Jan 27, 2009

Cultivating the Community

Hi Challenge Participants!
I'll take a moment to introduce myself, but first need to Thank You all for your commitments to this project. Unfortunately many of you I've yet to meet - as the Challenge Coordinator I was busy at the Launch and Panel Discussion upstairs while Alice signed you up at the Info Booth. When you return your filled in Commitment Card I'll be happy to meet you and hear about your ideas (and criticisms!) for the Buy Local Challenge.
I'm Devin - the Info Booth and Curiosity Coordinator at the Wolfville Farmers' Market. When singing up up for this job I was given the task of supporting market goers so that they more easily could choose locally produced options. We set up the info booth, distributed info pieces, and tried to be friendly and inviting so you would all flock to me to ask questions and hold conversations about the Market and other places to buy local. Quickly I realized that information was not what was most needed! The market going community was well informed and passionate - and curious! When asked, you told me there was a range of reasons you didn't buy locally produced products as often as you said you would like to - accessibility, cost, and familiarity were all mentioned, as well as the skills it takes to prepare whole foods, time pressures around shopping and cooking, and family preferences. Each person I talked with sited a unique mix of barriers to shopping in line with their values around local products. I decided it was time to change the approach - and plan some way to support market goers that's more meaningful, useful, and fun. Enter the idea for the Buy Local Challenge - which is not mine, originally, of course. Many groups have come before and shown how coordinating a group of like minded participants is an interesting and successful way to support individuals who would like to change their habits.
What is the Buy Local Challenge? Let me define it by offering a list of what it is NOT.
  • The Buy Local Challenge is not about changing people's values or converting uninterested shoppers; the Challenge is about bringing like minded people together to share resources, learn skills, and offer support within a community setting.
  • The Buy Local Challenge is not a 100 Mile Diet program (unless that's what you want to challenge yourself to accomplish!) We heard from Market Goers that a commitment that deep was unattainable, or unattractive to most - even if we were all excited by the possibility of only eating local food. Each Challenge Participant is asked to choose the intensity of commitment that suits their lifestyle and goals.
  • The Buy Local Challenge is not only about food; a vibrant local economy requires a variety of products and services are offered, as well as a healthy level of civic engagement. I want to live in a community full of artists, trades people, crafts people, shop keepers, teachers, learners, leaders, children, service providers, AND farmers. As consumers we have the power to support these, and may more, types of activity.
  • The Buy Local Challenge is not a list of activities the Wolfville Market is asking you to accomplish over the next 12 months. We've designed the Challenge so that each Participant selects only the ideas and commitments he or she embraces. The list we wrote up should only serve as inspiration. Decide for yourself what you want to accomplish! Share the commitments you make with us so that we can offer you support, and celebrate with you when you succeed.
In case you're curious, my family and I are signing on as well. My experience with local products is broad - I grew up in a family of trades people, near a town filled with artists, and digging in a backyard garden. While studying Environmental Science at Acadia I was often distracted by teaching friends to eat well, and cheaply (which usually meant in season), exploring the products, services, and adventures available within walking distance of the university, reading and talking about how global and local issues intersect, and working at local farms and restaurants. My family consists of two adults, one toddler, and a couple of cats. We've just found our first home and have grand plans for raised vegetable and flower gardens, a coop full of happy chickens, and rooms made homey with locally produced objects that bring practicality, beauty, and stories. We love to entertain and realize how important it is to prepare meals everyone can enjoy and leave time in our evenings to eat together.
My plan for this blog is that stories, ideas, and resources will be shared between Challenge Participants. I will limit myself to posting resources and relevant events, as well as "how we're doing" updates, summarizing the collected successes of the Challenge Community. This is because I'm long winded (as you may have noticed : ) and because I'm very interested in hearing what you have to offer. If you're eager to join the blogging group and share your story over the next 12 months, visit me at the Wolfville Farmers' Market Info Booth, or email me at devin_folks@hotmail.com. Please also feel free to send me bits of interesting info I can post on your behalf.
Thank You all, again, for Challenging yourselves!
ps - You may or may not know, the Buy Local Challenge has attracted support from Select Nova Scotia (this means our tax dollars!) We've agreed to share the strong and weak points of the project as it progresses so that we can build a plan other groups could use to host their own Buy Local Challenge. Your experiences are not only interesting to us, at the Market, and to the government initative that has offered support, but to other Markets, associations, and companies who want to support and engage their communities toward buying local. We're happy to protect your privacy and keep your comments anonymous.

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