We’re biking across America to capture stories of the
Local Food Movement – 
through Potlucks.

Community, Cooperation, Profit

Posted by Robert DuBois | May 26, 2010

It’s typical to find us after a hard day of riding in a new town, pretty damn hungry and without a space to sleep.

Being out on the road with life packed away in a small trailer has freed me from the mental congestion created by technology, clarifying what’s fundamental to my sanity, health, and general well-being. The folks that house us for a night may not understand the greatness of the gift they give when they open their doors to us – good food, a warm (or cool) place to relax, and some fresh conversation. They’re making a social investment in us.

Our longest ride to date, over 90 miles and through nasty thunderstorms, led us into Indiana where we stayed for two days with friends of Matt Kendig, a guy we met on Couch Surfing, and an ambitious young gardener who’s found his green thumb with the help of a few books, Square Foot Gardening techniques, and Cricket Bread. (continues after the jump)

Kendig and his friends are part of a tightly-woven church community whose members have created a strong emotional support network for one another; they’ve found that they are more productive when they work together rather than compete, give rather than take, and share rather than consume alone. Aaron and I got to participate in one of their group activities when we helped plant the 509 Community Garden, which Kendig talks about in the video above (photos below).

And the emergent thread, or perhaps the common ground that connects them is a deep understanding of the importance of collaboration and cooperation, and the value they place on their relationships with their communities, customers, and the earth.

Like Kendig, a handful of other successful farmers and gardeners we’ve met between Vermont and Indiana subscribe to this idea of social investment and community support.

Hardwick, Vermont
We first encountered this together-rather-than-alone idea when we visited Andrew Meyer of Vermont Soy and Vermont Natural Coatings in Hardwick, VT. “Look at what the financial system has done,” said Meyer, comparing return rates of stock market investments the social, smaller-scale community investments he and his fellow farmers have made together in Vermont. Within their business collective which meets every couple of months, they’ve loaned one another nearly $500,000 on nothing more than handshakes, and depend on one another for sharing of other resources such as machinery, job postings, and transportation.

Cobleskill, New York
In Cobleskill, New York, we talked to Jim and Adelle Hayes of Sap Bush Hollow Farm, who get along pretty darn well with their neighbors. Despite their farming ties, the two families live significantly different lives: Jim and Adele’s version of TV is the wall-sized big-screen window on the south side of their living room, while their neighbors have satellite. Still, they’re neighbors, so they eat meals together, share stories, and discuss ideas. And like the farmers in Hardwick, they and a small network of farmers in Cobleskill routinely get together to talk about what’s working on the farm, what’s not working, and what the needs of each farm are.

Over the course of the last month trekking from Vermont to Indiana we’ve encountered dozens of inspiring individuals, as successful as the few mentioned above. And the emergent thread, or perhaps the common ground that connects them is a deep understanding of the importance of collaboration and cooperation, and the value they place on their relationships with their communities, customers, and the earth. Whether it’s Kendig building a community garden to take what he needs and give away the rest, or Jim and Adele Hayes and Andrew Meyer growing selling food for their livelihood, it’s clear that they’re driven by a second kind of profit that sates the soul.

Below are a few more shots from planting at Kendig’s 509 Community Garden.


Kevin Conroy said on Thursday, May 27, 2010:

Love love love this. Complete agreement and so glad to hear about these experiences. Although we were the technology/work stressor, what you’ve described is totally why I’m a GlobalGiver. Balitmore is close, but not quite with “Believe it, hon.” Should be “Believe in us, hon.” #highfive

Bob Levoit said on Saturday, May 29, 2010:

I had the distinct honor and privilege to ride with Aaron and Robert from Lafayette, IN to Milford, IL on a 58-mile trek. My motivation to ride with them on Thursday, May 27th was to experience their personal quest to spread the local food movement. I was completely ignorant about the movement beforehand, but my conversations with them have made me really think about what I, by choice, put into my body and where it comes from. My wife, Hanne, loves to grow her own strawberries and vegetables and I initially thought, “Why waste your time when you can just go to Wal-Mart and buy your fruits and vegetables there?” Now, I found a new appreciation for her efforts and enjoy her homemade zucchini bread with a different mindset. We also started to use a local farmers market. I plan to explore the topic of local food in more detail, as I travel to Hawaii in June.

To Aaron and Robert – Thanks for the memories of a scenic rural route with views and experiences of Purdue University, corn fields, cows, horses, gravel roads, newly paved roads still sticky with tar, head wind, trucks coming close, windmill farms, washed out bridge, being chased by dogs, awesome scenery, two flat tires, pee breaks, sharing trail mix and water, lunch with Hanne, and ending with a DQ blizzard. I have nothing but deep admiration for both of you for following your passion and educating everyone your come in contact with about local food. I wish you a safe journey and hope that you increase your momentum along the way.

Bob Levoit

PS – I would like to make a special plea to anyone who will be close to their route to provide a couch, shower, meal, fresh fruit, nuts, peanut butter, cheese and yes, ice-cold water! If you are not close to their route, then provide them a monetary donation to keep them moving forward.

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