Tuesday, April 13, 2010
One of the costliest things we do -- make roads to serve our huge, low-density city. Image via WikipediaSalem is in a sad state, budget-wise, and there's no solution in sight. We've built up a permanent structural deficit by sprawling into such a large, low-density suburb around a tiny lightly-populated urban "downtown" core that we will struggle increasingly harder and harder just to remain in place in years to come, as our money keeps flowing out of town to line the pockets of the asphalt makers and the oil companies that we've made essential by creating a place where a car is not just helpful but absolutely required. We've let the bus system collapse, for example, eliminating weekend and late-night service, so people are trapped if they don't have access to a car.
One thing we can do, though, is to stop pretending that Salem needs a publicly-owned airport to call its own. Because it's publicly owned, the airport property pays no taxes; instead, it is a tax sink, and an opportunity for contracting boondoggles like the recent $5 million upgrade to the "passenger" terminal -- a sort of local "Bridge to Nowhere," since the airport had already lost its last subsidy queen airline at that point.
There's no reason that the folks who keep their planes and who want to fly in and out of Salem can't buy the airport and operate it as a private, taxpaying venture -- plenty of airports are privately owned. Then they can be efficient and not have to deal with the city government overhead and the vagaries of having hangar lease rates set at cit council meetings.
Image via WikipediaTwo nice members-only tours coming up for Friends of the Salem Saturday Market (FSSM):
We received your RSVP to the Hamblin Nursery tour! The tour will be on Sunday, April 25, at 1 p.m.If you want to get in on nice things like this, go over to the Friends of the Salem Saturday Market website and join in -- help bolster one of Salem's nicest attractions.
Thanks for your RSVP to the Fairvew Farm Dairy tour! The tour is scheduled for Sunday, May 16, at 10 a.m.
Image by cafemama via FlickrHere for the whole thing. Excerpt:
When we somehow have a hand in its creation, and locate food production within our cities and suburbs, food can bind us together. . . . Signs of the ongoing re-localization are easily found in such things as the increasing popularity of farmers markets, and the locavore movement. But even these signs, although positive, prove the need for further effort; most who sell at farmers markets drive miles to get there. And while real communal bonds form between food producers and their customers at the local market, at the end of the day, farmers return to their own community rather than being a part of the one where they sold their goods. The locavore movement has therefore moved the locus of food production closer for many, but not made it truly local, not put it at the center of where we live. Nor have food movements currently underway spurred true participation in the production process--like, for example, the raising of chickens in the backyard.
With civic agriculture, growing fruits and vegetables within communities, and keeping chickens, can come to be seen as something vital--a way to build bonds between neighbors, like my own mother would in walking around her neighborhood, handing out the overflow of her tomato-production, and freshly baked loaves of zucchini bread and carrot cake. The one story told at her memorial service that I will never forget is a joyful reminiscence, shared by a former neighbor, telling of how my mother taught them how to grow bountiful crops of tomatoes, how to prune for maximum fruit production, and what other vegetables grew well in the micro-climate of their neighborhood. He also recalled, again with great joy, all the cookies and cakes that my mother would bake and share with anyone who wanted one or two or three or more. "She fed the whole neighborhood, and loved doing it," he said.
I thought about my mother reading a recent essay in the New York Times magazine that discussed the growing phenomena of stay-at-home mothers taking up gardening, tomato-canning, and the raising of backyard chickens. The title of the essay is The Femivore's Dilemma, and I definitely recommend the essay in its entirety. . . .There is even an economic argument for choosing a literal nest egg over a figurative one. Conventional feminist wisdom held that two incomes were necessary to provide a family's basic needs--not to mention to guard against job loss, catastrophic illness, divorce or the death of a spouse. Femivores suggest that knowing how to feed and clothe yourself regardless of circumstance, to turn paucity into plenty, is an equal--possibly greater--safety net. After all, who is better equipped to weather this economy, the high-earning woman who loses her job or the frugal homemaker who can count her chickens?I am not sure that my mother (or I) would agree with the idea that a woman growing her own vegetables is a source of "legitimacy"--as if not doing so would make one illegitimate, at least in the eyes of some. But there is no question that there is value in growing your own vegetables, a value that extends beyond the gardener, and the family, to the greater community. There is also a value in recognizing that it was not that long ago that families had no choice but to raise their own vegetables, and keep chickens for eggs and meat, and raise other livestock too. As Lyson helpfully reminds us about our country:Less than 100 years ago most rural households in the United States sustained themselves by farming. While some agricultural products were sold for money on the open market, others were produced solely for household consumption or for bartering with neighbors.Thus, it was not for gaining a sense of legitimacy or personal fulfillment that households produced their own food; it was so as to not starve to death; it was to survive. Still, even in battling starvation, food was not "mere sustenance"--which is what the food is that lines the shelves of supermarkets, and the fast food we purchase at the drive-thru and gulp down on our way to whatever our next destination happens to be.
When people raise and make food to eat, and barter it in exchange for that which others made, true community ends up being built. To barter means also to share, and to interact with neighbors in a way that generates meaning and trust. You do not cheat someone with whom you will need to barter again. Such barter-exchange cannot be treated as a zero-sum game, it is something that requires that all participants benefit, and that no one lose. This is the sometimes overlooked moral of William Faulkner's Snopes novels and short stories, which chart the rise and fall of the Snopes family, a rise and fall both caused by cheating their neighbors. Such cheating variously harmed and helped many; however, its ultimate consequence was the destruction of a community, Frenchman's Bend. Where the exchange of goods does not engender trust, where you are as apt to be cheated by your neighbor as helped, there can be no bonds of loyalty, and thus no sense of community at all.
Well into the modern era, communities and villages throughout Europe were centered around not only local agriculture, but such things as community hearths where once a week or so local residents would bring bread to bake. One of the most memorable scenes in Jacques Pepin's excellent autobiography, The Apprentice: My Life in the Kitchen, was one that involved him being "loaned" by his mother during the summer to a farmer and his family to assist the area's communal efforts to keep everyone fed during World War II. Here is how he describes it:Like every other household in Montvernier, the Merciers lacked an oven large enough to bake the dough Mme. Mercier had laboriously prepared. Instead, the people of the town share a massive common baking oven with the residents of a nearby village called Montbrunal. Bread-baking day had all the excitement of a carnival. Villagers greeted each other loudly and gossiped in small clusters. Kids ran about and played....
The oven seemed as large as a house, and...I watched the baker-farmer feed it with the pile of wood needed to bring it to the proper temperature. The smell of so much baking bread was enthralling. We stood there for hours. One after the other, farmers arrived with their loaves, two dozen or so each, and the baker would take over. At the end of the day, some farmers brought casserole dishes, containing anything from beans to cabbage, to be cooked overnight in the heat retained by the oven.
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Montvernier offered plenty of experiences for a young city boy...But for me the most impressive thing...was that wood-fired bread oven and the way it not only nourished but also brought together the people of two remote mountain communities.