We will no longer sift gold from local creekbeds or uncover vast oil fields or coal mines deposited in our shrinking foothills. The successive eras of quickly discovered and translated riches are over. Not because the resources no longer exist, but the places they remain have been overlooked. Local has been overlooked. In a specific location, all dots get connected. The true cost of corn growing directly beside the produce stand, where it has to be marked up a bit to stimulate a profit. This is where milk is pasteurized and chicken coops fill the air with stink. Where the composted filth of previous seasons is laced into the soil of this year’s garden. How was the product made, where does the waste go, what direct effect does such complex manufacturing have on people’s homes, lives, property? These questions need to be brought out into local light. Because it is being dumped into our moving waters, buried in lands filled with garbage beside our neighborhoods. No matter its distant source. In my opinion, these are places where treasure can be found. But for now, we are still intent on calling it trash.
New industries are going to be close to impossible to establish in a small town. Recreational services like restaurants and grocery markets require an almost insurmountable initial investment to get off the ground and running successfully and with sustainability. The sheer, jagged amount of capital required to realize an entrepreneurial dream is crippling. There are many directions in which to grow and change in order to foster local, community-based balance. One is a path mentioned already, and is happening at home whether we recognize it or not. Connecting the dots of seemingly separate business strategies and markets into complementary shapes. Like constellations. There may be several billion miles between the stars of a growing family farm and a country-style restaurant. But with a simple line drawn, these two ventures couple nicely into a single business.
Most mainstream, corporate chains actively obscure the connection between their products and the locations these products are made. Local communities can not only embrace this, but benefit greatly from being a stone’s throw from the fields and pastures that fed and coddled their merchandise. The scraps and leftovers could healthfully feed farm animals or even be composted and become meals for the coming years. If the restaurant struggles through a few rough seasons, food could still be directly sold at markets by the farm, as well as picking up catering events and holding festivals seasonally. It would allow a small level restaurant to spread out its image across several nearby locations, and control the pricing of food on the menu more intentionally, since they actively participate in its development.
Through intimate, hands-on recycling and gentle reuse programs, local businesses can compete at quality and pricing with any mainstream chain, creating within a range of diverse products. But, for the most part, initially, local communities need to take back our food. The agricultural economy of an area like ours is truly the beat of our heart. And the best way to cut costs while simultaneously increasing quality is to realize what others in your industry consider waste, treats as a burden, pays to have hauled away or destroyed. Decrepit technologies, food scraps, unused lots of grass, ancient looking buildings with busted out windows. This is what we have in abundance, and there are a lot of people who will only ever know it as trash. Project Local is first to examine value in a different way, to find or make it in a place where others have stopped working. Even stopped looking.
True local does not begin down the road or where you like to say you are from. It is home. Where and how we choose to live each and every day. Here we discover the foundation of any economy is community. The most abundantly valuable resource at our disposal currently is one another. And there is no such thing as waste. At least not in a well-connected place.