By Dave Smith

The Ideal Workplace

To Be of Use is a fascinating chronicle combining Smith’s own transformation through commerce and his pioneering contributions to the sustainable business movement. It is an inspirational manifesto of what meaningful work is and how you can find it for your self.

Dave believes you should never settle for less than the ideal and that the ideal should be a workplace which:

  • Offers those who occupy the workplace an environment conducive to learning.
  • Produces products or services that are actually needed or of significant value aesthetically or in other ways.
  • Focuses on local sourcing and local markets first, before “going global.”
  • Contributes to health and well being through workplace cleanliness and lowering of environmental impact.
  • Is non-harmful and operates in harmony with natural systems
  • Encourages co-operation and collaboration with friends, neighbors, and “competition.”
Cover To Be of Use
Dave Smith

Smith is evangelical in his belief that the best model for such workplaces is already with us: the small, independent farm, practicing interdependent farming and true organic agriculture.

Audio Podcast – Dave Smith Interview

Contents of To Be of Use: The Seven Seeds of Meaningful Work

1. Faith: True Belief
2. Hope: Soul School
3. Justice: Action Heroes
4. Temperance: The Briarpatch Way
5. Prudence: Reclaiming the Soul of Business
6. Courage: Creative Action Heroes
7. Love: Useful You
Epilogue: Local Creative Action
The Seven Seeds of Meaningful Work 

As Dave shows in this book, small businesses in general and Briarpatch in particular have proven beyond any doubt that business can be a force for change when the people involved live by a simple set of practical, mutually beneficial values.

In contrast with people who work in unfulfilling jobs for faceless corporations that only care about maximizing profits, there are those who feel life is more than making money.

In 1994 when the second edition of Running a One-Person Business was released, a large-scale, nationwide economic reorganization was well underway. Since then self-employment has grown at a faster rate than wage or salary-paying jobs.

Today, there are millions of small and really small businesses with under 10 employees and more than 80% of those have no employees at all. Many of these were started specifically so that their owners could create meaningful work that paid the bills, took care of their families, and gave back to their communities.

to be of use

The people I love the best
jump into work head first
without dallying in the shallows
and swim off with sure strokes almost out of sight.
They seem to become natives of that element,
the black sleek heads of seals
bouncing like half-submerged balls.

I love people who harness themselves, an ox to a heavy cart,
who pull like water buffalo, with massive patience,
who strain in the mud and the muck to move things forward,
who do what has to be done, again and again.

I want to be with people who submerge
in the task, who go into the fields to harvest
and work in a row and pass the bags along,
who stand in the line and haul in their places,
who are not parlor generals and field deserters
but move in a common rhythm
when the food must come in or the fir be put out.

The work of the world is common as muc.
Botched, it smears the hands, crumbles to dust.
But the thing worth doing well done
has a shape that satisfies, clean and evident.
Greek amphoras for wine or oil,
Hopi vases that held corn, are put in museums
but you know they were made to be used.

The pitcher cries for watter to carry
and a person for work that is real.

–Marge Piercy