IN RURAL COMMUNITIES
Martindale, Sharon Crotser
Although rural libraries have undergone alot of
in the last 50 years, some important characteristics and ideals
remain the same. Free access to information is perhaps the
most central goal. Promotion of literacy, knowledge, independent
study, and self sufficiency are out growths of that goal. Libraries
have served to encourage creative thought and appreciation of the
arts as a whole. For this reason, they have functioned, and may
continue to function, as cultural centers within their communities.
The reality of the rural public
has become straffed with troubles. Many, many rural libraries have
hocked nearly their very souls to keep hooks on the shelves and the
wolf from the door. Hi-tech demands of automation and other computer
tools have stretched depleted book budgets to the breaking point.
Into this fiscal morass has creapt societal attitudes verging on the
apathetic. Illiteracy has increased in the video age, and libraries
are feeling its effects.
Another facet of the challenges rural
face concerns the political realities involved in acquiring funding
from a voting base who rarely read. This is sometimes echoed in a
lack of community attention to the most basic maintenance requirments
of the facility in which the library is housed. In addition, many of
the ideals libraries, by their very existance espouse -
unlimited access to
not necessarily those held dear by the community at large. Rural
America is not noted for its open minded and diverse opinions.
In spite of, or because of, these
continue to play a crucial (if underestimated) role in their
communities. By their very presence libraries promote community,
literacy, and in their own modest way, the basics of democracy and
empowerment of the individual, especially those who do not have
access to information without them. libraries help to level the deck
that is stacked against people who are poor, disenfranchised, and
excluded from upper income “networking”.
As librarians, our job is to scek to expand
library’s ideals further into the realm ot reality, to expose
people to culture
and diversity, and to honor
the historical goal of ensuring tree access to the thinking to the
world to all.
ON MOFFA FUNDING
January this newsletter published a proposal to the effect that some
of the money from the sale of the MLT farm be given to Michigan
Organic Food and Farm Alliance (MOFFA). Members of the Board agreed
that the purposes of MOFFA were similar to those of MLT and that
MOFFA was deserving of support. As a result the Board of Directors
voted to transfer a total of ten thousand dollars to MOFFA during
1994. The following is a brief report on MOFFA’s activity
the past year..
currently managed by a
seven-member Board of Directors chaired by this writer. These are
energetic and deeply committed persons who have agreed to give at
least 20 hours of work to MOFFA each month. We are actively seeking
additional Board members but the 20 hour commitment is a barrier to
many interested people. Nine Advisory Board members help by providing
expertise or connections.
MLT funding, the Board
was able to hire Judith Pedersen—Benn as its Executive
a half time basis beginning in March. She provided an office and
served as a spokesperson for MOFFA, answering inquiries and
coordinating the services we offered. She also organized board
members into committees and worked hard to help the board coalesce.
however, at its November 12 meeting the Board reluctantly accepted
the resignation of Ms. Pedersen-Benn effective December 1. She had
been offered a full-time position in Community Development with the
Extension Service in Wisconsin. Board member Paul Scott accepted the
responsibility of Interim Coordinator and will devote most of his
time to grantwriting. Other board members volunteered to assume
additional responsibilities and all aspects of MOFFA’s work
about 125 members and
is actively building its membership base. Toward this end the Board
invested about $2500 to purchase a list from Rodale and send out 5000
letters to readers of Organic Gardening
Response to date has been very promising.
to its mission
statement, MOFFA promotes the development of food systems that rely
on organic methods of food production and that revitalize and sustain
local communities. To do this MOFFA carries on its networking
organizes programs and conferences, publishes a newsletter and other
brochures, makes educational materials available, and seeks funds to
continue its work. Special efforts are made to facilitate local
production and processingof organic food.
third year MOFFA has
planned and organized the one-day “organic” program
Week (Farmer’s Week) at Michigan State University. This is
consultation with Organic Growers of Michigan. This years program is
scheduled for March 7 and the keynote address in the morning is to be
given by Dana Jackson of the Land Stewardship Project. Breakout
sessions will be focussed on topics such as permaculture, local food
and local hunger, the development of national organic standards,
organic food initiatives in Michigan, seed saving, and organic
livestock production. The annual meetings of 0GM and of MOFFA are
also scheduled for this day and evening.
publishes the roster of
organic growers in the state and is currently preparing a much
expanded directory including organic businesses and food activists
and organizations. This new directory will come out on March 7.
