When working families lose their jobs and then lose their homes, what can they do to stay afloat as a family, given that living in one’s vehicle is not acceptable? Instead of spending billions trying to put this Humpty Dumpty economy back together again — which is not possible now — we need to take a fresh look at our society and how we’re managing our resources.
Maine has plenty of land and water, making us ideal for farming. Cianbro CEO Peter Vigue said this, too, a couple of weeks ago, which makes me hopeful. If Mr. Vigue is talking about organic farming as part of Maine’s future, then we may have an idea upon which nearly all of us can agree.
But my idea is just a bit different: not big, one-crop monoculture farms, but many small to midsize, diversified organic (no man-made chemicals) farms throughout Maine. So how can we segue from paper mills to organic vegetables and meat?
Here’s the basic concept: We locate a nice high-ground site of at least 100 acres, build extremely energy-efficient multiple housing units, which use virtually no fossil fuels.
Then we install greenhouses along the south side as part of living space to absorb sun’s rays in winter to help heat housing, and invite out-of-work workers who have lost their homes to live there while they learn new-old skills needed to survive hard times, and they can then start their own small farms or businesses.
These skills would be mostly agriculturally related. For example: growing seedlings-foods in attached greenhouses year-round, growing food in raised beds outside in south-facing fields for themselves and others in need, practicing animal husbandry-wifery with chickens, sheep, bees, etc., learning carpentry, being taught handwork skills (sewing, weaving, knitting, crocheting, repairing clothes, etc.), building and installing solar panels, composting food and yard wastes to cut down on waste, etc.
Come to the Common Ground Country Fair in Unity the third week in September to see many, many existing Maine agricultural crafts and small businesses.
Work crews could go out on learning forays as apprentices with experienced carpenters, masons, etc., and potentially earn some money by doing so.
Importantly, the workers would not be on charity; they would earn their room and board by working in the greenhouses and fields a certain amount of time, say 20 hours a week, and the rest of the time they would be learning other trades, such as repairing items that formerly would have been thrown away, making new from old as donated textiles (used clothing) are remade into quilts, dolls, other clothes, pillows, window quilts to keep heat in, reupholstering furniture, etc.
People need a purpose in life or they become depressed, sedentary, and a drain on society as a whole. I believe it’s our job, collectively, as a responsible society, to ensure that our residents have warm shelter and enough food to eat, along with good, productive, satisfying work, which farming certainly is.
This College for Practical Skills would enable out-of-work workers and their families to live comfortably but simply within the energy-efficient buildings while learning new, important survival skills, which will benefit us all.
We do not want thousands of desperate people, including children, marauding through the countryside looking for food or shelter. To allow our neighbors to get in such desperate straits would be unacceptably immoral on our part.
Maine needs about 50,000 more small to midsize, diversified farms just to feed ourselves. With imported food becoming more expensive and less safe, home-grown, organic food grown by our neighbors becomes necessary for everyone’s health.
Owners of dormant farms, and there are many, would be happy to have their lands worked again, either by leasing or selling the land.
It’s quite simple, really. We need good, clean food, and out-of-work, homeless workers need warm shelter and good, productive work. Having enough food is basic to civil society; lacking enough food, people become hunter-gatherers, and in today’s world that’s dangerous for us all.
Our tax dollars need to be spent on what’s good for us — we, the people — instead of allowing bad actors such as the Wall Street gangs to gobble it all up while laughing in our faces and taking our homes. It is time for we, the people, to speak up and get involved in making the decisions that affect our lives. Nothing will change until we do.
Nancy Oden lives in Jonesboro. Her
e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org.