A simple but good guide for growth

Published 10:00 pm Monday, July 20, 2015

What sort of community engagement do we need to do to keep Polk County rural and thriving while rapid change and fast movement swirl all around us? What sort of values should we work on coming to share as a whole? What are some vital connective limbs that co-exist with our ever-growing local food system and how can they all come to find firmament in our daily 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.

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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. 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.