Today should be interesting. I have to try and explain “the NCSC Business Plan” to people who are unfamiliar with our project.  These are well respected business people who are trying to help us secure the funding to purchase our preferred building. But explaining NCSC is a bit like explaining ecology. There are some aspects of NCSC that will stand on their own. Others will need support for a long time, maybe forever. And there will be others who provide
more income than they cost us, and that combination of “economy/ecology,” will make the system work.  But it’s not the way that conventional business works, so how do I explain it? Rather than deal with an entire course on ecology, I thought I’d start with building a single organism.

When we started the idea of North Country Sustainability Center it was a realization that we need a facility that will allow individuals and small farms to develop value-added products, and to allow those products to be easily marketed to a waiting customer base.  But along the way that idea grew from just food to “What else can we do for farmers?”  That question was answered by offering an arena for exhibitions and for 4H training and other programs. We are fortunate that a facility with an indoor arena exists in our little town, and that it is in foreclosure.  But that plan was not going to serve a constituency that was already forming a structure, the local arts community.  So how could we harvest their energy and how does that relate to agriculture and food?  The answer, fiber arts from sheep and
the culinary arts.  Once that door opened, we could open the door to other artists, of all types.

Since “sustainability” was always at the core of our plan, what else is needed to reach that goal?  Traditional arts such as sewing, brick masonry, blacksmithing and teaching farming, and the age old practice of singing while you work, bringing music into play.  The project was really starting to take form, much like a skeleton that was developing a muscle structure, but like all bodies, it would need constant nutrition to keep it function.  Many of these ideas, though vital and enjoyable, are at best self-financing. We needed to find a source of financial nutrition that would both benefit from our work, and would support it as well.  Enter the dog world.

Though the riding arena brings horses to mind, the space involved does not lend itself to heavy horse trailer traffic.  Smaller livestock trailers, and vans/trucks with dogs, goats, rabbits, and other small stock would fit fine, and they would allow more frequent use, and involve more people.  While most people love horses and love to watch them, more people are involved in smaller animals as pets or income.  Sharing the facilities with these groups would provide them opportunities that they often can’t access, and would allow us to serve more people in a variety of ways. The pet industry has proven to be resilient in this economy, and the increased emphasis on health and activity is
boosted by the bond between dogs and their humans.  What a great “econ-system” to build from!

The “skin” on this “ecology/creature,” is education.  An increasing number of people are seeking that knowledge that they can use to increase their security and standard of living, yet they often have difficulty finding  those opportunities.  While there is a large number of residential facilities that offer great opportunities, but not everyone is
ready for that immersion before they make commitment.  By offering an introduction to the aspects of sustainability, and then connecting those students with a deeper source of learning, we benefit “our competition.”

We started our project with great ideas, and those continue. But we also faced the choice of waiting for perfection, or starting from a different angle, and decided to launch the arts aspect, rather than have them wait until the buildings were purchased. But now the arts need the agriculture to keep going, and the consumers want that increased
access to food.  Our farmers want to meet that need, and the people around us who suffer from 10% unemployment, need access to affordable, healthy food. It’s time to get NCSC back on its original track.  We have the arts as a base to start, and that is such a blessing. But now I am charged with the responsibility of introducing financial pros with
our “ecology of our economy.”  Wish me luck! 

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