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This just in from our guest conference blogger, Shelly Randall of SustainableTogether.com, who took the time to recap the events of NWEI’s multi-day biannual gathering a few weeks ago. Thanks Shelly! For those who weren’t able to join, this will fill you in on gathering highlights and outcomes.
Salutations from Port Townsend, a community that is still reverberating with the excitement of hosting NWEI’s biannual North American gathering last month (Sept. 15-18, 2011). The “Will Allen buzz” has yet to wear off, and every one of the 500-odd people who attended his public keynote address seems to still be talking about it. Everyone else in town is eagerly awaiting the video that was shot that night to be edited and released.
Our grassroots efforts to create a more vibrant and sustainable local food economy have gained visibility and been bolstered by the opportunity to host NWEI’s conference, “If Not Me, Then Who? Building Healthy Communities and Local Food Systems One Conversation at a Time.” (Thanks to NWEI for offering reasonable day rates that made it possible for many Port Townsendites to attend the conference part-time.)
In addition to the conversations that started, “Did you hear Will Allen?”, conversations here in Port Townsend are spinning off everywhere:
- Through new NWEI discussion courses that are starting up this month, in homes and churches;
- At a talk this week on reconnecting urban consumers to agricultural producers, presented by the director of our state Department of Agriculture and hosted by Port Townsend’s Citizens for Local Food;
- At this week’s kick-off event for Our Watershed, a NWEI-style, 7-week course being offered at no charge to participants, and available in two geographic versions: the Pacific Northwest and more specifically Puget Sound. Click here to learn more.
- At meet-the-candidate events with conference attendee and local economy advocate Deborah Stinson, who is running for City Council;
- Between my 3-year-old son and the 4-year-old son of a climate researcher I met at the conference whose family just happens to live four blocks from mine!
Best yet, our local Chamber of Commerce has invited me and Judy Alexander (chair of Port Townsend’s NWEI steering committee and Local 2020 leader) to present back-to-back in November, and is dedicating two of its weekly meetings to the topic of local sustainability. The Chamber director was inspired by local media coverage of the NWEI conference, and her phone message was waiting for me at the end of the day Friday. What a wonderful and direct outcome!
Before my inspiration from the conference is redirected to these worthy conversations, I want to present some easily scannable conference highlights from sessions I attended. Below, please find short summaries and relevant links to more information. The conference schedule contains details on all the presentations held Thursday-Sunday at Fort Worden State Park…
*Below are just a few excerpts from Shelly’s full post. To read the full recap, visit www.sustainabletogether.com
Conference Highlights – FRIDAY
Community Building, Sustainable Food and Neighborhood Activism: A Port Townsend NWEI Case Study
Imagine if every Menu for the Future course had a farmer or food producer at the table? That was the case for the 28 NWEI discussion courses organized in our county in 2010. Judy Alexander and Peter Bates (both NWEI organizers) and local Grange President Dick Bergeron shared how they found common ground to pull off this ambitious, and how it helped grow the customer base for local food.
It was an inspiring first session, notable for its outcomes (our county now spends 4% of its food dollars locally, compared with less than 1% nationwide, and there is a push to get that to 20% by 2020), its specificity (how a Google Docs spreadsheet enabled course coordination), and its enduring themes (partnerships, identity politics, how food brings people together).
Peak Moment TV interviewed these three in Fall 2010, and the interviewer’s notes nicely summarize this Town Mouse/Country Mouse collaboration. Click here to read them, and click here to watch the 28-minute video.
Accelerating Community Capital: Developing a Local Investing Ecosystem
I heard this called “the most paradigm-shifting session” of the weekend, and with the Occupy Wall Street protests now in full swing, learning how to promote local investing seems more relevant than ever.
One of the key factors driving Port Townsend’s relatively thriving local economy is the Local Investing Opportunities Network (LION), a clearinghouse between business owners who need capital and potential investors in their community. It’s not a pooled investment or a loan fund, and business owners are not making public offerings—transactions are based on one-to-one personal relationships (which gets around SEC restrictions). Since LION formed in 2006 (it was formalized in 2008), it has facilitated more than $2 million in local investments (primarily loans), with an average investment of $132,000 per active investor.
