That’s right: Local Nomad has moved to Local Nomad.
That’s right: Local Nomad has moved to Local Nomad.
A couple years ago, when I was finishing my Ph.D. dissertation, I was a briefly a member of NextSpace, a coworking space in Santa Cruz, CA, one of many now being created in locations globally (there’s even a coworking space in Mongolia!).
Even though I didn’t have much chance to participate in the community, I enjoyed the relaxed, friendly, serendipitous atmosphere, and the busy feeling of people at work. Had I been an entrepreneur or job hunting, there were frequent chances to meet other workers and attend workshops, and I knew there was great potential there to find collaborators, mentors, and more importantly, jobs. I got a lot of work done at NextSpace (which, by the way, now has locations in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and San Jose). Coworking definitely is not the same as cubicle working, and it’s not “just” shared office space.
At home, it is easy to distract myself, even though there are no children in the house. In the isolation of home, it can be hard to keep up a momentum. The silence seems to announce that it’s time to do anything but work. The buzz of co-workers around me makes me feel and be more productive.
Coworking refers to a shared work environment and a set of community and cultural values that guide the development and operation of office space: facilities where freelancers, entrepreneurs, telecommuters, and drop-ins work side-by-side. The benefits of a coworking space come from allowing independent and startup ventures to bypass rote logistical obstacles, like obtaining office or workshop space, and from valuing a free-form collaborative environment for sharing resources, expertise, and ideas. —Mark W. Kidd
Still, I eventually gave up my membership. I didn’t return, even after I finished my Ph.D. and became a part-time lecturer and free-lance editor and writer.
In “Why People Don’t CoWork Yet,” Carsten Foertsch looks at the possible reasons why people don’t cowork:
The two most important reasons first: either there is simply no coworking space in their vicinity, or they are tied to jobs in companies. About one in eight non-coworkers said price was a barrier to their participation – but sadly these people are the ones who could benefit the most from coworking…About a third of these respondents are not yet coworkers because no such facility exists anywhere near them.
Right. I live in rural Elkhorn, some 25 miles from NextSpace. Elkhorn isn’t even recognized as a “town” by locals; it’s the site of a large wetlands area and wildlife preserve that draws kayakers, wildlife enthuasiasts, and people who love the area. The drive to Santa Cruz cost me gas and time, as well as the monthly fee for membership, so in the end, it didn’t seem quite worth it. (Note: most coworking spaces charge minimal fee for membership and rent. At least one space, Gangplank, in Arizona, provides coworking space for free, based on a social capital model).
The “rural” label I apply to my local area is a little misleading; Elkhorn is situated within a few miles of various small towns like Prunedale, Castroville, Moss Landing, and Watsonville, all communities with small libraries and community centers, and main streets with empty or underutilized commercial spaces for rent (as well as stores, restaurants, and other businesses in operation).
Coworking has been mainly an urban and suburban phenomenon. Nevertheless, I have often thought that a rural coworking space would be useful in this area. Rural folks are feeling the impact of the economy too. Like everyone else, many here have lost their jobs, and have resorted to freelancing and juggling multiple jobs to make ends meet.
It would seem that rural areas can’t provide much infrastructure for a community of freelance workers or small entrepreneurs and crafters. Yet, increasingly, rural coworking spaces are popping up. Quoted in The Daily Yonder, Garrio Harrison, who is involved in a coworking site in rural Minnesota, says that the basics you need for coworking include “coffee, desk space, and reliable wifi Internet access,” although it wouldn’t hurt to have printers and scanners, a conference room, and a lounge.
How to cowork in Tok, Alaska (by Aliza Sherman):
1. My house
2. Her house
3. Fast Eddy’s
4. the Grumpy Griz
5. Another location (library?)
6. Skype or Google Video
The heavy IT focus of urban and suburban coworking models and technology driven business incubators such as the local Marina Technology Cluster may not work as well in a rural setting, where, I suspect, a community that equally welcomes small business entrepreneurs, crafters, IT folks, as well as writers and other creative types will be important. Coworking should also be open to diverse cultures and generations of creative workers.
