On Creating Community
Written by Susie Zahratka
Blogger at Yoga Pants and Bon Bons
I’ve started this blog post a hundred times. If we were still in the handwriting age, you’d see a garbage can overflowing with crumpled pieces of paper; some with only a few words and others with several paragraphs. With most of my writing, I provide a simple how-to; how to select a healthy mattress, make applesauce. When we talk about getting involved with the community though, it’s an entirely individual thing. My recipe to get there will not be yours. While my perfect finished product might require one cup of courage, one tsp of motivation, and a sprinkle of dissatisfaction with the status quo, yours might turn out better with 3 cups of knowledge and a pinch of joy. This is not a how-to. This is blog post is meant to pose more questions than in answers, and hopefully inspire an outcome that is never quite finished, but is always growing and changing. Let’s begin with the basics.
You are amazing and unique. Your strengths will serve you perfectly for the challenges you will encounter on your journey, and if you allow yourself space, you will have the opportunity to grow in the areas in your life that you need to improve on. All of this with just the basic act of taking control of your own food choices and building, one person at a time, a supportive community around you. Why food? Food is one of those things that we all must have. We eat daily, often several times and so with every act of eating, we are making several choices including, but not limited to; who is growing our food, how our food is grown, and the value we place on both of those things. I believe that the choices or non choices we make regarding food and where it comes from can be divided into three basic levels of involvement that are each shaped by pre-existing beliefs. Many of these beliefs do not serve to benefit us and instead hold us back from engaging personally with those around us. Although we are the most socially connected society by means of the computer and social media, we have in actuality become the most anti-social society because of it.
Our local farmers market; a gathering of people of all ages
If we pay close attention to messages by the media, we hear that we are too busy to “do it all”.
We don’t have the training to engage in anything other than our chosen profession. In this society of onerous rules and the newly coined “helicopter parenting”, we are sheltered from making mistakes and thus confined to a “safe” life with very little personal growth. The result for us is life in a society where we depend upon rules created by multiple governing bodies that can stifle creativity, innovation, involvement, and personal interactions between ourselves and our families, our neighbors, our community. Some questions to think about;
What are you doing to become more self reliant and resourceful? As pertains to food, we have so many options that are basic including; gardening, cooking at home, sharing a meal with others. What choices are we making with our fork?
Our tiny backyard garden. The kids loved to monitor the progress.
We are taught not to trust; not to trust our instincts, our neighbors, our own decisions based upon experience and research. If we can’t do it all, but also cannot trust our neighbors and community, then what are we left with? Again, we are left with the dependance on an outside authority to guide us and tell us what is the right thing to do.
Some questions to get you thinking;
- Where do you spend most of your time (at home, at the office, on a farm, etc)? What are things that you can do in those environments to inspire change and encourage connection? Remember that authentic change does not happen overnight. This is good! By encouraging questioning of the status quo as pertains to food, it has the trickle down effect that will eventually spread to other aspects of life.
- Are you involved in your own community? There are typically many ways to get involved based upon how much time you have. Don’t assume that the amount of time or extent of your experience will be a limiting factor. As a Stay at Home Mom, my involvement has to be flexible as my family needs ebb and flow. Joining the Parks and Community Involvement Committee gives me the flexibility that I require while allowing me to propose ideas that are important to me.
Organized government or preexisting communities are not the only way to plug in! Back in 2008, a friend and I decided to begin hosting potlucks on a monthly basis. What began as a tiny group of us meeting up for some homemade food, grew to a thriving (and still growing) community that now includes demonstrations and presentations as well farmers and other vendors that provide the community with nutrient food. In 2012, we decided to establish ourselves as a local Weston A Price Chapter to better connect with others who were seeking the same knowledge and connections.
Learning to make sauerkraut
3. What businesses do you frequent; what are their practices; are they an asset to the community? We hear about buying local, and it is indeed vital to the community in which you live to keep those businesses not just in business, but flourishing.
4. Where do your dollars go in the food world? Where I live, we are fortunate to have community owned co-ops and farmers markets that are fairly close. However, a couple of years ago, I had the desire to have a Farmers market that was within walking distance. I contacted the farmers that I knew and put out the word through social media. When I had generated what I thought was a good amount of interest, I approached the city with the idea. They were excited about the idea as long as I could be the point person for the vendors. Together we created a no-cost local Farmers Market that operates once a month at a city park. Over the last two years, it’s become a lovely event with music, a food truck and a handful or two of vendors.
Our local Farmers Market; focused on nutrient dense food and sustainable farming practices
There are many misnomers at play in our political system. Many people today believe that merely by voting or signing an online petition that they are making a difference. The truth is that making change and being truly politically active takes time and effort. This means, most importantly, being aware of what is happening and taking the proper measures to support or oppose proposed legislation. It also requires education of those acting upon the legislation and of the public who may not be aware of what is happening or may not understand how this will impact them. Again, this does not have to be a lonely task. By using the above methods of connecting with and/or creating a supportive community, a group of a few will quickly grow.
So get to know your representatives; visit the Capital, town hall meetings, other events in your district. Again, this can be a scary venture. The only way you can fail though, is by not participating. Your locally elected officials spend much of their day talking to paid lobbyists. As a member of their district and as someone who will re-elect them or not, you have the opportunity to let them know what the concerns are in the area they are representing. Back in 2011, I had the opportunity to lobby for a topic that was important to me and my family. With two young children in tow, we lobbied frequently through the winter and spring. Sometimes it was not pretty. My then 3 year old threw tantrums sometimes as we left offices after very brief meetings. My 1 year old often skipped her nap so that we could catch a certain representative and engage them for 3 minutes between meetings. You can probably imagine what that scene looked like. But it made a difference. We shared our thoughts with those elected to represent us. We showed up. My personal recount of the trial of Alvin Schlangen back in 2012, is a powerful example of the food community in play and in action. Above all, keep in mind that we are constantly learning and growing and that the goal of conversation is not necessarily to change minds, but to establish a trusting relationship. Authentic change takes time and much personal reflection.
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