“It has been not only a huge economic boost for us, but also a profoundly hopeful thing to be a part of,” said presenter Deborah Stinson. She was joined by fellow LION investor Michelle Sandoval and locally financed business owner Crystie Kisler of Finnriver Farm “What we’re finding with LION investors is they have truly aligned their values with their actions and their bank accounts,” said Kisler.
LION’s website offers Local Investing Kits with templates of its legal agreements and forms. Peak Moment TV interviewed LION’s co-founder, an investor, and a locally financed entrepreneur in Summer 2011. Click here to watch the 28-minute video.
Becoming a Hyper-Locavore: Lessons from a 10-Mile Diet
I hadn’t read my conference schedule close enough to realize Vicki Robin would be here, and when I was casually introduced to the co-author of Your Money or Your Life—one of the most influential books of my past year—I couldn’t even speak, I just genuflected. So of course I had to attend Vicki’s presentation later that day.
Who knew it would be so funny? It turned out to be the trial run of her “relational eating” talk, describing her extreme eco-challenge to eat only what grew within 10 miles of her Whidbey Island home for one month in 2010—and she had us all laughing hysterically. Thankfully, she chose September. Thankfully her neighbors bootleg raw milk and cheese, and sell eggs and free range chickens. But at a “shocking” $5/lb, Vicki was forced to cut way back on eating the only meat available to her. In the midst of describing this protein dilemma to us, Vicki happened to look out the window and caught one of Port Townsend’s feral deer in her sights. Instantly, she leaped into a bow-and-arrow stance. “That would’ve been dinner,” she declared, to her audience’s great delight.
Look for her undoubtedly good-humored book to come out next year: Blessing the Hands that Feed Us: Lessons from a 10-Mile Diet (Viking 2012). Vicki blogs at http://ymoyl.wordpress.com/…
To read more about Kurt Hoelting’s keynote address about Harnessing the Power of Place to Build More Resilient Lives and Communities, workshops on community walkability, NWEI’s new course Hungry for Change: Food, Ethics and Sustainability and highlights from Farmer’s Market tour and the Farm Tour, click here.
Meet Shelly Randall, our Guest Conference Blogger! She’ll be posting throughout this week’s conference on sustainable food and communities on what she’s seeing and learning, so if you wanted to join us but can’t, we hope this will be a way to share the learning. Also, its not too late to join us! There are still spaces available! Click here for this week’s conference info!
Salutations from Port Townsend, where I know many of you will be heading in the next couple of days for NWEI’s biannual North American Gathering. Let me introduce myself as the conference’s guest blogger.
I’m Shelly Randall, a 35-year-old freelance writer and mother of a just-turned-3-year-old, and I’m thrilled to be launching my new blog, Sustainable Together, concurrent with the conference. In fact, the impending conference date circled on my calendar has been the kick in the pants I needed to pull off the blog project. I first heard about the NWEI gathering through Local 20/20, our umbrella sustainability organization, and couldn’t shake the idea I had to be there. At the time, I was contemplating “my life’s purpose” as part of a personal finance plan, and when I inputted “sustainability” as the personal and professional goal, everything else fell into place.
So I registered for the conference two months ago and have been working steadily ever since to organize my thoughts into a mission statement and to essentially rebrand my communications business, shifting from a maritime focus to a sustainability focus. You see, I sailed—I really did!—into Port Townsend more than a decade ago. For two years after college I had been crewing as a shipboard environmental educator, first with a program on Long Island Sound, then with Sound Experience, on the schooner Adventuress. I met my future husband here at a contra dance and decided to stay. My first job was reporting for the weekly newspaper, covering the port and shipyard beats, among others. I later worked for the Northwest Maritime Center and freelanced for maritime publications.
It was my newspaper’s publisher who encouraged me to take my first NWEI discussion course, Choices for Sustainable Living. This was in 2000 or 2001, and he had just completed the course with other city and county leaders and thought it would be worthwhile for his staff. Obviously, it was!
Back to the present: I have enrolled in NWEI’s EcoChallenge from Oct. 1-15th (view my profile) to kick off my own “ecochallenge” for Sustainable Together. My year-long experiment, which I’ll be tracking on my blog, is to strengthen my community networks by and for living more sustainably. My hypothesis is that support systems (of family, friends, and institutions like food co-ops) are absolutely necessary for and a happy byproduct of moving along the sustainability spectrum. To that end, I will be getting involved in Local 20/20, joining the barter network Fourth Corner Exchange, and using an NWEI course this fall to bond with other like-minded parents of young children. These are all worthwhile activities I have meant to do for years, but have not prioritized until now. You can read all about these endeavors and more on my blog, and subscribe to get ongoing free tips and inspiration for “going sustainable together.”