In an interview in Deskmag with rural coworkers, Joel reported that coworkers in his area “place a high emphasis on meeting and interaction with other small business people and entrepreneurs. And our biggest events are the ones where networking and interaction are the focus.” Frederik commented that “coworking offers a new perspective and different opportunities since it is a little hard to build interest groups around specific vocations in small towns.”
I also think that those who go into the coworking scheme thinking mostly about “what it will do for me” may be taking the wrong path. While coworking should definitely nurture individual needs, it’s also very much about community, and creating a vibrant space for local workers and entrepreneurs to thrive. So you have to ask, What can coworking do for small towns like Castroville, Prunedale, Moss Landing, or Watsonville?
Jessica Stillman points out that remote workers who utilize coworking space put money back into the community. “NextSpace [in Santa Cruz] used an economic development model to sell the idea of coworking to the local authorities, noting that while it might be hard to attract a big employer to airport-less Santa Cruz, there was little stopping individual remote workers from basing themselves there.
“We realized after chasing a lot of companies that instead of attracting one 200-person business, we should attract 200 one-person businesses. The economic impact is bigger, and some of those businesses will grow,” the mayor explained.”
But how to start a coworking space in this area?
Well, you may have to start by making “Jelly.” That is, gather together a group of people who are interested in coworking. Gauge the local interest. Meet in a space that has Wifi and hopefully coffee and snacks (a cafe, house, library, community center, empty storefront). Add a dash of talk, ideas, creativity, work to do, and enthusiasm, and you may just have the beginnings of a coworking community. It’s not hard to find articles on how to start Jellies. Check out Judy Heminsley’s article, “How to Jelly: a Guide to Casual Coworking,” on Shareable. So…rural coworking, anyone?
Are you coworking in a rural area? Are you coworking in a city? How is it working out for you?
Some articles that may provide ideas for starting a local coworking group:
*Coworking in Big Cities vs. Small Towns (Deskmag)
*How to Start a CoWorking Space in Your Small Town (Small Biz Survival)
*Jelly for Home Workers (How to Work from Home)
*Coworking to Quickstart Rural Innovation (Daily Yonder)
*Why People Don’t Cowork (Yet) (Deskmag)
*Five Big Myths About Coworking (Deskmag)
*The Rural Way of Coworking (Deskmag)
So, today Joselyn and I were talking with Evelyn, who runs La Boutique and The Guatemala Shop in Moss Landing. Another customer happened to mention that she used to live down the road near Paradise and Walker Valley. And she knew the previous owners of the house I live in, the ones who remodeled the old house and put in a fireplace. Later, Evelyn and I discussed the challenges of moving from a bustling community to a quiet rural area (and dealing with yellow jacket hives, farm animals, and the relative isolation). I love it here, but, after living practically across the street from a neighborhood that included several wineries, Kelly’s French Bakery, an organic grocery, a Thai restaurant, an Italian Cafe, and a nearby tow service and auto mechanic, I do feel isolated. I only found a doctor (a G.P. in Prunedale) that I like after almost three years here. I knew the history of my neighborhood in Santa Cruz, who had lived in various houses, and how the neighborhood looked years ago. I had no idea who had lived previously in my current house, until I stumbled into somebody who did.
Prunedale is relatively nearby, but it doesn’t feel like there is a cohesive community there. Moss Landing is closer, and it does have a community feeling, with its restaurants, art galleries, antique stores and the fish markets (plural if you include the ones on the boats in the harbor). Community is important to me — not in any formal sense; but it’s nice to interact with friendly people who know your name.
The fruit and vegetables at Farm Fresh Produce Moss Landing generally taste good (but not great, w/some exceptions); the prices are very good, unless you are buying dates (for reasons probably obvious). I haven’t tried their nuts or other dried fruit yet. I’m pretty familiar with the organic produce around this area because I haunt the farmers’ markets, and it’s clear to me this produce is not organic [so it may not be pesticide-free] and may not be all local. So when I’m low on money or in a rush I’ll stop at this stand. Otherwise, I’ll go to a farmers’ market. I will say, though, that the Manila mangoes I bought from this stand recently were incredibly, almost obscenely good! Sweet and luscious.
