Killing the hammocks business
For almost all of the communities 44 years, including last year, our largest income source has been making hammocks. At the community meeting yesterday, i think for the first time in this format seriously, a number of people suggested we get out of the business, mostly because of the low $/hour we make at it.
i am one of the two general managers of the hammocks business and were we a classical capitalist entity, this proposal would be terrifying. My salary, my status, my retirement circumstance, my continued high level of employment would all be tied up in keeping this business going and maintaining my job. But Twin Oaks is not like this. Were the hammocks business to close tomorrow, i would be fully employed, basically equally respected and no aspect of my benefits would be influenced. Which gives unusual detachment in viewing the situation.
Part of what is driving the conversation is a labor shortage we are currently experiencing, despite being at a high population level. The Garden, Tofu production and hammocks have been competing for labor for the last couple of month. But hammocks just largely stepped out of this position. Not because we are folding, but because we schedule our production so that we complete about 70% of our hammocks inventory needs for year by this time of year, to insure that we have enough labor for our seasonal work, much of which is agricultural.
Which is not to say that i dont care about the hammocks business and am not thinking a lot about it and whether we should continue in it and if so how to improve our $/hour. But i do this from a considerably more personally detached place than if i were a classical manager.
Despite it’s lower hourly income, there are lots of aspects of hammocks production which are highly desirable. It is easy to train people in many aspects of the work. It is very time flexible, people can come in and work for 20 minutes or several hours depending on their desire and schedule. It is relatively light work, so many people can be involved in it. And it is vertically integrated, meaning we bring in nearly raw materials (trees and thread) and run our own sawmill, kilns and woodshop as well as rope machines and weaving studios to create the finished product. Vertical integration means we control quality and many of the input costs to the business.
And the question we will have to answer before we get out of hammocks (which is part of why this decision is unlikely to be rushed) is “where will the replacement income come from?” Which is a fascinating and rich talk, that i look forward to.