It’s an Up-Hill Battle

I’ve been making it a point to get out and talk to the people in my community about the things they wish they had access to locally.  The first, and pretty much only, response I hear is a desire for a Thrift shop, that’s on my list as well. Monday I experienced a culture shock not once but twice that proved if I want to see better for the residents of this town I have a very long up hill battle to contend with first.

fruit

 

I found one person this week who shares my passion for access to fresh, local produce having been raised on a farm. That brings the total of those interested in growing food or having access to locally grown to three, not including myself.   She and I talked in great detail on starting a farmers’ market. I would gladly offer my driveway as the location to hold a farmers’ market, but with no real parking in the area see the possibility of complaints arising. Yes, I know there are other legalities I would have to address but location seemed to be a starting point at least.

With needing a location to hold a market I reached out to the head librarian at the public library. Would it be possible to use the parking lot and the grassy area of their property to hold a weekly farmers’ market?  The answer was positive but she had no idea what a farmers’ market was. She handed me information on, and email for, a nearby food pantry. I was a bit confused until she mentioned that she thought it was great I wanted to give food away for free. Huh?

I tried to explain that what I wanted to offer was a way to connect farmer’s and back yard gardeners with local residents at a local spot once a week to buy and sell fresh produce and eliminating the need to drive twenty, or more miles, for healthy food.  She did know enough to tell me the local store wasn’t a place to go to find good produce she couldn’t quite grasp the concept of a farmers’ market and kept coming back to the idea of a food pantry where food is given away for free.

I realize if I am going to see any of my dreams for this town come to fruition I first need to address the vocabulary I use. If the discussion on a farmers’ market wasn’t enough to frustrate me on Monday then returning home and becoming engaged in a discussion with a neighbor would leave me questioning the possibility of moving this town in any new direction.

compost

Arriving home I had a person ask me if that black thing in my yard was a new grill. What black thing? It took a moment to realize the object in question was my new compost tumbler.  When I answered that it wasn’t a grill but my composter I was asked what compost was.

Wait, you haven’t heard the term compost before?  No, she hadn’t.  I explained that to give my garden beds nutrient-rich matter to grow the healthiest food full of rich vitamins and minerals I save my food scraps and then let them rot in a container where when these scraps when done cooking in the heat would turn into lovely “soil” I would then spread around my plants eliminating the need for fertilizers.

The reaction I got wasn’t what I expected. She informed me that this was gross and while she had been hoping I might share my surplus with her she now wouldn’t want anything from my gardens.

I sat here last night reflecting on my amenity “must” list I created before my move.  My list included access to:

  • Good library and used bookstore
  • Thrift and/or consignment shops
  • Farmers’ market I could ride to without needing a car
  • A food coop or whole foods store
  • Vibrant main street with independent small businesses

There isn’t one item from my list this town has but I would be surprised once I settled in to learn that recycling wasn’t even available to me. I have been sending my recycling home with my daughter-in-law to be put out on their recycling days, ever since.

If the people here don’t understand terms as basic to me as farmers’ market and compost will anything move forward to bring this town alive?

I haven’t given up and plan to meet with the mayor on Friday, one of the topics I plan to address with him will be improving the sidewalks for pedestrian traffic.  After my meeting with the mayor I plan to meet with as many local business owners as are willing to talk to me about getting their help in organizing a group to work on the revitalization of main street.  Keep your fingers crossed they more open to a discussion on how we can work together to revitalize this dying town and understand what I am asking of them.

 

 

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22 thoughts on “It’s an Up-Hill Battle

  1. What a wonderful gift you are to a community that has MEGA gaps in their understanding of these basic concepts. It will be an uphill struggle for sure … especially if even an ‘educated’ individual like the head librarian can’t wrap her head around farmer’s markets. I am very interested in hearing about how the conversation with the mayor turns out. It will be very sad if you hit a brick wall there.

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    1. I’m planning to visit the mayor with the optimistic view of working with him but should he close down I am fully prepared to take an offensive stand and insist to be told where the money paid the community from the fracking industry has gone.

      I had approached the head librarian because she and I had talked before about approaching city council about sidewalks and she knew about the fracking payments to the town. So I was a bit shocked to see even on the subject of farmers’ markets she wouldn’t be the one I could turn to to help me navigate through the process to start this.

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  2. Holy Moly! I’m starting to understand how people like Donald Trump can gather such a following if this is really the level upon which so many people are operating! Are you familiar with Jamie Oliver? Somehow this reminds me of this scene from one of his shows:

    Anyhow, is there a school in this town? I’m wondering if that might be one avenue to reach people. Maybe you could do an assembly about food and gardening? Maybe help the school start a garden? Not that you need any more projects, but it might be easier to get kids on board than adults. Just a thought…

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    1. I watched both the first and second season of Oliver’s show before I got rid of my TV and that scene still sticks with me. That was from season one where he was in West Virginia, a state I am live than 10 miles from. I many ways my town is more like West Virginia than Pittsburgh our closest city in PA so it’s no wonder that the kids here have much the same food knowledge that you see in that clip.

      There is a school here, and I have thought often of trying to get involved with them but just to walk in the school and have any contact with the kids I would have to go through the hassle of getting all my clearances. Our school almost shut down in January because they didn’t have enough money to keep the utilities on. In the end they took out a loan and hope the state passes a budget and gives them the money owed to keep it open but it’s a month-by-month situation and the parents are mostly waiting to hear the school will be closed.

      It will take a couple of years to really get my property going to the point where the gardens are producing at full capacity, but my thought was to see if I could entice the school to bring kids here on field trips. I agree we need to start with the kids, but even Oliver found he had to hold cooking lessons and get parents involved to make any changes. I’m not sure I’m the person to tackle this large a job.

