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"Talking it out" by Beth Weick, as published in North Country News, October 2010

"How do you know what to do each day?" (That one is fairly common.)

"Ok, but who's in charge?" (Give me a dollar every time that's asked and I'd be the richest farmer around)

Folks seem to be pleading with me to hear that there is one boss, or to-do list handed down from powers above, or that specialized duties fit a single category easily defined and quickly learned. But, like so much else about D Acres Farm & Educational Homestead…reality just isn't that predictable nor that narrow, nor that simply explained.

At least at first. My wager, though, is that our system of consensus decision-making, sharing responsibility, maintaining accountability, and developing skills…well, it asks the individual to flourish while also strengthening community.

The process of consensus and collaboration can present its challenges, yes. There are always varying levels of experience, knowledge, and age to balance, and personality strengths & weakness must be considered. While the "buck stops here" is applied to everyone, each individual is given the skills and the support to fulfill that responsibility. As opposed to a more hierarchical power structure, consensus cultivates teamwork, clear communication, cooperative processes, mutual respect, tolerance, and diversity.

So here at D Acres, that means we sit together each Monday afternoon, and work through our plans…for all the details we need to cover. From who's feeding the pigs, to who's doing the laundry, from who's weeding the kale to who's splitting the wood, we talk it out until we're all on the same page. This is how I know what to do each day, and why it's not a simple answer to 'who's in charge.' We work together, plan together, learn from each other, and hold each other accountable. It's a proverbial two-way street, for sure.

But this is just scratching the surface. Far more explicative tomes have been penned on consensus and group processes. If you're interested, however - be it for personal use or for a specific organization you are part of – here's what I recommend:

Check out Cultivating Collaborative Processes: Tools for Cooperative Decision Making, a training session we are hosting Saturday, November 13. This day-long workshop will be led by professional facilitator and certified mediator Irene Garvey. Attendees will spend the day cultivating skills for productive and effective meetings that are fun, fair, and value diversity. The workshop, running 9am-4:30pm, is looking to educate participants in ways to transcend the typical meeting structure (i.e. Robert's Rule of Order). Whether you are a part of a service group, an organization's board of directors, a community volunteer, or a project committee, there are skills and tools pertinent to your circumstances.

Productive communication and effective decision-making takes practice, I'll vouch for that. And it takes time. So begin the process now. Contact D Acres with further inquiries or for registration information: 603-786-2366 or info@dacres.org.

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