Thank you to Deb McNamara for offering me this plum position (!) as guest conference blogger, and I look forward to posting throughout the conference on the lessons learned at presentations and break-out sessions.
P.S. At the conference, I’ll be actively seeking success stories of “going sustainable together” to feature on my blog over the coming months, so if you would like to impart how you share the journey toward a more sustainable life, please seek me out!
Please join NWEI and the Port Townsend Co-op and Farmers Market for a special presentation from Growing Power’s Will Allen!
He’ll share his remarkable work in creating sustainable, urban, community based agricultural systems in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and inspire us to be part of what he calls “The Good Food Revolution.” The event is the keynote address for NWEI’s bi-annual conference to be held September 15-18th. Can’t join us for the whole weekend? Please come for Will’s evening presentation only – to be held Saturday September 17th at 7pm at McCurdy Pavilion in Port Townsend, Washington.
For more information and to buy tickets ($12), please visit: http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/177350
As many of you know, we are gearing up for NWEI’s North American Gathering, a conference on sustainable food and community – to be held in a few short weeks in Port Townsend, Washington (September 15-18th). One of the co-hosts of this conference is Judy Alexander who serves on the NWEI Port Townsend Steering Committee. She recently wrote an article for her local paper, entitled Feed your Desire for Change; Join Conference, Conversation. Enjoy! And, if you are in the area (or beyond!) and would like to join us, please do! For more information visit www.nwei.org/north-american-gathering
How does one “do the right thing” when it is so darn easy to behave in ways that we know are not good for our world? Eating non-nutritious junk food. Spending money on non-essential things. Using resources wastefully. Flying on airplanes. Driving unnecessarily. You know what I mean. The temptations abound.
I am practicing living with a paradigm shift made clear to me by taking courses from the Northwest Earth Institute (NWEI). NWEI is a nonprofit organization founded in Portland in 1993 that has since been replicated more than 20 times across the U.S. and Canada. What helped me is to find others who were equally interested in changing. Back in 2005 I invited 12 of my friends to take several of the NWEI courses with me to create a support system for living differently, specifically because I knew support for making changes would be necessary for me to succeed. To this day, many of us are close friends, almost like family, knowing we share core values that we clarified taking NWEI courses together.
Learning to step outside my previously held views was one of the most potent things I could do. What a concept!
The way NWEI courses work is this: You buy a book for a little over $20, books are available online at www.nwei.org.
Any group can self-organize, neighbors, church members, people at work on their lunch hour. There is no group leader and there’s no teacher. It’s like a book discussion group and it meets weekly for six to eight sessions. But rather than just discussing “concepts” from the reading, what happens is you explore how you feel about what was read based on your life experiences. You also explore possibilities for changed behavior, and launch yourself, step by step, as you desire, if you desire, into a new way of living. If you choose to change, it’s from the inside – not from outside pressure.
For the past decade, NWEI courses have been alive and well in Jefferson County. 10 courses are available including: Voluntary Simplicity; Healthy Children, Healthy Planet; Just Below the Surface: Perspectives on the Gulf Coast Oil Spill; Choices for Sustainable Living, Menu for the Future; and many more. Another course that deepens the dialogue about food is being launched mid-September. It has to do with ethical eating.
More than 1,100 people in Jefferson County have taken one or more of the courses. More than 25 groups discussed the Menu for the Future course on food, locally, in the past three years alone. Each group had a farmer or food producer as a participant, often motivating people to directly support their local farmers with their food dollars.
This September, Fort Worden is hosting a NWEI conference titled “If Not Me,Then Who? Building Healthy Communities and Local Food Systems One Conversation at a Time.” By attending this conference, just as my personal group of friends did for me, we can inspire each other with healthy behavior change around food choices and other habits. With this conference right in our backyard, the opportunity is at our fingertips.
Keep in mind that your decision to attend this conference won’t just inspire you.
It will feed our collective local enthusiasm for change.
