One of the big lessons I’ve learned over the past year is the value of knowledge, skills, and some specialized equipment in trying to shift to a more local and sustainable means of obtaining food. It’s a terrible loss when a bucket of plums or a box of apples goes bad because someone doesn’t know how, or have the equipment, to properly preserve them for safe storage. I should know, as I had it happen to me.
This capital, or the lack thereof, seems to be one of the key indicators of success or failure in this type of endeavor. Where does one-especially one with a limited income-obtain it? I’m going to try to answer that question in the weeks ahead. One place for free information, of course, is at the local public library. But book learning can only take a person so far. Leave it to ever-progressive Seattle to find another solution. The Seattle Public Library is hosting a series of “Urban Self-Reliance” workshops which are free and open to the public. Topics range from “Chickens in the City” to “DIY Seismic Retrofitting,” with much of the emphasis on food production, gathering, and preservation. There’s bike repair and maintenance, disaster preparation, mushroom hunting…oh, and apparently West Seattle has a tool library. Not that I’m jealous or anything.
This is just the sort of thing I’ve been thinking about, applicable to any of the manual arts. My idea is something along the lines of a community workshop, where people can access space and tools to do repairs, complete crafts, maybe cook a big meal for freezing, and so on. There would be tools, reference material, and skilled supervisors on hand as well. All well and good as far as it goes, but how does that idea connect specifically to gardening and food preparation? I suspect, as I mentioned in my Summary Report, that a large part of it lies in the community garden concept. This is an angle that I’m going to pursue during the fall; trying to find out what kind of crossover there is between novice and expert gardeners, and how these folks compare demographically as well.
For food preparation and preservation, I have noticed that both The Co-Op and Backyard Harvest conduct classes, clinics, and hands-on events. Both organizations are great resources for the community; but in a rural area such as this, it’s easy to feel a sense of isolation and disconnection when the next town is 10 or 15 miles away. As a low-income family, we have to be very careful with our time and money, and that distance can be a hardship. I intend to explore that barrier as well this fall. Maybe I’ll see how many events over there I can actually get to, and how many events are right here in my town. Keep in mind there’s currently no transit service between the two cities; it’s either bike, car, or stay put.
I’ll keep plugging away at the travel notes over on the other blog as time permits too. Thanks for tagging along with me.