The Newberry Springs Economic Development Association (NSEDA) has voted
to accept a generous grant of 20-acres of land supposedly as part of Newberry's economic
development. The land is currently
to Michael W. Mumford, Sr. and Donna C. Mumford on the county rolls.
After listening to NSEDA president Paul Deel's presentation at a special meeting
of NSEDA's general membership on December 20th, the general members in attendance voted
for the acquisition and to spend $500 for the estimated transfer costs. The land is
being offered as a memorial gift and will be known as the Coppi Mumford Farm.
The land, parcel number 0531-352-03, is located southeast of Harvard Road
and Cottonwood and is being planned as a communal garden. Paul Deel is targeting the land to
be used as a co-operative for the "discovery, development, teaching and enabling of appropriate
scale agriculture, viticulture (grape growing), horticulture, permaculture, aquaculture,
architecture, and other pursuits suitable to the arid desert environment of Newberry Springs,
with the overarching goal of developing an economically sustainable rural community."
During his hyperbole that left many operational questions unanswered,
Paul Deel said that the property will need a small well for the 10-acre feet of water allocated to
the parcel and fencing. Deel estimated that the initial costs will be about $50,000.
In a communication after the meeting, Vickie Paulsen, NSEDA's secretary,
said: "We will begin to solicit grants, gifts, and donations to fund the projects."
A Desert Gardeners Club will be forming January 14, 2017, at 1 P.M.
at the Newberry Springs Community Center. The club will have the expertise to provide
beginners with the knowledge of how to farm in the desert. Paul Deel dreams that the Coppi
Mumford Farm will become a communal co-op whereby gardeners will rent spaces from the farm
to grow garden vegetables for market; thereby creating jobs and stimulating the local economy.
Paul Deel said that he has been exploring the land transaction since he
was first approached "a few months ago." Deel has been criticized for concealing
the proposal and for not allowing others an opportunity to investigate the property before
the special meeting vote.
In referencing seeds for growing during the special meeting,
Deel commented that "I kill everything I touch." This may also
be the foretelling of the longevity of the Coppi Mumford Farm memorial according to
Ted Stimpfel who has been critical of the secretive manner in which Deel has been handling the
proposal. This is reflective of what Stimpfel says was Deel's mismanagement as chairman of
the Promise Zone that greatly contributed to the Promise Zone's application failure in early 2016.
According to Stimpfel, over the last months that Deel
has been sitting on this land transfer, Deel has failed to prepare a feasibility
outline. At the special meeting, Deel only voiced a few vague financial
numbers. There was no proposed budget, no cash flow, no proforma of expenditures
of the associated costs, such as for power installation, insurance, security,
or the number of expected and necessary paying gardeners/farmers that
would be required to breakeven, or the mechanism and fees under which
participants would participate. Stimpfel reflected, "Little
was presented beyond lofty ideas. Deel appeared negligently prepared;
yet, Deel had his crony followers that voted support of his project."
Stimpfel lamented, "It isn't a proper business practice to take over a memorial property
without a firm knowledge that it can be maintained under the acceptance guidelines.
People voted from their hearts, not their heads."
Although the project might work, Stimpfel places little likelihood of
long-term success as the project would require a great deal of collaboration that doesn't
exist in Newberry Springs. "Deel examples the communal co-op gardens in Israel,"
said Stimpfel, "but in Newberry people steal from each other." Stimpfel
further stated that "Deel believes that there is a lot of grant money available,
but there isn't. NSEDA doesn't qualify for most foundation grants and government
grants are fiercely competitive."
While NSEDA may qualify for a grant with the assistance from the nice
people at the Victorville USDA office, or the friendly Honda folks, Stimpfel is disappointed
that Deel is taking NSEDA into a highly speculative garden venture where grant efforts
would be better directed to higher commercial priorities that would better
serve the entire community.
"NSEDA is thinking small and is, unfortunately,
being led into the imaginary fringes of Lulu Land," said Stimpfel, "I can't
believe the narrow vision and waste of NSEDA's energy that this experiment will
extract. It's typical Newberry."
The Desert Gardeners Club appears as a very worthwhile idea where
budding gardeners can learn how to best grow successfully in the desert. In all
likelihood, however, participants will want to transfer their knowledge to the convenience
of their own properties and improve upon their own land rather than traveling to an isolated
parcel and pay a fee for what has less security.
After acquiring title, Deel claims that NSEDA will need to
keep the property for a minimum of three years before NSEDA would be able to
liquidate it, and that NSEDA would only be able to gift the property to another
nonprofit. This may be incorrect. Normally, a nonprofit can flip
real estate and use the sale proceeds for the advancement of its core mission.
The courts and the IRS usually don't favor transfer restrictions upon write-off
real estate gifted to nonprofits.
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Desert Gardeners Club
Saturday, January 14, 2017
Newberry Community Services District Building
Cal Poly Students' Newberry Springs Meeting
Meeting To Be Announced
County's Newberry Springs Community Plan Workshop #2
Wednesday, January 25, 2017
6:00 P.M. to 8:30 P.M.
Newberry Community Services District Building
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