Judith Alexander is a long-time Port Townsend resident, private practice therapist, and enthusiastic volunteer for a sustainable world.
“This much is clear to me. If I can’t change my own life in response to the greatest challenge now facing our human family, who can? And if I won’t make the effort to try, why should anyone else? So I’ve decided to start at home, and begin with myself. The question is no longer whether I must respond. The question is whether I can turn my response into an adventure.” – Kurt Hoelting, author of Circumference of Home
We are excited to welcome author Kurt Hoelting as one of our keynote speakers during the NWEI North American Gathering this September! He’ll be leading conference attendees through a workshop and address on Friday evening, September 16th at Fort Worden State Park in Port Townsend, WA. Kurt is the author of Circumference of Home, an inspiring book about one man’s quest for a radically local life.
Here is an excerpt from one of his essays, Dreaming of Salmon. For the whole piece, please visit http://insidepassages.com/kurts-essays/dreaming-of-salmon/
I grew up by the shores of Puget Sound, dreaming of salmon. All my childhood summers were spent on Liberty Bay, in a cabin near Poulsbo. It’s where my strongest memories were wrought. Winters were passed somewhere in the confusion of the city. But with school’s ending each spring, we made a bee line for the cabin, and life began again. From earliest memory the waters of the Sound pulled me to them as inexorably as the tide.
There was magic in those waters, and nothing held more power in my imagination than the elusive salmon…We knew little, and understood less, about the true stature of salmon in the ecological and cultural heritage of our bioregion. But we knew our own yearnings. And the tenacity of our efforts to catch a salmon for ourselves, however futile, was testimony to the intrinsic power of this astonishing creature…
My own life is divided between two worlds, one to the north, one to the south, one of plenty, one of want. I am framed by the contrasts, unsettled by the collision of opposites. For years I have taken for granted the necessity of traveling long distances away from home to find what was once the heart and soul of my own region. I have become intimate with the waters of Bristol Bay and Southeast Alaska, while remaining a stranger to Puget Sound itself, even though more of my time is spent here than in Alaska. With the eclipse of the salmon in the Sound, the region slides toward economic irrelevance. Never mind that Microsoft is busy producing millionaires, and Boeing is filling the earth’s skies with ever larger jets. The salmon is gone, and with it goes the biological and cultural context that has held the region together since the retreat of the last ice sheet.
The cultural historian Thomas Berry has observed that our sense of the divine is linked inextricably to the diversity and splendor of the natural world. Nature provides the raw materials, the primordial soil out of which all imagination grows. As the exterior world shinks and decays, so goes the seed stock of natural inspiration. Perhaps it is our capacity for wonder that is the final victim of an unbridled devotion to progress. What does it mean to our collective imagination to gaze out on waters emptied of wild salmon? What does it mean to have scattered the cloud of witnesses – bear, wolf, orca, eagle, seal – who gathered so faithfully each year through the centuries to celebrate the salmon’s return? To my mind, nothing can ever replace salmon in the cultural imagination of the Pacific Northwest. The poet Gary Snyder is on the right track. He has suggested that we prepare a Ten-Thousand Year Plan for the Management of our National Forests. I propose a Ten-Thousand Year Plan for the restoration of wild salmon runs in Puget Sound. It’s a reasonable proposal, precisely because it offers a time frame that wild salmon understand. I’ll believe we have a chance when such a plan is proposed not by poets and philosophers, but by engineers and politicians. We will have reason for hope when, as a people, we understand that our endowment of the future extends far beyond the pittance of time that is granted ourselves and our immediate offspring. That endowment must include wild salmon, if we want it also to include children who dream.
Will Allen, Founder and CEO of Growing Power and one of TIME Magazine’s top 100 people who affect our world, will be joining us as the keynote speaker for this year’s NWEI North American Gathering in September!
This year’s gathering will focus on issues of food and community, with Will Allen’s keynote address focusing on the power of community and urban agriculture, with stories of inspiration and success from his Milwaukee, Wisconsin efforts. For those of you not yet familiar with Will or with his organization, Growing Power is a national nonprofit organization and land trust that inspires communities to build sustainable food systems that are equitable and ecologically sound, creating a just world, one food-secure community at a time.
