Once upon a time a band of travelers found themselves on a highway because a spring flood had washed their village away. Now they were banded together to find a new place to live, and hoped that there was safety in numbers. Each of them had been fairly prosperous in their old town and felt they had skills to lead a new community.
They looked at several sites, and most were either on the downward slope of a hill, or on the top of a hill with a terrible wind blowing across. They finally found a high spot along a big stream. It was in a stream bed, but there were other outlets for the water, so they thought it was safe enough.
At first there was ample room for everyone to build a fire. They were tired of each other's company, and accustomed to the privacy of their own homes; they quickly set themselves apart from each other. But within a week the firewood supply was dwindling, and they found themselves venturing alone into the woods, seeking more fuel for their fires.
One of the villagers was a blacksmith, so he began gathering stones to set up as an anvil. His fire roared more than others, because he needed it to make to the tools that were needed to build the houses. But because his fire burnt more, the others resented him because he was using up the wood that they needed.
Another of the travelers was a weaver and shepherd, who brought her flock along with her so that she could keep them safe and keep clothes on her own back. The sheep were fine browsing the hillside alone, but she needed light to spin and weave by, and that was using a lot of wood as well.
Each of the people needed to eat, but not everyone had that skills or the tools to do so. Though the baker bought his pots and pans from the blacksmith, he resented the wood that was used for the foundry and not for his cooking fire.
And then it began to rain. They had been fortunate to have two weeks without foul weather, but now they found their fires were dampened, and so was the wood supply. They had not worried about shelter as the weather had been so grand, and now that their tents were soaked, and they had no wood to build with, they were getting frightened. Each person begrudged any flame or stick that was taken from the only surviving fire, the blacksmith's. Soon they all suffered from lack of sleep as distrust kept them awake at night, for fear that someone might take the fire away.
As they huddled around the smithy's fire, the weaver began to spin her yard by the light of the flickering flames. She fell asleep in a pile of wool, along with the child of the baker. In the morning they awoke together under a dry tent with the smith standing near the fire and the baker making a light breakfast. As they enjoyed that meal together they began to realize that if they worked together they could have their safety in numbers, and still have privacy. One could cook while another spun and wove, making clothes for cook and the others who tended the fire, gathered water and build other buildings.
Necessity makes strange bedfellows, but sometimes that strangeness is a blessing. Having to start anew is a frightening thing, but planning ahead makes it possible, and if a new system works after a disaster, shoudn't it work before one?
North Country Sustainability Center aims to be that "fire" that brings people together. Though a commercial kitchen and micro-creamery brings opportunities to our region, they also require an influx of food and customers. Since growing and preparing food takes time, providing educational and cultural activities to while away the waiting makes the space all the more efficient in its production.
Providing services and space for cooks, bakers, dairymen and customers requires space, from warehouse to serving counters. Paying for the heat of such a space, and the operation of the kitchen and studios requires a constant source of income, even after growing season.
While many people want to learn how to grow food, or raise animals, others just like to be around them. In this time when Asperger's and autism are on the rise, providing fresh food and access to animals fulfills another goal, to help those "on the spectrum" learn to prosper in the future. Since that requires space, but not all the time, why not let others, such as 4H and dog trainers, use that space when the therapists and trainers aren't using it?
Doesn't that seem logical? It is a big concept, but it fills a lot of needs. It does so without numerous different locations, multiple parking lots, roads, furnaces and facilities. The mutual support of it builds community, and provides a destination for some to teach from, and others to learn from. It's a very logical approach to a very large set of problems. Big? yes. Doable? certainly.
We have found a location on a hill near a pond that has ample room for "that village" of users, and more. It has a long history of supporting the Town and the Region, and we'd like to bring that history with us as we move forward in to a new, more sustainable world. Will you join us? or help us make it happen?