by Carol Peppe Hewitt
We rode the wave of progress and by the end of the 20th century our stores had filled up with ‘stuff’ from all over the world – as had our kitchen cabinets, and our bodies. Tangerines from Spain, dresses from Bangladesh and appliances from Japan. We burned through millions of barrels of fuel from the Middle East, and gave up control of our life savings to a globalized stock market.
It all seemed harmless enough, and in exchange we got so much choice! So many creature comforts, and a promise that it would only get better and better.
But that wave turned out to be a tsunami, and while globalization has merit, it has come with unforeseen risks and costs to our psyche, to our health, to our planet’s ability to sustain life, and thus to our resilience as a species.
Today we are seeing a new wave, a new perspective on progress. One that is less extractive of our planet’s finite resources, and that reconnects us to home.
The new paradigm is to re-localize – to get “Running On Local.” Local food, local fuel, local finance, local friendships, local fun, and more.
In 2010 I heard an idea, espoused by Woody Tasch, author of Inquiries Into the Nature of Slow Money, of moving money into the hands of local sustainable farmers and the local food businesses that support them. It seemed we could make affordable loans to those folks who had a viable need for capital – money that banks and other conventional sources would not lend. I tried it and it worked. I’ve made several Slow Money loans and it has been a blast. I can stop by a farmers market, or Angelina’s Kitchen, a small Greek restaurant that serves local food, and I can visit with the friends I have helped. I can see that my small, low-interest loan has made a difference in their success. It’s heartening and hopeful.
In the last three and a half years I have helped facilitate over 115 of these direct, peer-to-peer loans in North Carolina from about 80 different lenders to 55 farmers and food entrepreneurs. Many of those loans are already paid off. They total about 1.2 million dollars and they have kept people employed in their own businesses, put more local food in our stores and restaurants, preserved small farms, and strengthened local economies. It’s brilliant and simple. We can do this in communities all over the US and beyond.
In our little town of Pittsboro, in rural North Carolina, we are “walking the walk” – with several farmers markets, a growing number of CSA’s (Community Supported Agriculture) and our very our coop grocery store, Chatham Marketplace. The Marketplace is now entirely financed with money from local citizens. We have a community scale biodiesel plant, a two-year program in Sustainability at our local community college, and a local currency.
We have stories to tell. Fellow New Society Publishers author and sustainability activist, Lyle Estill, and I have created “Running On Local,” a sustainability roadshow to promote the merits of all things local. We are sharing those success stories and helping other communities to re-localize.
“In a world of gloom and doom,” says Lyle Estill, author of three books on biodiesel and most recently of Small Stories, Big Changes: Agents of Change on the Forefront of Sustainability, “where financial instruments are too complex to understand, and money moves at the speed of light, where governments are struggling to take action, and individuals are at the mercy of faceless global corporations, there are ways to localize all aspects of your life.”
He should know. He runs Piedmont Biofuels, one of the few surviving community-scale biofuel operations in the Southeast, turning waste cooking oil into about one million gallons of B100 biofuel each year.
“Localizing?” Estill goes on to say. “We’ve done it. We’ve empowered ourselves, and others. We’ve written about our experiences, and we are happy to share them with you. We have practical ideas you can use in Anytown, USA. We spread hope.”
Together Lyle and I are going on the road to host powerful conversations in communities up and down the East Coast. We are taking our “Running On Local” message from Miami and Orlando, FL to Savannah, GA, and then on to Beaufort and Charleston, SC before heading up to Washington DC, NYC and Western MA.
Here are our current tour dates:
Monday, February 24th, East End Market, 5:30 – 7:30PM, Orlando, FL
Tuesday, February 25th, Sentient Bean, 5 – 6:30PM, Sentient Bean, Savannah, GA
Wednesday, February 26th, PANINI’S On The Waterfront, 5:30-7:30PM, Beaufort, SC
Thursday, February 27th, Jericho Advisors and Art Gallery, 5:30-7:30PM, Charleston, SC
Wednesday, March 19th, Café Saint-Ex, 7-9PM, Washington, DC
Thursday, March 20th, Brooklyn, NY
Saturday, March 22nd, Greenfield, MA
You can also confirm locations, dates and times, as well as new dates being added at: http://financingourfoodshed.com/book-appearances/
Come find us, or invite us to your area to help re-localize your community as well!
We look forward to your joining us in this important conversation.