Sunday, August 16, 2020

Elsewhere Envy Revisited


I just wanted to use the word "introduction" at the top.  After all, if it is the first thing you read in a blog post, it probably qualifies as the introduction.  There isn't much need for me to put the label there!  

In a fit of nostalgia, I decided to take a quick look at a couple of our newsletters we produced for the Genuine Faux Farm on a monthly basis PRIOR to the introduction of our blog.  I thought it would be interesting to read what was written at that time and perhaps respond to some of it here.  But, perhaps more important, we find that we may be moving back towards some of our earlier production goals as we continue to scale back on the farming in response to other responsibilities.  At the least, I found this to be interesting.  We hope you do too. 

New material will appear in a slightly lighter color and will start and end with ***.

Elsewhere Envy - October 2008

As people who are concerned about sustainability issues, we are aware of numerous places in the world that are held forth as 'shining beacons' for 'green living.' These are communities, or regions, where like-minded persons gather to live and do business in ways that support local businesses, artisans, farmers, etc. All the while they try to do that which is currently accepted as most friendly to the environment and the community. In fact, some of these locations are not terribly far away.

It's seems natural to us that we might visit these locations and feel somewhat wistful for the services and opportunities we perceive to be available there. Everything can seem so perfect when you tour through a community as a visitor. Oh look! A bustling farmers' market AND a local cooperative food store! How wonderful! There is not one, but TWO people who advertise contracting for sustainable energy systems with main street store fronts. It's so easy to idealize a location or life that is not our own.

The natural corollary to this is that we become dissatisfied with where we live.

Wouldn't it be wonderful if Bremer and Black Hawk counties had five or six CSA businesses - all of them filling up their shares - with room for ambitious young farmers to start new CSAs? How about county government support for organic farming methods? There are locations with similar populations to this region that have (had) both of these things.

Since most of you are not vegetable farmers, perhaps you envy a wide diversity of local restaurants with a wide variety of foods? Or, maybe you wish there were more local stores and contractors that worked with 'green' building supplies? Wouldn't it be nice if there was a diverse and active series of cultural events?

*** If I were to write this today, I suspect I might select different things to highlight because our farm and what matters to us has evolved over time.  Nonetheless, the point is still clear - there is still much we might like to see being emphasized differently in our region. ***

Reminder Number 1: Every community has its problems, but not every community has problems that are apparent to the visitor!

Reminder Number 2: Model communities (whatever the type) only become models when there is a high level of participation by a large number of people within that community.

Reminder Number 3: Communities that are struggling need idealistic and energetic people who have dreams of better things.

Reminder Number 4: Things typically do not change overnight. If they do, it's likely due to a catastrophic event or will lead to one.

Reminder Number 5: Communities and members of communities need to learn, relearn and adjust as circumstances change.

*** I wrote this in 2008 and I expected to find a great deal with which I could quibble with my former self at this point.  I've re-read these five reminders three times.  I still believe they are true.  On the flip side, I think the optimism I might have been indulging in at the time I wrote the original has probably gotten a bit dinged up after 12 more years in the area. ***

We are seeing signs of change and hope in our communities. We hope that our farm is a part of this and we are pleased to see more people taking calculated risks in an effort to make our communities better ones.

Go out to these "meccas" of sustainable living and visit! Come back with ideas. Then, work to make these ideas happen. That's our idea of a community to be envious of.


Speaking of being 'battered' - the word 'sustainable' has been co-opted in so many ways that it no longer means what we thought it meant in 2008.   I realize the world has changed since the time this was written and that I have also changed.  But, there is much that STILL rings true in this post and a few things that might need amending.

Still ring true:

  1. If we want things to be 'better,' regardless of how we define 'better,' we need participants with energy, persistence and attention to detail and we need a higher percentage of people to pull on the same side of the rope.
  2. It is certainly not a bad idea to use ideas from elsewhere to inform the change you might like to make in your home community.


  1. There is a fine line between trying to get what someone else has and making changes that help you reach a goal someone else appears to have reached. 
  2. It is so easy to destroy prior efforts or to allow good works to fall apart over time.
  3. It very difficult to avoid inadvertently leaving whole segments of the community out.
  4. People are not particularly good at wading through fine details, being persistent for long-lasting improvements, compromising in a positive fashion, considering the needs of others or thinking about consequences that need to be addressed.
  5. We are more adept at making a great deal of noise about something and then patting ourselves on the back after a dubious amount of achievement than we are at making real and positive change.

And despite all that, I still say we should keep trying.  Why else would I still be trying to write about these things twelve years later.  Misguided?  Perhaps.  But, I mean that in a good way - I hope. 


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