Investing in social infrastructure such as affordable, ecologically responsible housing makes a a lot of sense. One Planet Development ideas here in Wales are also really opening up the possibility for whole new ways of living. More collaborative, with a localised lifestyple and much more closely connected to the land.

I might suggest that it is a time to think about investing in co-ops – those who have funds to invest, many don’t of course, but maybe they might have initiative and drive to offer instead. This kind of mutual could unlock and whole raft of possibilities.

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Celebrating 25 years of co-operation, Chickenshack

In the early 90’s I was living in Zimbabwe along with my friend Sue, we were studying and working in permaculture and setting the course for a life we hoped to live. I had ran away from UK to Africa for adventure, to learn and to escape Thatcher’s Britain. I didn’t know what I wanted to do, just what I didn’t want to do, all of that changed in Zimbabwe. I learned that Africa was always in some way gong to be part of my life, it had changed me and my life purpose and direction was to embed myself in the world of alternatives to planetary destruction. Permaculture is a path of regeneration and healing, and I decided to dedicate my life to that, without having an idea where it would take me.

By 1995 I was living in the Welsh mountains within a wider community, one that was very much committed to finding alternatives and different kinds of lifestyles. I learned about housing co-operatives through Radical Routes, joined the Permaculture Association and started working at the Centre for Alternative Technology, total immersion. 25 years later I am living in a different part of Wales, still in a co-op and working full time in permaculture education with the S39 Academy of Permaculture.

It has been an incredible journey and during that time I have taught on 42 Permaculture Design course, and counting as well as reconnecting to Africa, this time to Uganda where we are developing a network of demonstration and training hubs in Uganda and in 2 neighbouring countries.

Sector39 are based in Wales and teach permaculture design and co-ordinate permaculture education. We are currently developing the S39 Permaculture Academy. It is our conviction that permaculture design is one of the most powerful tools available to address the ecological catastrophe that is happening around us.

Can we empower people to become active enough to be the solution and not the cause of the problem? We believe this to be possible and this gives us great hope and a positive and creative direction to move forward in.

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Mondragon Cyrmu – a vision for the post carbon world

The invitation letter is Above
Sorry for so many words, I think there is much at stake and therefore we need to think this through in advance.

This is a time for big ambition and long term thinking as the global economy hits the re-set button; what good examples are there that we can learn from? Well here is a really good one, Mondragon. It is the biggest most successful co-operative in the World I believe and is in the Basque country in Spain. There are of a size that they have their own bank and university, outside of the capitalist for-profit system and have integrated together 100’s of business in every sector, retail, manufacturing, you name it.

It is regionally based, so it concentrates itself on meeting the needs of the Basque community drawing largely on the resources and skills of the region. There is no better explanation that I know this than the one presented by Prof Richard Wolf in the lecture below.

He sets out the economic ground rules gives an up to date overview of where socialism is now in the 21st century.

This powerful lecture gives a clear indication of the way forward
– double click to get a full screen window
History matters, so it is worth thinking about the impact of previous pandemics and how they reshaped the economies of the time
If we are to re-boot the economy what kind of economy are we trying to create?
Newtown community horticulture space, the root that created Cae Bodfach Llanafyllin

Mondragon Cymru?

More background on co-operatives, this is time a meeting with Robert Owen, originator of the first ever mutual company and the 7 cor principles of co-operation, the bedrock which all co-ops around the world have in common.

Slideshow will download as a PDF and you may stream the audio track to go with it from below. – this is S39’s main public lecture on co-ops and serves a good introduction to the core principles and why.


Co-operative principles and origins and the vision for Dragons co-op 40 mins

Watch the videos, to understand the proposal you have to have the foundation stone concepts in place already, Prof Wolfe explains basic concepts of economic theory that underpin co-operatives better than i ever could. You may also see the S39 presentation co-op principles above, supplorted the above audio track

The second video puts the pandemic into an historical context, they have happened before and we can begin to see the patterns and what might come next.

The third video explores the nature of the kind of economic recovery we have to make. How can we make this is in line with our co-operative and permaculture principles and ethics? The proposal under development this week is outlining how we might successfully build on the work we have achieved together over the last 25 years to collaboratively create a future that works for all of us.

I added a slide show of Cultivate which Yossi and I went to visit recently and caught in all its spring glory. This is a 3 acre horticulture hub developed by Sector39 and Cwm Harry between 2010 and 2015. This project also is what planted the seeds that is now Cae Bodfach.


Thursday’s Zoom meeting will open to all who want to better understand this proposal. We will be inviting the Wales Co-op society and other members of our wider stakeholder group as well. The presentation will be recorded and re-posted here so that any one who missed it, or couldn’t figure out the technology can view again in their own time.

Key point at this stage we are developing the overall proposal and looking at the bigger picture, am deliberately trying to avoid becoming bogged down in details at this point, all that is to come. The proposal launched on 14th May is available below.

This is the recording of the live presentation

Thank you to everyone for joining us on our co-operative journey!

I honestly believe we can help shape the world by committing strongly to a common and ambitious vision, such as this

Steven Jones, Sector39/ Dragons co-op
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