Slow food, small economies: Recipe for freedom

Published 7:56 pm Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Participating in May 20’s Slow Food Foothills event which led to an all-American Memorial Day weekend full of perfect weather, friends, family, and foods has me buzzing with contentment and satisfaction. The natural setting and neighborly ways of the fine folks gathered at Overmountain Vineyards and Winery was intoxicating, no pun intended. As Slow Food Foothills, we certainly focus a lot on food that is good, clean, and fair. Then Memorial Day weekend reminded me that slow food is only one branch on the tree-climb to a more sustainable-community life.
Over Memorial Day weekend, with all the specialty articles, patriotic TV programs, community ceremonies, and picnic gatherings I asked myself, how do we keep this neighborly, celebratory buzz going in all aspects of our daily life? What sort of soldiering do we need to do, here on our soils, to protect our sought-out way of life, here in rural southern America? What sort of values should we insist upon in electing new or continuing leaders in 2012? What are other vital connective limbs to sustainability that need to co-exist with our ever-growing local food system and find firmament as one in our actions?
Some of my favorite authors always help provide answers to such questions, the kind of answers as if PEOPLE mattered. Authors like Kingsolver, Gladwell, Pollan, Schumacher and Barry.
The following is excerpted from the essay “Conserving Communities,” from “Another Turn of the Crank,” by Wendell Berry, 1995. If we want to protect our paradise, and thrive in our small rural community, here are some things we should do.
“Always ask of any proposed change or innovation: What will this do to our community? How will this affect our common wealth?
“Always include local nature – the land, the water, the air, the native creatures – within the membership of the community.
“Always ask how local needs might be supplied from local sources, including the mutual help of neighbors.
“Always supply local needs first. And only then think of exporting their products, first to nearby cities.
“Understand the unsoundness of the industrial doctrine of “labor-saving” if that implies poor work,
“Develop properly scaled value-adding industries for local products to ensure that the community does not become a colony of the national or global economy.
“Develop small-scale industries and businesses to support the local farm and/or forest economy.
“Strive to produce as much of the community’s energy as possible.
“Strive to increase earnings (in whatever form) within the community and decrease expenditures outside the community.
“Make sure that money paid into the local economy circulates within the community for as long as possible before it is paid out.
“Make the community able to invest in itself by maintaining its properties, keeping itself clean (without dirtying some other place), caring for its old people, teaching its children.
“See that the old and the young take care of one another. The young must learn from the old, not necessarily and not always in school. There must be no institutionalized “child-care” and “homes for the aged.” The community knows and remembers itself by the associations of old and young.
“Account for costs now conventionally hidden or “externalized.” Whenever possible, these costs must be debited against monetary income.
“Look into the possible uses of local currency, community-funded loan programs, systems of barter, and the like.
“Always be aware of the economic value of neighborly acts. In our time the costs of living are greatly increased by the loss of neighborhood, leaving people to face their calamities alone.
“A rural community should always be acquainted with, and completely connected with, community-minded people in nearby towns and cities.
“A sustainable rural economy will be dependent on urban consumers loyal to local products. Therefore, we are talking about an economy that will always be more cooperative than competitive.”
Editor’s note: ‘In Good Taste’ normally appears on the first and third Tuesday of every month. It is appearing on Thursday this week because of the Memorial Day holiday weekend.

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