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I need help this fresh new year. My community needs help this fresh new year. I’d like to figure out how to bring fresh fruit and vegetables all year long, to my tiny hamlet, Phoenicia.
The 2010 census lists 309 residents in Phoenicia, located in the the municipality of Shandaken (pop 3,085) and many are second home owners. Broadly speaking, most full time residents are divided into two groups: the folks with long historical roots in the area, and newcomers, primarily from New York City. (I belong to the latter.)
We differ in many ways but have a common problem, a problem that is reflected in many small rural communities all across the nation: limited access to fresh fruit and vegetables.
There's some buzz about being designated one of the Top Ten Coolest Small Towns in America by Budget Traveler Magazine. There’s a variety of restaurants in Phoenicia, a little market that’s more of a convenience store, a little deli, and a lovely variety store catering to tourists that offers baskets of fruit in the summer. But if you’re serious about preparing fresh healthy foods on a consistent basis you need to drive over four miles to the farm stands. That works in the summer. But come winter we need to drive to the supermarket, which is close to seven miles away. So ironically, this idyllic little hamlet is considered a food desert.
We need a creative solution to this. Food pantries are available to the income eligible, and provide a necessary and honorable service. But they are not sustainable, nor are they available to everyone.
There's a buying club for people that can afford to pay for bulk food up front. Community Sustained Agriculture projects (CSA) are great too, but again, you have to pay up front for a growing season's worth of food. And although the food is from the Hudson Valley and not California, is it really local?
There's hope, however. Cheers to Valerie Linet and the steering committee of the Shandaken Community Gardens! They were undaunted by the hard work involved in obtaining permission to use a good chunk of space at the Phoenicia Elementary School property.
I'd like to hear from the the people of Phoenicia and other rural communities with similar challenges. How have other communities progressed towards providng fresh produce? How can a diverse community come together? A farmer’s market? Veggie vans? Veggie carts? Micro loans? Grants? Local workshops on canning and preserving? I know we're at the brink of a new way of looking at these challenges. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you want to be involved in working with others in coming up with creative solutions.