Filed under: Community Building, Localization, Uncategorized | Tags: bee-friendly city, downtown revitalization, Farmer's Market, food coop, frugal, member-owned coop, pollinator garden, shop locally, walkability score
Since beginning this blog in 2012, I’ve been writing about how creating a strong sense of localism is THE key to transitioning to a lifestyle that is more connected, vibrant and fulfilling. Localism, which champions a more equitable economic system of building healthier, more sustainable communities, is truly the way forward.
I see progress in my community towards this end with an ongoing revitalization of our downtown area, creation of several new community gardens and a brand new 1.5 million dollar Farmer’s Market opening next month! A wonderful biking and hiking trail is being utilized from dawn to dusk each day, as are public parks that are filled with ever-changing art sculptures chosen by a public art committee. Public health initiatives have been implemented, and an increased awareness and concern for homelessness, domestic violence, drug abuse and crime reduction is helping those in need learn how to fish. An emphasis on shopping locally is helping many new small, mom-and-pop style businesses stay competitive. Walkability scores are being used by realtors these days too. How walkable a neighborhood or community is is so important to creating the kind of localism that’s needed to bring a community together. On my morning walk today I saw this bit of harmless fun, right in the middle of town:
The building below, called the ‘Betty Gay’ Building, sits on our Main Street in a busy block. It has sat empty for years, with the front literally falling off. Our city inspectors finally decided to get tough on the owner, who then sold it to a man known for restoring old properties back to their former glory and beyond. Years in the process, but it’s finally happening!
And by the way, this is being rehabbed using local contractors and local materials as much as possible-even some repurposed building materials! That’s ‘bringing it home’.
Localism doesn’t mean we need to wait on our city governments or someone else to make change happen. You know what Gandhi said: “BE the change you want to see”…I’m a member of a quiet, dedicated group that has been working for the last 16 months to determine if a member owned food coop (like some credit unions and banks for example) could offer shoppers in our city an affordable, more local option when buying their food. By partnering with an established coop in nearby Knoxville, we have together raised $16,000 in order to perform a professional market study to determine if this idea might be a viable option for our area! The folks that have financially supported this effort (with no guarantee that it will ever materialize) are able to take advantage of immediate savings and introduce them further to the concept, since their investment in the Johnson City Food Coop automatically entitles them to membership and benefits in Knoxville too. Our membership cards arrived in the mail today-
I’ll be offering more information on the coop idea in the near future, but the point is, we’re working together to make this dream a reality. When opened, this food cooperative will also support different projects to benefit our members, workers, families as well as our local community. That’s “bringing it home”!
More localism: a friend of mine has worked long and loud to make our city not only more bee friendly but is making sure that bees have plenty of food; through her localizing efforts, as well as others, our public library is currently installing a pollinator garden on the front lawn, replacing uninteresting foundation bushes and lawn mowing with a roof top water cachement and underground filtration system that will water the planned ‘meadow’ of native plants that will offer nectar and pollen to the bees. To top that off, just last week our zoning commission voted unanimously to allow beekeeping within city limits! Progress is often slow, but perseverance can pay off handsomely.
With the fall of the once-almighty indoor mall, revitalizing downtowns that were deserted when they came on the scene is an important piece of re-localizing. Towns and cities all need a square or a commons area for people to feel like ‘they’ve arrived’, and that they belong to something bigger than themselves. Shaping a new economy, building stronger communities while focusing on the tools and strategies that will allow us to prosper together has been proven effective over and over.
Several studies have shown that when you buy from an independent, locally owned business, rather than nationally owned businesses, significantly more of your money is used to make purchases from other local businesses, service providers and farms — continuing to strengthen the economic base of the community. In a world of increasing insecurity (and insanity?) strengthening our home place makes sense.Where we shop, where we eat and have fun — all of it makes our community home. As I was gathering information for this post, look what came in the mail today!
This little family-owned pharmacy is a 5 minute walk from my house and they are so incredibly helpful that I wouldn’t want to go anywhere else for my prescriptions. They have everything we need in terms of healthcare and I have price-shopped them to death, discovering that their cough drops, bandaids and eyedrops are cheaper than Walmart. Take that big box stores! And now, with a $5 coupon, they’re ‘bringing it home’ even more!