I began writing about the three communities a few months ago, and discovered in the process that I enjoy documenting the life of the communities around me. So I decided to post Part 1 of “Documentarian” (revised), which was originally posted in another blog:
After a pretty rough day at work, I find it oddly comforting to document my surroundings. I was thinking, today, of the two communities nearest to my house; these two places provide my basic provisions.
The first is Castroville, also known as the “Artichoke Center of the World,” and the place where one Norma Jean (yes, Marilyn) first won fame as the — you guessed it — artichoke festival queen. Local hype makes much of these two facts about the town. One fact it doesn’t mention: Castroville is the site of probably the only cooperatively gay/straight bar in town (and in the Monterey Bay Area, for that matter). Initially named after Norma Jean, it is now known as Franco’s. It’s also the site of the Islamic Center of Castroville.
This is Castroville’s main street. There’s not much going on in Castroville at 6:30 in the evening—at least, so it seems; I may be wrong about that, however. In town, I purchase things like toilet paper, dish soap, and dog biscuits; I go to Ace Hardware for tools. The first time I went in there, to replace a missing screw for the kitchen table I had just bought, the teenaged clerk walked out to my car to get a look at the table, to make sure the screw fit. When was the last time a clerk volunteered that kind of service for you in the city or suburbs?
Most of the population of Castroville is Mexican. They work in the fields, and they own many of the stores, beauty shops, garages and gas stations. I had my first taste of freshly squeezed betabel y naranja (beet and orange) juice at the Michoacan Meat Market here in town. YUM!
The other nearby community that I frequent is Moss Landing Harbor, about 5 miles north of Castroville. Local hype makes much of the seafood, antiques and fishing excursions in the area, and the fact that the Marine Research Labs are located here. I go to the Harbor to buy seafood, because it’s good and fresh. You can get it right off the boat — the Tina Louise, which is painted bright pink.
When I visited Moss Landing years ago, the Harbor was full of run-down, rotting warehouses, along with a handful of struggling antique stores. It was also notable for a certain bar (now gone) that was patronized by local motocycle clubs like the Hell’s Angels and the Flying Coffins. Now, the Marine Labs, affiliated with UCSC and Stanford, and MBARI (Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute) have lent an air of busyness and importance to the place.
I think it’s safe to say that most of the people who live at the Harbor are more or less Anglo, although I have heard that there is a small population of Vietnamese here, who run some of the fishing boats. Moss Landing is a working harbor, with all of the stink and noise of same.
The power plant is located on the other side of Hwy. 1 from the harbor. It uses seawater for “cooling purposes” and discharges the heated water into the Bay. It is northern California’s largest non-nuclear electricity facility.
The MBARI website says this about Moss Landing and Monterey Bay: “Monterey Bay is one of the most biologically diverse bodies of water in the world. The Monterey Canyon, which bisects Monterey Bay, is one of the deepest underwater canyons along the continental United States.”
Fishwise.org reported recently on a new California bill that would help support fishermen who are interested in sustainable seafood. See analysis of the bill
This morning, I went for my walk at Moss Landing Beach. Across from the Marine Labs, at the harbor, the seagulls and pelicans were raising a ruckus. The catch was being off-loaded into big boxes and packed in ice. Occasionally one of the workers would grab a hunk of something, and toss it up to the top of the refrigerator car, causing a noisy squabble.
Although a 2001 report by Richard Bard in National Fisherman reports that Moss Landing commercial fishing, with its population then at 362, hauled in about $1 million worth of salmon, $930,000 in sardines, and $680,000 in albacore, a more recent community profile report by the NOAA points out that the commercial fishing industry in Moss Landing harbor is in fairly steep decline. Lori French notes in her blog that California fishing communities are struggling right now, just to exist. This doesn’t seem to stop the tourists and locals from getting their seafood at Phil’s Fish Market. Even on a Sunday morning, the parking lot was already filling up.
The residential area across from the loading area is clearly a cat reserve. Careful not to hit any felines, I parked my car to take some photos (wary of possible “accidents” raining down from the winged ones above), then went down to the beach.
We’ve been expecting a heat wave, but instead, the morning was grey and cool, although beginning to lighten up. I ran into Rebecca and Colleen, exercising three beautiful horses on the beach.
Rebecca was seated on a young horse (the dark brown) who was maybe just a tiny bit skittish. She said it was his first time on a beach.