Since it will help to connect eaters and growers it will help to
promote the growth of local food systems. Organic food businesses are
being asked to underwrite this venture with $100. donations.
publishes a newsletter 6
times a year which has been enthusiastically received by many
readers. A series of brochures is also being published. The first,
which will define various food terms to clarify the meaning of
technical terms, will be available soon. Other brochures in
preparation will clarify “What is Organic?” and
possibilities for local food.
Board members gave at
least 12 talks on food issues and on MOFFA during 1994. Some were
short talks and some were full-scale presentations. The Board is
considering whether to sponsor public discussions on topics such as
the use of Bovine Growth Hormone, the link between pesticides and
breast cancer, or on the harmful effect of GATT (if passed by
Congress) on sustainable agriculture.
networking efforts MOFFA
is also developing relationships with kindred organizations such as
MASA, Michigan Agricultural Stewardship Association. One of
projects is the Kellogg-funded MIFFS, Michigan Intergrated Food and
Farming Systems. One of MOFFA’s Board members has been
to attend meetings of MIFFA to explore possible collaboration.
received a small
grant to plan a marketing conference it is scheduled for September,
1995, in the eastern part of the state. This will be a large
state—wide event sponsored by MOFFA to bring representatives
organic food industry, producers and processors and food and
agriculture agencies together.
from MLT has been
absolutely vital in helping MOFFA through its first year under the
leadership of an Executive Director. The Board of MOFFA hopes it will
be considered worthy of future gifts from.MLT. In the meantime the
membership base is growing, the large donor campaign will resume this
winter, and, above all, MOFFA is seeking funding from foundations.
One of the projects for which a proposal is being written would
facilitate MOFFA’s educational work. In this proposal funding
being sought for the establishment of an Organic Food Catering
Service. In offering this service to environmental groups and other
organizations eaters would be introduced to organic food, organic
growers would gain visibility and support, and MOFFA would have the
opportunity to explain the advantages of locally-produced organic
food. It is also a project large enough so that its overhead and
administrative costs would help to support MOFFA and a full time
Executive Director to coordinate the project.
Mother of All Pole Barns
A couple of
years ago my
brother, the contractor, designed and built for us the barn of his
dreams. It sits 125 feet away from the house and I look out at it
every day. But unfortunately, my subconscious is reluctant to
integrate it into my general scheme of things. To give you an
example: Last summer I had wanted to refinish some bedroom furniture
but was awaiting a dry, sunny day. Finally, Lisa wondered aloud why I
simply didn’t do the work down in the barn. Until then, that
dawned on me.
It took 22
truck loads of fill
just to make an area flat enough to pour the slab. The main structure
has a large drive floor with a 12 foot ceiling and a full loft. Then
there are two shed-like wings running its width. The east wing is a
work shop. The west wing holds the chicken coop; and there’s
floored area that is used for storage but can be easily made into a
stall for a cow or a pig should my family ever succumb to chicken
fatigue or get really up in arms over my dabblings in vegetarian
cuisine (beans and rice): The barn is sheathed in 5/8 inch exterior
plywood with vertical wooden strips
on two—foot centers and has boxed soffits and cedar trim that
combine to give it a charming board and batten appearance. Some of
the windows are recycled vinyl clad casements that look expensive.
It’s nestled into the woods and for a 1990’s pole
barn it is
rather aesthetically appealing.
old pig farmer-- made a surprise visit, I proudly showed off the
barn. I was a fool. Indeed, the tax man marveled at the thing. Then
he assessed it as a second home. Now I know why locals putting up
pole buildings clad them with rusting scraps of corrigated metal.