“A new movement is sprouting up in America’s low-income neighborhoods. Some urban residents, sick of fast food and the scarcity of grocery stores, have decided to grow good food for themselves. One of the movement’s (literally) towering icons is Will Allen, 62, of Milwaukee’s Growing Power Inc. His main 2-acre Community Food Center is no larger than a small supermarket. But it houses 20,000 plants and vegetables, thousands of fish, plus chickens, goats, ducks, rabbits and bees. People come from around the world to marvel — and to learn. Says Allen: “Everybody, regardless of their economic means, should have access to the same healthy, safe, affordable food that is grown naturally.” (From Time Magazine, 2010).
We are thrilled to have such an inspiring force of change join us in Port Townsend this September. For more information on the upcoming NWEI conference and Will’s keynote address, click here. Live in the area and know you’d like to come to the keynote? Order tickets online here. We hope you will join us for the whole weekend, where we will dig deep together in exploring the continued creation of a more sustainable future!
This is the second in a series of blog posts leading up to our NWEI North American Gathering which is September 15th-18th in the lovely town of Port Townsend, Washington. Throughout the summer we’ll be sharing information about this bi-annual NWEI event, hosted this year with our friends in Port Townsend.
Port Townsend was founded in 1851 and is a city of 8,925 which prides itself on its historic charm, maritime heritage, and stunning natural setting. Located just across the Puget Sound from Seattle, Port Townsend is a place of incomparable beauty with parks, beaches and trails. It is situated on the Olympic Peninsula,which is home to temperate rain forests and the Olympic Mountains.
For this year’s NWEI North American Gathering, we’ll be staying at Fort Worden State Park, home to the Marine Science Center. In the mornings you’ll have the option to join a group for a yoga session or contemplative hike along the two miles of saltwater shoreline within Fort Worden State Park (the park rests on a high bluff overlooking the Puget Sound). We will visit the Port Townsend Farmers Market together as well as jump into the Jefferson County Farm Tour for those who want a deeper glimpse into the local food movement that Port Townsend is beginning to to be known for.
Visit the City’s official website for more information and a list of local attractions. We encourage attendees to build time into their trip to dip into the region’s many beautiful offerings–this is the perfect opportunity to infuse a vacation with community and learning.
This September 15th-18th Northwest Earth Institute course participants, partners, volunteers and community organizers (and anyone else interested in learning more about transformative sustainability education and how to create healthier communities) will gather in Port Townsend, Washington for three days of hiking, yoga, workshops on sustainable food, edible landscaping, dynamic community organizing, networking and community building. We invite you to join us!
This year’s North American Gathering is entitled If Not Me, Then Who? Building Healthy Communities and Local Food Systems One Conversation at a Time. We are fortunate enough to be co-hosting the event with the NWEI Port Townsend Steering Committee, who has been actively organizing NWEI sustainability discussion groups for many years, most recently transforming the local food scene with over 30 Menu for the Future discussion course groups meeting–the groups involved local farmers, business owners, community stakeholders and food based organizations who are all working together to create a more sustainable local food supply (stay tuned for a future post delving into their work!)
For those of you who have attended NWEI events in the past, you know we will roll up our sleeves and dig deep into learning about what each of us can do to create a more sustainable future. Workshops and discussions will focus on what successful community organizers have done in Port Townsend, and there will be opportunities to learn from the local community through visits to the Farmers Market and the Jefferson County Farm Tour. We’ll explore how to be effective agents of change in our own communities – and we’ll also have a lot of fun!
One of the reasons we wanted to hold our gathering somewhere other than Portland this year is to pay homage to the beauty and bounty of the Pacific Northwest. Port Townsend offers the opportunity to be in the presence of the majesty of Puget Sound, with the Olympic Mountains across the way, and old growth firs and cedars nearby… Since our work is rooted in protecting what we love and care about, there is no better place to come to re-energize, recommit and reconnect with friends and colleagues old and new.
For more info on NWEI’s North American Gathering: Download the Schedule of Events, or the Conference Flyer. This blog post also marks the beginning of a series dedicated to sharing the inspiring details of this year’s NWEI North American Gathering. Stay tuned throughout the summer to learn more (but don’t wait to register, because space is limited)
Here’s to community, health, the beauty and sustenance of nature – and to creating a sustainable future for generations to come. We hope to see you there!