We envision an outlet in the St. Lawrence River Valley of NY that serves as a community hub for many local projects.
"Bringing the goat to market"The Local Living Venture Center, to be created at the upcoming Homestead Learning Community (HLC) farm will host a commercial kitchen that can serve as a business incubator for small agricultural entrepreneurs. It may also be available to the public for canning or other food preservation projects, by the hour or day.
The Center can also host other wonderful projects, such as a tool lending library, botanical gardens, our continuing rural skills workshops and as a center for healthy forestry, renewable energy, and "green" building contractors and resources -- in keeping with our long-held plans.
Our original plan for "The Hub" was to provide infrastructure to regional farms and agricultural enterprises in the St. Lawrence River Valley/Adirondack Foothills region. Our goal is to create the capability for more locally grown food to be grown and consumed in our region, for which facilities are needed. That ideal is still in place, though it may now express itself differently than once planned. We remind ourselves that change is a constant!
Recent "Hub" Developments & HistoryCommunity Economic Development
As of January 31, 2012 a group of local organizations began attending Community Economic Development meetings to collaborate on the Hub, join forces to avoid duplication in funding proposals, and to provide a support network for each others' endeavors. We have also undertaken fact-finding tours of other Hub facilities in VT and NY.
Participants included: the Sustainable Living Project of the North Country, United Helpers / Sparx Management Services, North Country Grown Cooperative, GardenShare, Seedcorn, Cornell Cooperative Extension of St. Lawrence County, North Country Pastured, St. Lawrence Health Initiative, Grass River Heritage, Tedra L. Cobb and Associates, Blue Sphere Industries, and the Small Scale Food Processors Association.
The April 18, 2012 CED meeting featured a well-attended presentation by a specialist in cooperatives, Lynda Brushett of the Cooperative Development Institute (CDI) in Massachussetts.
By summer, Sparx Management assumed control of the process, applying for grants - most notably through the NYS Regional Economic Development Council - for a consortium of selected community partners (both for- and non-profit) to move forward with some portions of this project.
The Community Economic Development meetings have ceased but, as the scope and capacity of the new Hub plan becomes apparent, we may report more.
As a community-based not-for-profit, we will endeavor to collaborate freely with all local organizations working toward the larger vision and goal of a regional food-based economy. We are doing so through our work at the Homestead Learning Community and Local Living Venture Center.
Write to us at SustLivingProject@gmail.com for more information.
Our Original Vision for "The Hub"
As envisioned below, The Hub will not come to fruition. The idea of a central facility to serve as both a community-level and small business-level center of such wonderful activities will now occur in new and different ways.
We celebrate the opportunity to make sure that the work we do creates a "ground-up" facility that local people will feel invested in and a part of.
Some of the facilities and endeavors described in our original concept below will have a home at the upcoming Local Living Venture Center, of course.
If you see an idea or project below that you are particularly taken by, please let us know! We seek input and helpers all along the way and value cooperative relationships in making these ideas into reality. SustLivingProject@gmail.com.
"The Hub" Renewable Resource Center & Agricultural Depot
Spring 2010 - Spring 2012
The Sustainable Living Project (SLP) is inspired to provide a "hub" or "umbrella" site for many local endeavors, for- and non-profit. Please note: none of the folks we're going to mention next have actually AGREED to this yet, the following is just to provide an idea, specifically, of other entities could benefit from this project.
North Country Grown Cooperative, who may need a cold chain depot with coolers, packing, storage and a loading dock for their sales of locally produced foodstuffs to our local colleges and institutions -- as well as value-added facilities.
+ The fledgling North Country Online Farmer's Market operation is another possibility to need all of the same, and delivery "call center".
+ The Mobile Processing Unit (a more humane, farm-based mobile slaughter facility) will need a base, cold chain facility, and storage unit, as well.
+ The Hub will help existing businesses and create opportunities for many more enterprises that may have an interest in sharing an outlet or using a facility for a reasonable rate.
Our Agricultural facility would include a cold chain depot with:
coolers, freezers and a standardized packing area
value-added processing (canning, drying, fermenting, vac-pac, flash-freeze)
eventually, space for artisan cheesemaking and other local dairy
packaging and assembly for "value-added" foodstuffs
aggregation and storage facilities
loading docks (multi-level for farmers and shipping containers)
regional distribution hub infrastructure
a program for a kitchen incubator/"value-added" foods business development
"Reach for the Sky!"
We envision partnering with varied organizations providing institutional support for Farm to School and other institutions, as well. We already partner with the St. Lawrence Health Initiative on the Dig In! Conference, for instance, and the NY Small Scale Food Processors Assn. as well as many, many other local and regional organizations and farms.
Both retail (possibly a Winter Farmer's Market) and a Wholesale Farmer's Market outlet could grow into this facility with us. Of course, either way, we'd eventually want to sell some of the goods that will be created in the facility in a storefront on the site -- though we are sensitive to support local stalwarts such as the Potsdam Food Co-op and Nature's Storehouse.
How about a tool lending library, or a seed exchange, an educational botanical garden -- cooperative ventures of all stripes will be encouraged. A community space for use by locals and offices/classroom space for use by incubator businesses and non-profit organizations; a place to share meals, parties and dances, would round out the mix. Of course, our own year-round schedule of rural skills open-learning workshops (we encourage YOU to share your skills with others!) will have a wonderful home base as well. We envision classroom space and a "hands-on" cooking center to showcase our Nutritious Delicious cooking series -- as part of a larger facility that will be a destination for locals and tourists like (hopefully as part of the ANCA Scenic Byways Trail System) on par with the New York Wine & Culinary Center in Canandaigua.
All of this would be augmented by contributions by and for local students, largely through our ongoing Internship Program, which is quite active at St. Lawrence University and at SUNY Potsdam. Nineteen students have been mentored in a variety of fulfilling and meaningful community projects since the Fall of 2010. Creation of a "Green" Home Tours database, the Nutritious Delicious Cooking series, a Community Supported Agriculture survey and display, the first Zero Waste certified event in New York State, the Local Living Festival, Campus Sustainability Week activities, and the Campus Sustainability Summit were all created or assisted by college-level Interns. Clarkson University and SUNY Canton are natural places to expand the Program into -- a world of local good could come of the projects that can be run through such a community center!
Our plans begin with a feasibility study and business plan. Funding is available through many sources, especially for agriculture endeavors such as the Commercial Kitchen. The Hub -- Renewable Resource Center & Agricultural Depot is part of our long-range plan for a Homestead Learning Community in the St. Lawrence River Valley. At the time the College comes to fruition, some of these facilities will transfer to that campus.
If you can help us move forward through your expertise in some facet of this, or just as an interested volunteer, please be in touch!
Read more here: The Hub White Paper
Click here for some interesting agricultural innovations, as reported from the Stone Barns 2011 Young Farmer's Conference.