ImageContinuing my “fairy tale adventure” in building a sustainability center, I realized that this legend needs a wizard.  But our world won’t be healed by a magical being. Each of us needs to be a wizard at what we do.  How does that work? Pretty easy actually, if we have the tools.

Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines a wizard as “one who is skilled in magic,” which is what we usually think of. But it also defines it as “A skilled or clever person,” or a “wise person.”  For anyone who is new to an idea, or an activity, watching it happen can certainly think that that skilled person is performing magic.  Once you know how to do it, you become a wizard as well.

When I talk to people about this project to people I often feel depressed when I’m done.  You’d think I’d learn after scores of people have told me “it’s too big,” “it’ll never work,” but I don’t believe it. I look at Ann who’s giving her time to teach people to sew, and having a great time doing it.  She’s not charging yet because she believes so strongly in what we’re doing she doesn’t want her little paycheck to stop that from happening.

I look at Jean who makes this amazing goat milk ice cream, who started it because she had a neighborhood kid with food allergies. She wanted to make him a treat, so she experimented, creating this amazing recipe. She paid for professional analyses and tests so that she could help other families, only to find that she can’t afford to make it, and those people have to wait until she finds a way to do it.

I remember the people I’ve spoken to autistic children who have seen a tremendous improvement because they consume fresh milk, either cow or goat.  They drive for hours to get it, because their children are more comfortable, even cognitively improving, because of that access to fresh milk. It’s those people who need a place like ours, so that they can get what they need, affordably. I’ve seen autistic children, generally extremely fearful, open up and reach out to a huge draft horse, and seek her out repeatedly, without an adult escort.  There’s magic there, for sure.

I hear such a roar of frustration that the economy hasn’t come back, but I know that for many families, they are much more “economy-proof.”  They grow their own food, preserve it, cook it, and sometimes sell it.  While there are millions of very anxious people, there are countless others who are not listening to the media hype, but are looking seriously for ways that they can save money, make money or make their money go further.  They are also looking down the road and seeing a planet that needs help, neighbors that need help, and a nation that needs to rediscover its roots.  If you call that a “crystal ball,” okay. To me, it’s simply using foresight and common sense, which is truly our best way forward to a sustainable world.

In trying to raise money and awareness of North Country Sustainability Center, I often meet confusion. How can dogs and a commercial kitchen share a space?  Answer: Same building, different wings.
How do the arts and agriculture fit together?  Art probably started as a way to pass the time during quiet times on ancient farms. Dyes and paints came from the plants that grew there. Sheep’s wool gave way to yarn and clothing, and people told stories around the fire.  Meet the arts.  How do we separate them from their ancestry?

If the center is successful people will travel to learn what others have to offer. We’ve seen it already as Martha drove repeatedly from CT to Ashburnham, to learn about goats, and then send a thank you note to show us how much we mattered in her journey to a farm.  People will be able to find fresh, local food at the Center, or make it.  Others will take their culinary skills and create a catering business, or teach cooking classes, but we need to get it going.

I know it’s a tough time for everyone.  But I also have faith that there are enough people out in the world to see the value of that “place on a hill,” to show it can be done.  Urban areas get a lot of attention, as they should because so many people live there. But there are rural people who need assistance, too.  There is a real problem in rural America for young people. How do they access the arts? What do they with their energy? How do they learn new technology if all the resources are in urban areas?  Though our area doesn’t suffer from meth addiction as many other areas do, certainly drugs are one response to boredom.  But if you were a young adult would you take advantage of arts programs, such as dance or a recording studio?  would you seek out a place that allowed you to work with animals, or grow things, and learn business at the same time?

We have a place in mind, though I don’t want to go into too many specifics. It has lots of room to grow, and space for dance, theater, dogs, shops, offices and the kitchen and creamery.  It can provide that meeting space that many groups need, from homeschooling to arts programs, to sustainability groups, at a minimal cost. 

If we are going to have a strong future, we need to look at ways to share, to conserve and to make the most of the resources we have. Jobs are crucial, but if we don’t find a way to give people back their communities, their food and the knowledge to make good choices, those jobs will not last because we’ll face a continued future where everyone is out for themselves and our resources will be squandered.  What do you want for your future, for your childrens’? 

Please, visit and be one of those who can see the crystal ball of a sustainable future.  You can be that wizard in your neighborhood, or help others be wizards in theirs.  Unlike a computer wizard who tells you step by step how to proceed, we are into a new territory where we have to be creative, innovative and wise.  Your donation, your voice will cast that spell of sustainability, and we’ll all have more wizards to learn from.  Please tell others about our project, or we’re going to have to slay another dragon, and that’s a lot of work!