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  3. I guess that we take a lot for granted about other people having somewhat of a similar knowledge base as ours. Meeting with the mayor is a good idea. Maybe next up would be a meeting with be some kind of county extension agency to see what they have available as far as education goes.

    Good luck. This is going to be a very difficult thing, but oh so worth it if you help anyone understand the real world around them–not just the manufactured one.

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    1. Good suggestion, I hadn’t thought of the country extension office. I didn’t realize this would be as hard as I’m finding it to be. I’m thinking I need some sort of survey to see if the residents would even support a farmers’ market…my mind is working overtime with all the things I must face to move forward on these things.

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  4. Wow Lois, what a lot of work you have to do there – what a challenge! Everything you manage to achieve will be such a huge step forward. When you make a little progress though, it might help boost the next step. What is the population of your little town?

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    1. The population is about 1600 so it’s definitely a small town. The town is very poor although there are pockets of middle class and even a few better off. Because it’s a poor community there is a lot of drug addiction as well. All this has me wondering how much I will be able to accomplish here but you are right even a tiny step forward may lay the ground work for more changes. I am trying to hold on to hope and will keep working to give this community a reason to be proud of their town.

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      1. You are the right person for this town because you see the need and know the solutions. I very much doubt it will be easy but judging by your latest post you won’t be trying to do it on your own. I think this is grand 🙂

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          1. Things are moving slowly at the moment but it will be a wonderful day when I can see the people here getting the help they need.

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  5. I’m stunned that there are people who haven’t even heard of a farmer’s market! The town I now live nearest to has a very small farmers market but very few people use it and I’m pretty sure it will eventually Peter out and disappear. Although the population is mostly African American, I’ve never seen anyone shopping there anyone who wasn’t white. Two of the three sellers are blacks, and two of the three sellers are farmers. (The other one buys produce from a warehouse and resells it.).
    I really admire you for taking on this project. I hope the mayor is a little more knowledgeable and can give you some help.

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    1. I’m sorry to hear your farmers’ market is struggling to make a go of it.Only having three sellers wouldn’t be a market that would draw me in, especially if one is a reseller. I wonder if that would happen here too I might have to wait until more people realize the benefits of local, fresher food.

      My town is the opposite of yours, here it’s 92% white but I’m not sure if that would make a difference in the number that would shop at a farmers’ market. Maybe I should just start working with the idea of getting a thrift shop in town and wait a bit before pushing for local food. It’s so frustrating.

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  6. oh my…the Head Librarian did not know the terms?
    the neighbour did not know the term “compost”, and thought food grown in same “gross” and “uneatable”?

    oh my….
    I am not holding out great hope that the Mayor will be “more informed”…

    I think you need some basic/simple books/booklets to donate to the Library. (and I do mean basic and simple). Maybe you could inspire interest that way…

    as an alternative, you could always find some articles on how regular grocery store food is grown/processed (also for the Head Librarian/Neighbour/Mayor), and quite frankly, that info might give them pause, and inspire them to wish for more local food they know how it is grown / handled, or more food they grow themselves/or more food grown and traded by neighbours.

    I have to tell you (and suspect you are quite aware) the info on how food (veg/fruit/animals) is grown and raised is “interesting”. It is “chilling”. Me, I try not to think on it too much, and handle/cook it accordingly, so to speak.

    If you want some of those articles, let me know, and I will see what I can hunt up.

    (oh, and this neighbour who thought food would be gross if from your garden and unedible….Wonder if she knows / understands where eggs come from?)

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    1. You know even basic books would not help as no one seems to read anything much more than fiction. Even the librarian informed me she doesn’t read non-fiction therefore rarely orders non-fiction books.

      Trust me I know how food is produced and it leads to paralysis in shopping, unless I’m at a farmers’ market I trust. I’m not sure I want to ask my neighbor if she knows where eggs come from, it’s one of the few unprocessed foods she eats.

      There is a reason my grocery store doesn’t carry fresh foods, well besides how fast they can spoil, it’s that the people here only eat prepackaged and frozen foods.

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  7. still giving this some thought…
    one thing I have thought of which might “start the ball rolling”, generate interest, avoid legal hassles..

    if you can use your drive, or the library parking lot..
    suggest a “barter” produce day….
    folks could bring their excess produce, and trade it for items they want (one bunch of kale traded for six eggs, etc), even they might barter/trade produce/goods for work services (bunch of carrots and kale and peas traded for grass cutting)..Kids could have a lemonade stand, etc..

    I think that barter may not need permits, and kids are sort of expected to sell lemonade,
    and
    Maybe these folks will embrace the concept of bartered goods?

    (Please, I hope you do not come back to tell me the Librarian does not know what barter is)

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    1. I don’t see a barter day working here at least not yet. I’ve searched for back yard gardens and found two in the entire town. I have already discussed sharing my excess with one person who in return has offered to share his excess with me. The other person is a homesteader and puts up all they grow for their personal use so that person probably wouldn’t show up. If I can get something started I have a few ideas that would allow us to operate with little resistance or permits.

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      1. mmm, you might well be right in not educating your neighbor on where eggs come from, grin.

        I will keep my fingers crossed for you. The Librarian sounds “interesting”. Can hardly imagine..wow.

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        1. I’ve got an update for you shortly. 🙂 You’ll have to wait to get all the details. I’ll be writing that post as soon as I catch up on comments.

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  8. Go get them, Lois. Who can imagine this day and age that people have never heard of composting or farmers markets. The woman is limited in her education and has chosen not to further it with an open mind. The world is full of them. You can’t teach a person who doesn’t want to learn. If the mayor doesn’t care, well, I don’t know what to say. Best of luck.

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    1. I have to tell you I shocked that the word compost was unknown to her or that she immediately felt “rotting food” around my plants was gross. 🙂

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