Everything that goes around seems to come around again in society. Here we are in harsh economic times where we will likely have to become even more sustainable to feed ourselves, just as in the Great Depression of the 1930s and during World War II when Victory Gardens were part of the war effort at home. Now, more than ever, with debt ceilings and world economic collapse––not to mention the high price of gas––we need to look more local to where we shop, what we eat, and what we grow. As my grandmother, a midlife farmwife herself, used to say: 'The pendulum is swinging back again.'
Kentucky's own Wendell Berry wrote: A community economy is not an economy in which well-placed persons can make a 'killing'. It is an economy whose aim is generosity and a well-distributed and safeguarded abundance. An advocate of family, family farms, and the importance of community, he has outlined seventeen tenets for successful rural communities. Here are some of them (you can read them all here):
- Always ask of any proposed change or innovation: What will this do to our community? How will this affect our common wealth?
- Always include local nature - the land, the water, the air, the native creatures - within the membership of the community.
- Always ask how local needs might be supplied from local sources, including the mutual help of neighbors.
- Always supply local needs first (and only then think of exporting products - first to nearby cities, then to others).
- Develop small-scale industries and businesses to support the local farm and/or forest economy.
- Strive to supply as much of the community's own energy as possible.
- Make sure that money paid into the local economy circulates within the community and decrease expenditures outside the community.
- Make the community able to invest in itself by maintaining its properties, keeping itself clean (without dirtying some other place), caring for its old people, and teaching its children.
- Always be aware of the economic value of neighbourly acts. In our time, the costs of living are greatly increased by the loss of neighbourhood, which leaves people to face their calamities alone.
- A rural community should always be acquainted and interconnected with community-minded people in nearby towns and cities.
- A sustainable rural economy will depend on urban consumers loyal to local products. Therefore, we are talking about an economy that will always be more cooperative than competitive.
Reading the agrarian writings and poetry of Wendell Berry always cheers me, but here's the silver lining to all of the doom and gloom out there: ask yourself what you and your family can do locally in your own community to make a difference to your local economy. What can you buy or what business can you patronize where you don't have to travel more than 10-15 miles, or out of county, to do it? We all need to go further afield when necessary, or just to get out of Dodge, but so much is in our own backyards or right down a pleasant county road.
So give me Liberty and give me 'maters! [With apologies to Patrick Henry.] In Casey County it is quite possible to have both.