I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about Food Hubs, especially after seeing John Gerber’s graphic regarding the Greenfield Food Hub. It shares a lot of similarities with North Country Sustainability Center’s plans, but it’s not a complete explanation.
I have searched for a long time for a way to describe NCSC’s work, and the best that I could come up with is this: But I finally realized that we are not a Food Hub alone, but a Sustainability Hub.
What is a Sustainability Hub? Well, going back to the definition we use of “Sustainability = What It Takes To Keep Living Here,” then we need to consider what that entails. While we can survive with food, shelter and water, and having high quality, sustainable sources of that are necessary, humans are more than food. We are community creatures, with aesthetic needs, and since we do not have a lot of fur on our bodies, we need clothing, and external heat sources. Going back to what made a successful community in the past is necessary to see how a successful community goes forward.
No one is suggesting that we all do without oil, though minimizing it is best for our health, our world and our pocketbook. Electronics are not going away, as most of us have become reliant upon them for basic communication, but they open doors to minimizing oil consumption and maximizing efficiency and access to high quality foods, services and personal items.
The thing I like most about our definition is that the phrase “To Keep Living Here,” implies both the present and the future. It’s not just about maintaining life, but keeping a quality of life that is worthy of retaining, which requires cultural expression, community, economic survival and a sense of “home.”
That’s what NCSC will do, especially if we can purchase our ultimate home – the Maple Avenue buildings.
The Food Hub will allow people to grow food in a sustainable way, whether they have land or not. It will allow them to access fresh food from local growers. It will allow others to create value-added foods from the micro-creamery and the community kitchen. Businesses can grow, money can be saved, access can be reached, and regulations can be met at affordable rates, by sharing these facilities to make a stronger future. The Farmer’s Market and the Farmer’s Porch make it possible to sell food locally, and with a transportation program they can reach markets further away, even school districts that are seeking healthy food for their students.
Families that want to learn how to grow their own food, perhaps grow a business, can learn from the Food Hub, and grow that business like others that are already existing. Residents who are wondering what the “hub bub,” is about regarding food safety and sovereignty, will have a place to learn. And people from all the region can learn from the progress at NCSC, and take those ideas home to address their own local needs.
Our “Sustaining Neighbors” program brings food pantry items to “The Porch,” and rewarding that generosity with discounts on classes, and the goods are delivered to area food pantries, to spread the good work of others. Our swap shop allows people to “pass on the good” of gently used clothes for all ages, as well as videos, and small appliances, so that people with little expendable income can replace the items they need to.
But there’s more to the “Hub” at NCSC. It’s an Arts Hub, as we grow our “Porch Store,” for artists and artisans, and start a gallery space, studio rentals and classes. Our music program, from the Open Mic to the community sings brings people together to share a song and an evening, bridging generations and instilling a sense of community and personal pride. Celebrating the voice spreads from these programs to an A Capella Festival next year and storytelling programs to come.
Our Hub involves bringing senior citizens and youth together to share knowledge with each other. Our young people will have an outlet for learning citizenship and civics, and bring that knowledge back to their own communities, and the sustainability spreads.
But part of our “Sustainability Hub,” is about sharing resources. As a non-profit, we want to facilitate as many people to prosper from our facilities, and to this end, we want to provide arena space for 4H shows, livestock exhibitions, educational workshops and dog sports. Building animal-human relationships is crucial to building a sense of connection with the wider environment, and using our arena and training space to further those connections, not only helps our economic bottom line, but it raises the quality of life and types of choices available to those who live in our area and show or compete with dogs. Our children need to understand some basic lessons in biology and in humanity, and animals make that possible. NCSC wants to make that happen more frequently.
In time we’ll bring sustainable energy resources into play with passive and active solar, hopefully, if we can buy the necessary properties, micro-hydro. Using existing buildings we can bolster the economy and the spirit of Central New England residents, rural, urban and suburban.
Our Sustainability Hub brings many options for Central New England residents. It provides education where it’s desired, facilities where they’re needed, hope out of foreclosure and empty buildings. It shows people what a sustainable future can look like, whether you’re in the city or in the county, or in between. We just need people to invest in this idea and in turn we intend to help people take our experiences and move their ideas forward. Thank you.

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