For NCSC to work we need to build a four legged table. Four legged because of our multi-level approach to funding, and four-legged because it relies on livestock.  When NCSC started it was with the farmers at its roots, but the arts were always involved.  The idea was that those who got things together the fastest would have the freedom to pursue their projects, and that is what we have done. 

While the interest was on the food system, farmers are a hard group to ”wrangle.”  We are a group of individuals who are self-driven, and in New England, we tend to be slow to trust. After all, the life of a small farmer has not been supported by the government or the public for quite some time. But because of that inherent distrust, the food system aspect, which is vital to our survival, has not developed the way it should. I have been afraid for quite some time that farmers felt misled, as we have done more to support the artists and artisans than local agriculture.

It’s not because we didn’t want to. A small group of dedicated artists got together to work to form the SchoolHouse Gallery, a coordinated group already was in place for the Porch,  and the season required that farmers tend their fields, their herds and focus on the farm.  Well, we’re coming near the end of the growing season, and we need to kick that agricultural horse forward.

This region needs a kitchen that will allow people to develop new products.  They need a place to bake for a farmer’s market. They need a facility that will make dreams possible.  The nation needs a place to show that micro-creameries can work together to bring cheese, yogurt and ice cream to market, and let those businesses grow to larger operations if they want to.  Currently family dairies can not legally sell their  cheese, butter, ice cream or yogurt, without investing tens of thousands of dollars to meet requirements.   How many farm families can do that without losing money to interest and time?  Our micro-creamery would illustrate that organized groups can share a facility and meet the increasing demand for artisan cheese, goat butter and specialty foods such as goat milk ice cream.

People in this area also need a place “To go” to find locally made food on a regular basis, and a place to learn how to cook it.  Chefs know that the longer a food cooks, the more the flavors can emerge, but that takes time.  Our classroom would allow people to learn these skills in a shared facility, IF we can get it going. We need to get this food hub spinning with activity.

But the “four legs” includes 4H shows, rabbit shows, and opportunities for dog sports.  The pet industry is growing despite the economy’s struggles, but people in Central New England have to travel an hour or more to find a space, a trainer, and then face high prices when they get there because space and time are a premium.  If we can purchase the “stables,” that we want, we can provide that space in Central MA, and save a lot of time and money for the users, and bring a good income to the NCSC to fund the rest of the program.

Working with animals not only soothes the soul of a human, it also benefits their overall health. For agility it’s that heart pounding workout they get when they run the course with their pets. For animal assisted therapy, it’s the calming effect that reinforces a sense of acceptance and helps teach gentleness and consideration.  For an increasing number of families, animal assisted therapy is a crucial therapy for their autistic children, but it’s not accessible due to expense or availability. We can bring the animals to the people, and increase the quality of life for all involved. But we need those buildings.

We need them before the winter comes.  If I sound angry, I’m frustrated.  I hear from people from all walks of life that “we need that kitchen,” but they don’t help us raise the funds to purchase the buildings.  We have the opportunity to get these buildings for a very small amount of money, less than $200,000 for 5 acres, 4 buildings, and a brighter future. We can fix them up over time, but we can start with planning, dog training and three of the buildings, right away, so the repairs are reasonable for us to manage, if we have some to start, but it seems that reality hasn’t hit many people. It’s not coming from the government, from the corporations, or from the wealthy.  It has to come from those who want to use it, learn from it, duplicate it, or benefit from it.  Like a garden, it has to come from the roots.  I believe that it will grow when the sun starts to shine on its growth, but that cultivating and seeding is hard work that has to be done with personal care.  Please, be a “Future Farmer,” and help us plant this garden, grow this project and harvest its potential so we can all benefit from its fruits, and those of the “farmer’s” labor.

We are being watched all over the country, to see how this project works.  Those people want to come see how a food hub grows.   People in the outer parts of New England want to participate in the food system we are building.  Greater Boston wants to consume that luscious ice cream that Jeannie has in development.  Who wouldn’t want Bea’s empanadas?  New York doesn’t know what they’re missing until they’ve tested cheese from Nigerian dwarf goats; but we need that kitchen, that transport system, that belief, to bring those markets to our farmers and producers.

Help us make it happen. Give what you can. Tell everyone you know.  Support our work by shouting it to the sky. We do.  Join us and others in growing a new food system. We’ll do our part, and all the exciting projects in the country will merge to form an alternative to the existing system, and we’ll all benefit from that diversity. Donate at www.northcountrysustain.org/Donate.html

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