Opinion: Defend Local Food AND Water

Perhaps the following ideas for a more unified community plan will encourage others to add more pieces. Without a plan, I fear our region will end up divided against itself:

1. Listen to local producers and work cooperatively with them to build the Buy Local movement in our communities;
2. Create a Delaware River Basin Buy Fresh Network or similar cooperative union of local producers and local consumers;


On July 19, 2009, Eileen Cear posted a comment to Breathing Is Political which I’ve excerpted here:

“What about the poor people living here for generations. We NYC people(I’m actually on Long island), but own property in the watershed, take such advantage of this area, and take away all future developement for people [who] have been here first. Remember what we all did to the Indians. We need to do something for upstate, not only take-and direct ALL future activites in the name of being our Playground.”

In re-reading my response to her comment, I have to say that I blew  by Ms. Cear’s very real concerns about the future of farmers and long-time property holders in the Delaware River Basin.

On July 11, 2009, I’d written,  “If I thought a line of  Neo-Gandhis standing in front of the [natural gas] drilling equipment would  turn the tide, I’d do it in a heartbeat but I still wouldn’t know how to convince the grocery clerk, the farmer or the graduate to join me.”

Perhaps the following ideas for a more unified community plan will encourage others to add more pieces.  Without a plan, I fear  our region will end up divided against itself:

1.   Listen to local producers and work cooperatively with them to build the Buy Local movement in our communities;
2.   Create a Delaware River Basin Buy Fresh Network or  similar  cooperative union of local producers and local consumers;

3.   Create a local coalition of  producers, retailers/wholesalers, lenders, consumers and government entities to:

Support distribution of local goods through local outlets.

Support retail and wholesale markets whose inventory is comprised of         60-75% local goods.  Encourage them to build cooperative purchasing         models that can reduce the cost of goods;

Support  politicians and candidates who work with local producers,               retailers,  wholesalers, lenders and local consumers to make local                   distribution economically viable and to promote the cooperative
distribution of local goods to local outlets;

Support local banks with a track record of lending to local producers            for capital improvements and expansion which result in greater                   production and availability of local goods;

Support new tax structures that encourage local production,                   distribution and sales of local products.

Encourage local schools and restaurants to buy/serve locally-produced         foods.

The day we stand beside the Delaware River to pour in our cups of water and to celebrate our roles as caretakers,  we must also pledge to join our farmers in creating vibrant, dependable markets for their goods. Our communities are actively harmed when we buy fruits, veggies, grains, dairy and meat products that originate a thousand miles from our tables. Without local control of our community resources, it’s difficult to understand how our communities will survive.

*   *   *   *
Here are more links with good information for those of us who are  as committed to preserving our local food resources as we are to rescuing our River and water:

Community Alliance with Family Farmers (CAFF)
Transition US
Go Green NOLA
Food Routes

There are also a bunch of local  “Green Beings”  and Community Resource links here.

Locally, Sullivan Transition is meeting Monday, July 27, 2009 from 6 to 8 PM at Cornell Cooperative Extension. The group is dedicated to planning “…our LOCAL future in regard to food, green building and energy, education/awareness raising, local currency and economy, transportation, water and other resources…” Please see the CottageWorks Community Calendar for contact information and additional details.

Communities In Transition


According to an organizer,  thirty-seven participants attended the June 9, 2009 Transition Sullivan community meeting.   Their purpose is to build a Sullivan County whose economic base is “sustainable and resilient in a new age of expensive oil, galloping climate change, and reduced funding for communities.”

Like Transition Towns in England, Transition Sullivan participants will investigate two crux issues:  how does a community evolve past  its dependence on declining petroleum resources and reduce its carbon emissions in order to strengthen itself and its people?

The notion of communities powering themselves is not new but it is gaining in vigor.  This past weekend, I was delighted to spend  time with Tom Lambert who’s been a long time champion of Sullivan County’s evolving independence.  We reminisced about attempts twenty years ago to extend high speed rail service to Callicoon from Port Jervis.  (The memory of those frustrated efforts  spurred one of us to  unseemly language  and it wasn’t Tom.)  By the end of the discussion,  we cautiously agreed that perhaps we’d been too early to the party twenty years ago.

Whether it’s farmers growing their way out of oil dependence in Iowa, powering a town with wind in Minnesota or generating radio broadcasts with water power in Jeffersonville, NY,  the seeds of change have been sown locally, nationally and internationally.

In the past, some activists  stopped listening  the minute they heard “bio-fuels.”  Others buried their heads at the mention of  “wind towers”  and others sputtered unintelligibly when “nuclear” was  whispered.  We each have preferences.  Each of us is  capable of finding faults in any solution but more than ever, we recognize that our futures are being sorely wasted.

Today, The Center for Discovery’s Thanksgiving Farm is inspirational in its scope.  New York State’s Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) was an unknown agency just a few years ago but today, it reels beneath the demand for licensed professionals capable of comprehensive green renovations.  Our very own  Sullivan County Community College stepped up and now offers a degree program in Green Building Maintenance and Management.

Seems to me that Tim Shera and Maria Grimaldi have organized their Transition Sullivan initiative at the perfect time.  Grab your neighbors and family.  Join them on June 16, 2009 at 6:00 PM at the Sullivan County Cornell Cooperative Extension for the second organizational meeting.

Try to  visit Transition Towns and Open Space Technology beforehand  so you’re familiar with the Transition Towns  model in England  and how the meeting will be conducted.  Think about the town, hamlet or village where you live.  Jot down a list of resources your community brings to the larger table and  for an overview of the first meeting, please see the new article at The Catskill Chronicle.