Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Community for the Common Good

In my email yesterday I received a letter from my good friend Linda who wrote about the immense joy of living and working in community she and her husband Roger share in upstate Vermont. It included two articles by David Goodman, author of Standing Up to the Madness: Ordinary Heroes in Extraordinary Times. He wrote about the hard-working conglomeration of food co-ops, family farms, and local businesses pooling their resources to transform Linda’s poverty stricken rural town of Hardwick into a thriving food-lover’s “destination.”

One local business, a gourmet restaurant named Claire’s, was actually funded by 100 residents of the community who collectively bought 50 shares of her company at $1000 each. The community owns the restaurant and the restaurant exclusively buys vegetables, artisan cheeses and other farm products from the community it serves. It’s a winning formula. New businesses have moved to the area, at least 100 new jobs have been created, and a local nonprofit, the Center for an Agricultural Economy, was at the start of it.

Helping each other has been a Hardwick tradition and, oddly, it is not unlike how the multinational oil companies and mega-banks do business. The principals take each other out for coffee, lend each other money, swap expertise to help each other’s businesses, and brainstorm as to how to help their increasingly interrelated conglomeration of little businesses further. The significant difference is that their brainchild is about creating a healthy local economy that can’t be easily pillaged and raped by multinationals attempting to use their power and influence to dominate and control the world’s financial markets as a whole. It’s about small town community, sustainability and love.

So far, it’s working! Last spring researchers from MIT and Columbia University visited to learn more about the project. They and other large organizations are studying the feasibility of replicating Hardwick’s efforts in other communities across the globe.


Christie Cottage said...

Wonderful I love the restaurant shares!

Linda in the Northeast Kingdom said...

Hi Sheryl,

Thanks for spreading the news.

One correction. The community does not own the restaurant. The CSR [Community Supported Restaurant] shares are no interest loans that are paid back at $25 food credit per month for 10 moths a year for 4 years.

Just like a CSA shareholder does not own the farm.

It means that we believe that the restaurant will still be in business after 4 years and that we will help insure it's success.

It's an awesome place and a good model for business.


Renee[Q][C] said...

What a great post! I <3 stories like that and miss that sense of community we all used to have.

Sheryl Karas said...

Thanks for the correction, Linda. That's even better! What a great thing!