Need a new direction? The economic tsunami, raging worldwide since September, has wiped out careers, life savings, inheritances, and taken homes. The Wall Street Journal reports that seven states’ unemployment funds are depleted and eleven states’ funds may run dry by the end of the year. Now would be a good time for a new approach. Uniting Around Food to Save an Ailing Town tells of Hardwick, Vermont where entrepreneurial organic agriculture and artisanal cheese making spawned a flourishing community that works cooperatively to help each other succeed. The vision of the Center for an Agricultural Economy (the Center) is to build upon local tradition and bring together the community resources and programs needed to develop a locally-based 21st century healthy food system. The story about Hardwick reads like a reenactment of It’s a Wonderful Life. A stroke of luck wasn’t handed to hardscrabble Hardwick. They didn’t turn to factory farms, lottos, prisons or casinos to solve their economic challenge. Twelve years of hard work has attracted entrepreneurs and investors who cooperatively help each other. They created their opportunity by capitalizing on their most obvious resource: agriculture. I am envious, wanting to be part of that “can do” community. But the truth is that opportunity exists in every community. In this difficult economic climate every city, suburb and hamlet has boarded up businesses, for sale and for rent signs wherever the eye wanders. Although our country is awash in idle resources, try to find a nourishing meal for under $10. You better bring your lunch if you want to eat food that is not processed. What is wrong with the picture when natural food costs more than processed food, which isn’t even real? That’s the food side. On the human capital side, hundreds of thousands of talented, capable people in every community are languishing for lack of opportunity. One thing is clear. I don’t have the answers. Now more than ever, if you think you have the answer, you don’t even understand the question. Durable solutions can only come from the ground up. Communities must solve their own problems. That will begin to happen when people gather with intention, imagination and a willingness to seek the answers together. New Community Vision is working to bring communities together to solve their own problems by galvanizing their own resources. When we do that, we will begin to turn the corner and start creating Eden right here on earth.
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