About Risa Pesapane

Risa is the Project Director for Rural System, Inc. and is an experienced research biologist and wildlife ecologist.

How Does Rural System Propose to Make Money?

Our staff is often asked, “How does Rural System make money?” Recently a reader also sent us the following question about the profits reaped by the community:

 “I understand [Rural System, Inc.] to be a system of land management that generates profit, both for the people who live in rural areas and for absentee landowners. What I’m less clear about is exactly how it does that.”

We’re happy to answer these questions! There are many layers to how our company proposes to achieve “profit” and we’ve touched on aspects of economies of scale, groups, reduced waste, reasonable expectations, and what we offer the landowner. But the real key to Rural System’s success can actually be understood not as profit per se, but as savings. The profit ceiling may not change much if at all, but the profit margin is wider because costs have decreased – the idea behind “lean manufacturing” practices. Thus, more money is conserved within the company and invested in the community. [Read more…]

Everything is Related and Everything is Replicated

The founder of Rural System, reflecting on his experiences in Africa said Everything is Related when discussing the ripple effect that a singular event like an act of terrorism can have in an economy. Our human ecosystem, much like our environmental ecosystem, is linked by a complex web of interactions. Every “thing” has an effect on another “thing” somewhere in the system. Looking at the world through the eyes of an ecologist, this biological pattern is replicated in all aspects of life. Indeed it’s possible to draw valuable insights for non-biological fields from biological science. Perhaps the most recent compelling example is the comparison of global finance and primate social networks. As different as we are from animals, it’s clear that there are fundamental processes that remain the same. The world is one big, living organism.

World Travel

Traveling provides a unique perspective on land use and its associated challenges that aren’t comprehensible simply from reading. Observing the relationship between people and their surrounding environment provides context for our ideas and guides how we execute them.

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Crowdsourcing the Future: How Citizen Scientists and Mobile Technology are Changing the Face of Science

The possibilities of what can be done with “the internet” seem to grow exponentially with each passing year. We often think of what the internet can do for us, but what about what we can do for the internet? In the past few years, we’ve learned how to harness the immense power of all those connected minds online through crowdsourcing. If you aren’t familiar with the term crowdsourcing, it refers to leveraging the brainpower or manpower of large groups of people through the internet for services, ideas, or content. Think games and apps are a waste of time – think again! Scientists have cleverly designed apps, games, and websites which engage average citizens in scientific research. By gaming from your laptop on your couch or using an app on your smartphone on the bus, you could actually help find a cure for AIDS, save an endangered species, or help prevent a flu epidemic. Essentially, this is citizen science at its best. [Read more…]

New Horsepower in the Rural System

What works like a mule but doesn’t have legs? The new Rural System tool aptly named the mechanical mule.

The invention of the tractor revolutionized farming. Horses and mules are costly, need rest, and are affected by temperature or pests. Early tractors plowed an acre in the third of the time it would take five horses to do the same work.  Today’s powerful tractors accelerate the process even further. However, the cost of tractors can easily reach over $100,000. Arguably, the use of tractors is cost-effective because of the benefits of efficiency and scale even on small farms. A great assessment of farm machinery costs can be found here.  Despite the eventual cost-savings, the upfront costs, even just a few thousand dollars, are prohibitive for some farmers.  Subsistence farmers in developing regions and farmers in impoverished areas throughout the United States struggle to afford even the most inexpensive tractor. This is a great story about how a single tractor can change a community. How can we recreate this benefit on a larger scale? A less expensive, but equally efficient, tool for plowing fields could make a big difference.

Mechanical mule - side view

The mechanical mule prototype. This model is outfitted with a low axle but can easily be scaled up to larger wheels to overcome uneven terrain.

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The 3F’s of Manure Management

Chicken cartoonFor many centuries, animals and crops were produced and consumed within the same farm unit. Livestock manure, used as fertilizer and fuel, contributed to the self-sufficiency of most farms. However, in the 20th century, many farms began focusing on either livestock or crops as opposed to both. Also during this time, advances in manure-handling, treatment and disposal techniques were developed with the intention of storing and diluting the highly-concentrated nutrients before releasing it into the environment. Many current manure management techniques such as lagoon storage are only temporary relief for a long range problem. Livestock manure remains a major cause of water pollution and the difficulties of animal manure management represent significant challenges to farmers, planners, scientists and regulatory agencies of the 21st century. However, animal manure has high energy yield and profit potential if used as fertilizer, fuel, and feed. A combination of two or more of these topics may economize farm management and contribute to environmental quality. These topics are: [Read more…]