(The guy down the road built his small barn on two large planks that
he calls skids. Since he says he can move it around it can’t
assessed as a permanent out building. While I admire his ingenuity,
I’d still like to see him try and move
it——apparently, the pig
farmer never took him to task.)
paying property taxes, I
made a mental note: What would it take to convert the loft into an
apartment should my parents ever become feeble and need a place to
live? It would be easy to keep tabs on them as I have to go out there
twice a day anyway to tend to the chickens. I wonder how much
conniving it would take to get my father to sign over his social
security checks? ......
floor can hold two
cars (or, a tractor and a car), and still leave room for storage and
farm implements. But right now, the area is occupied with perhaps the
most important implement on the entire homestead. It’s seen
use than the splitting mall,, the roto tiller, and the drill press
combined; and it’s the reason we built the damn thing in the
place--or at least why we put in 12 foot ceilings. Our
table is a real beauty. It has a heavy 3/4 inch composite surface,
and half the table folds upright so I can practice by myself, and
it’s on wheels so it can be rolled away to one day make room
summer, my brother
came out and helped me run the power and water. I had been avoiding
that task for over two years. Even now, the place isn’t
wired and the water line is capped and sticking out of the ground. I
should at least finish the trench and bring the line inside to a
freeze—free spicket before Christmas.
Subconsciously, I’m reluctant
to finish the barn. I think that I fear abandonment. The barn has a
workshop, a chicken coop, and a Ping—Pong table. I can go up
loft--and I might even add a cupola—-and look out over the
and listen to the birds sing and the frogs croak and the squirrels
chatter and the ducks light on the pond. The barn has everything, and
I fear I might just go out there and stay. What would Lisa and the
children think? What if company came over and asked where I was and
one of my sons contemptuously rolled his eyes and replied,
Dad’s out in the barn.”? What if I missed dinners
and holidays, and my children grew up and moved away all while I was
out putzing in the barn? And I don’t think that Lisa would
conjugal visits over sets of table tennis. No. I’m going to
proceed carefully with this whole pole barn business. I had no idea
that it could have such major ramifications on my psyche.
The MLT is
working with several
other organizations to counter Western Michigan University’s
attempt to develop the Lee Baker Farm into an industrial research
park. Ken Dahlberg is writing a proposal for public hearing on the
necessity of zoning lands as a renewable resource and green space.
Currently, he is searching for model ordinances throughout the United
States. The University is eager to sell off the land for development.
Scrutiny shows that the project has a number of flaws that would
adversely affect the preservation of nearby Asylum Lake. A detail of
of Directors efforts will be forthcoming in the next newsletter.
Maynard Kaufman reports that LETS
membership is slowly increasing and that soon it
will be self-sufficient. Community feedback appears to be positive
what with the favorable press coverage and member
input. Recently, I received a couple of letters from
former board member,Swan Sherman-Huntoon, currently
of Durham, North Carolina. Swan’s comments included reference
the last newsletter: “I’m writing you from the
in Valle Crucis, NC, which is near Boone. Rhonda and I are attending
a contra dance. My guess is that contra dancing must be one of the
last active expressions of the choral dance tradition of Western
Civilization. Live music and [an] area packed with people all moving
in the same pattern while the wooden barn floor bows and sways to the
rhythm... Anyway, the sum of the canning effort cannot be derived by
counting full Mason jars——every time a quart of
tomatoes is put
up, an angel gets its wings. The Harmonic Convergence will begin when
a critical mass of Mason jars has been filled and sealed. The folks
contra dancing at the Apple Barn know this and express it with every
stamp of their feet.” (I didn’t have the heart to
tell Swan that
blight wiped out our tomatoes, so we didn’t can any this
fact, a lot of people told me it was a rough year for tomatoes.)
The next newsletter will come out when the next newsletter comes out.
Thoughts, comments, poems and essays and personal updates are always
welcome. Also, for some of you it’s time to renew your
membership. The minimum fee is still only five dollars and I’d be
willing to float you a loan. Happy Holidays.