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I’ve been trying for years to figure out how to get people to understand how one facility can properly serve more than one interest group.  For some reason, people seem to dismiss our Hearth project because we plan to do so many things under one roof.  Then, last night, I got to thinking about cold medicines.  If you have a cold do you take a different treatment for every symptom or do you find one that can address most of your problems.  If it treats something you don’t have, do you avoid taking it because you don’t want to take an unnecessary drug.  I know for me, the answer is no. If it works for most of my issues, and not hurt me by interacting with another medicine, I’d give it a try.

That’s the same thing about our sustainability center.  Farmers need a place to make or sell their products.  Farm kids need a place where they can meet, show off their progress and learn from others about how to further their interest.  If we stopped at that audience, no one would come.

But consumers want to find local food, and usually one experience leads to curiosity about other issues involving food and the environment. That leads to interest in other practical information, ie. How clothes are made, water is treated, and other matters of sustainability.  But if we only had a consumer hub, there would be little advantage to the farmers, and ultimately no difference between our Sustainability Hub and a library.

The space that is needed for 4H would sit empty if we didn’t find another alternate use, so enter animal-assisted therapy. Autistic families have found this relationship to be helpful and returning veterans are seeking this activity as well.  In addition, many of these people have expressed interest in learning to farm, building something positive and perhaps starting a farm, but they lack mentors and space.  Should we keep our classes only to them, or do we open them for others, and build a stronger community?

There is a frustration among many of us that sustainability is something that is relegated to the “should” column, something we should do, and not in the “must.”  People have a problem with “musts,” as they are often looked at as medicine and government intervention.  Our definition of sustainability is “whatever it takes to keep living here.”  What do you need?  Can you do it alone?  Can our community, culture, even planet, do it alone?  No, but we stop trying to compartmentalize it, and integrate it into everyday existence, we painlessly further our cause.  If we make the most of the resources that we have, by sharing buildings, working together, and truly see how we all have some sort of need that can be met by someone else, we can make strides in a great way.

Our problem is that there is a reality – money.  Our population is so cynical, frustrated, and scared that they are not giving to make this happen.  I had hoped that by involving so many different groups we would be able to make this happen sooner, but I misjudged the level of fear.  Help us make the NCSC Hearth happen, with donation, by sharing with someone who could help, or by helping us integrate sustainability throughout our daily activities, please do.  It will be like taking an inter-disciplinary pill for the people and the planet.

For more information please visit www.northcountrysustain.org and see what we’re working on.

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