I’ve been struggling with how to “pitch” North Country Sustainability Center, and someone suggested that I try to explain the whole picture of what we’re trying to do. I’ll try, but if you see a hole in the logic, let me know. If you share the vision, please donate at http://www.indiegogo.com/NCSCTools?a=521984
We started with the knowledge that we, like many other parts of the nation, have farmers who have food to sell, but no place to sell unless they leave their farm. That keeps them from getting their work done at home. In addition, many of them have a chance to increase their income through value-added goods. But they can’t afford the equipment and the facilities to meet needed regulations. Rules are made with large operations in mind; not small ones where one person does all the work. A food hub that allowed central collection of food for sale, and facilities to create value-added goods that will also be for sale, would make things very doable for our region.
Through years of experience it has become obvious that Americans in general have lost touch with their food comes from. People asking where “the potato tree,” was. Other asking how old a cow is when she starts giving milk? or children walking through lettuce patches looking for their salad greens. If people don’t know how their food is grown how can they make informed decisions about what to eat, what farms to support and what land to preserve?
By creating educational gardens, offering classes and developing a food hub and cooking/preserving classes, we encourage our region’s residents to be more active, to choose healthier food AND have a place to obtain it, and encouragement.
In addition, over recent years people have become dependent upon cheap goods, ie. $10 blouses, $10 shoes, or hiring others to mow their lawns, fix their houses, or build a deck. Knowing how to make things gives people a sense of accomplishment, an anchor to their neighbors, and tools to make more informed decisions, saving money in the long run. Also, they build community as people are more visible in their neighborhoods, and lending a hand to each other.
When we saw the need for this information we looked at our neighbors and saw senior citizens, disabled people and stay at home parents who have these skills and could use a little extra income. They could be our teachers. In fact, they could be their own bosses and just use our facilities! We get rent paid, they get assistance and space, and their students gain knowledge and mentors.
Looking at the needs of our farmers we also see children with passions for livestock, but no place to develop those interests. We see fiber farmers who have fleeces to sell, but no access to markets. And we see a growing bunch of needleworkers, knitters, weavers and crochet wannabe’s, who are looking for a place to learn. This opened the door to other artists, when we looked at how the land, food and community built our folklore, music and fine arts. Artists need places to gather, work and show; we could be that place for them too.
People in small towns and rural areas value the arts just as much as city-folks, but they often have a long drive to get to them. What if we offered a place for performances, studios, and other artistic endeavors, as well as top tier technology, so that our neighbors’ children can learn necessary skills for their future. They will then have more tools for their adult life, and our local economies are stronger for their knowledge and skill.
The 4H and other livestock groups need a big space, but they don’t need it all the time. Who else could use that space and still coincide with our mission of sustainability? Dog sports enthusiasts, from those who show, to those who herd sheep, agility runners to water dog training. These people love their animals but are short of training and exhibition resources. They could use our space and help keep it available to our youth and farmer members.
Who else could use this facility? As a person who has autism in the family, I know that there is a growing population of families who face this obstacle with little support. We could offer our livestock folks a chance to learn animal-assisted therapy training. Our gardeners can learn and lead horticultural therapy programs, and our autism-burdened families can find each other, space to have therapy, and a place to just let kids by kids.
This is a successful recipe, but not for everyone. Each region has its own strengths and its own challenges. We have great resources, from buildings to teachers, to available land to use for gardens, classes and exercise. But we have a 10% unemployment rate, no remaining industry, and an aging population with diminishing pocket books. That’s our biggest challenge.
The magic of our idea is simply “Who else can benefit?” and understanding that we are all richer for sharing our knowledge and facilities. If our neighbors keep their knowledge to themselves, they may feel smarter, but they’ll miss out on the possibilities of additional income, and potential friends. As a person from the midwest I learned – people help those who help them. I also believe that people are fundamentally good, but we need to practice those values, or selfishness wins out. It’s not rocket science. Helping each other is kind of the American way.
Is that magic? That is up to you decide. I think it’s magic when a community comes together to help each other. We need to reach out to a further community, you, so that we can create this “magic lab,” for our neighbors. Once we do, we’ll offer consulting, guidance, webinars and other educational opportunities so that this idea can grow “like a bean stalk.”
Can you be a magician and donate to our Indiegogo campaign? Tell everyone you know about us. We are currently homeless because we weren’t able to raise enough money to pay the Town back for the furnace repair and oil bills. These were very high because the furnace wasn’t controlled in the end of the building we didn’t use, so we didn’t know. We must pay this bill, but we must also find a permanent home. We’ll all get show that there are steps we can take to make our local economy stronger, without waiting for the government to rush. Can you help us? We’ll help you as soon as we get up and running.
 potatos grow underground, cows give milk when they’ve had their first calf, and lettuce doesn’t grow with rubberbands.