Filed under: A New Paradigm, Adapting to Change | Tags: Christmas parade, community building, community gardens, Farmer's Market, Neighborhood Associations, Neighborhood Watch, pollinator garden, pollinators, pumpkins, renewable energy, solar panels, vegan diet
October is definitely a transition month. As we move from one season to another, the changes are obvious. The temperatures, the leaves, the clothes we wear and the foods we eat are all in transition. This first fall-like day here in NE TN saw me wearing tights instead of shorts, seeing nuts and pumpkins and apples for sale at the Farmer’s Market, and making a pot of soup for supper (to help use up the last of the summer squash, tomatoes and peppers).
As a species, we often resist changes, particularly those that we perceive to be difficult or perhaps even unwanted. But the transitions that I write about can lead to a way of living that’s significantly more connected, more vibrant and more fulfilling than the one we find ourselves in today. And I believe those transitions have begun: just like the changing leaves, I can actually see them, and their coming into focus gives me hope for our collective futures like nothing else! Re-creating that future in ways that are not based on cheap, plentiful and polluting oil but on localized food, sustainable energy sources, resilient local economies and an enlivened sense of community well-being will ensure that, regardless of what goes on in the world, we’ll all eat, and we’ll all have shelter from the storms of life. This transition idea isn’t some utopian idealism in my mind, but is actually becoming the new reality of this century. It seems that almost every day I read, see, or hear about yet another group of neighbors, friends or citizens that are coming together to grow food, share tools, downsize and otherwise help one another not only survive, but thrive. Isn’t that what we all want?
My own long-defunct neighborhood association has recently reconvened and taken positive first steps to cut crime, make our streets safer with better lighting, and start a neighborhood watch program, all while involving kids and teens in the process. We are formulating working plans for action teams to tackle illegal July 4th fireworks that go on way beyond the holiday each year, as well as a ‘Pumpkins in the Park’ kids’ event, and a float in the upcoming Christmas parade. I’m also excited that we’re going to have a ‘Community Day’, which should be a great way to further our connections with one another!
These neighborhood transitions are taking place at the same time that transitions are slowly taking place in nearby downtown. On our walk this evening we noticed yet another old building having the cheap 60’s era facade torn off to re-expose the beautiful brickwork and arched windows of an earlier era. Our new $1.5 million Farmer’s Market is nearing completion, and a new community garden is being installed in a low income housing community. If THAT’S not tangible proof of changing attitudes about the value of local food systems, I don’t know what is! Conserving natural resources is another area going through transitions. Some of our downtown businesses have recently added solar panels and hydroponic gardens to their buildings, while others are using the latest conservation methods they can. Alternative energy systems are no longer considered futuristic idealism, but will become the norm for most of us during our lifetimes. Our municipal landfill has been developed into a gas energy project that turned it into a community asset, cut greenhouse gas emissions, and creates renewable energy by turning its’ waste into wealth, and now provides our VA Campus and part of the local college with landfill gas. And our public library is replacing the old front lawn with a pollinator-attracting ‘meadow’ made up of native plants that will be watered by rainwater collected from a roof- top collection system that will lead to an underground filtration system that will keep the new landscaping watered without using any extra water. The sustainability factor of this new landscaping will likely serve as a model for future pollinator projects: talk about transitioning!
And finally, on a very personal level, Michael has discovered, through much trial and error, that a completely plant-based diet has restored him to good health again. We love bacon as much as anyone, but if you remember, I discontinued my high cholesterol statin a few months ago and he really struggled with mysterious autoimmune type symptoms since he finished his chemotherapy last summer so we were desperate to find solutions to both health issues. We are now transitioning to a vegan diet that seems to have resolved both problems.Transitioning can take many forms, and this is just one more. We’re calling this a lifestyle change, rather than a diet, because ‘diet’ makes it sound temporary but this transition is for life! The good news is that we’re hoping this change keeps us healthy and that we’ll be able to provide for most of our dietary needs through gardening and by making regular visits to that new Farmer’s Market!
Buckminster Fuller once said: “You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.” I always did like Bucky…