This Massachusetts Town Shows What A Sustainable Economy Looks Like


Published:

Photo by Fernando/Shareable

For more than three decades, the town of Great Barrington, Massachusetts, has quietly demonstrated how grassroots, sustainable, and human-centric projects could easily become the building blocks of the next economy. One organic farm in particular has been a shining example of how economic systems that take human and environmental needs into account could uplift communities. The Indian Line Farm combines community-supported farming that provides organic produce to local residents, a community land trust that guards against land speculation, and a community currency that systematically increases regional economic resilience. 

The farm allows residents of Great Barrington to share in the risks and bounties of the organic farm by pre-paying for farm produce with either U.S. dollars or BerkShares, the regional currency. By lowering the risks and costs of farming while building regional resilience, Great Barrington residents are building a model of a sustainable economy. 

In a world where farmers around the globe are in precarious financial positions, commit suicide at shocking rateshigher than any other occupation — and are often forced to compete viciously against each other, this town could hold the key to ensuring greater emotional and financial security for farmers while increasing food security and access to healthy produce for consumers.

Pioneers Of The Community-Supported Agriculture Model

Farming is risky because profitability is highly dependent on factors that are out of farmers’ control like weather and pests, for example. The community-supported agriculture business model allows members to buy shares in a farm so that farmers do not have to shoulder all the risks alone.

“Community-supported agriculture is a relationship, really,” said Elizabeth Keen, one of the two farmers at Indian Line, in an interview. “It’s a relationship between farmers and consumers…It is in a sense sharing the risk and also sharing the bounty that can exist on a farm.” The community-supported agriculture model improves access to high-quality produce, enables farmers to stay out of debt, builds a sense of community, and ensures the long-term financial viability of small farms.

The BerkShare note featuring Robyn Van En. Photo by Aaron Fernando/Shareable.One of the co-founders of this model in the U.S. is the late Robyn Van En. She was the owner of the Indian Line Farm until her death in 1997. Van En spent much of her time popularizing the community-supported agriculture model. Today, there are over 1,650 of these farms in the U.S. alone, according to data from the Robyn Van En Center at Wilson College in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, and thousands more globally.

Van En is honored on the local currency — the 10 “BerkShare” note — in recognition of her visionary business model and far-reaching influence. Each week, Indian Line Farm customers use these notes to purchase produce from the farm that she founded.

A Local Currency For Great Barrington

Anyone can get BerkShares if that’s how they want to pay for local goods: BerkShares can be exchanged for U.S. dollars at 16 branches of four different banks in the Berkshire region of Western Massachusetts. When exchanging between U.S. dollars and BerkShares, a user gets a small bonus for exchanging into the local currency and a small penalty for exchanging back into U.S. dollars. For example, $95 can be exchanged into 100 BerkShares, and cashing out 100 BerkShares will yield $95.

This creates an elegant two-sided incentive. On one side, buyers effectively get a five percent discount when spending at any local shop that accept BerkShares. On the other side, vendors have an incentive to source goods and services locally after they accept BerkShares. Even if local goods and services cost up to five percent more, it still makes financial sense to source locally rather than take the five percent penalty converting out to U.S. dollars.

The currency has been running since 2006, with more than $130,000-worth of Berkshares in circulation. More than 400 businesses in the region accept the currency. Interestingly, one of the co-founders of The Schumacher Center, the organization which runs the BerkShares currency — Bob Swann — was one of the pioneers of the community land trust model in the U.S.

The Benefits Of A Community Land Trust

When Van En passed away in 1997, the Indian Line farm went up for sale. The farm was eventually purchased together by a coalition of parties: The Nature Conservancy, the Community Land Trust in the Southern Berkshires, and two young farmers, Alexander Thorp and Elizabeth Keen. This innovative arrangement was fashioned in such a way that the Indian Line farm would continue to produce organic food for the community in perpetuity.

The Community Land Trust model enables communities to use land for long-term sustainable goals like farming and affordable housing, while preventing profit-seeking land speculation that could jeopardize these efforts. By separating the ownership of the land itself (which is usually held by a nonprofit organization) from the ownership of any property on the land (which is held by individuals), the land essentially gets taken off the market.

Customers buy organic produce at the Indian Line Farm stand. Photo by Aaron Fernando/Shareable.Yet the Indian Line Farm goes a step further by ensuring that the land continues to be used for a specific purpose — agriculture. “We own the buildings and theoretically if we ever wanted or chose to leave, we could pick up those buildings and put them on a trailer and drag them away. Or we could sell them to a future farmer,” says Keen, one of the farmers. “That is written in our lease — that the farm in perpetuity would need to be farmed, which is an incredible opportunity for any future farmer, but it is a resource that will stay that resource forever.”

The community-land trust model in the U.S. was also pioneered by Slater King, a civil rights activist in Albany, Georgia. King and Swann aimed to secure 5,000 acres of farmland for African-American farmers. Along with their collaborators, they created this model for social reasons. “They came to understand that one of the primary reasons for war was the commodification of land,” Susan Witt, executive director and co-founder of The Schumacher Center, said. “Those that had ownership of land could benefit from other’s needs without even doing any work. It created the illusion of value where no value had actually been created…by collecting rents.”

“They also came to believe that the creation of currency by nation-states gave nation-states the ability to finance war that was unprecedented and uneconomic,” Witt said. The Indian Line Farm — and the town of Great Barrington — show that by challenging existing notions of land ownership, currency, and consumption, communities can take the lead and be successful in creating sustainable and long-lasting social and economic systems.

Aaron Fernando is the Marketplace Coordinator for Ithacash, a currency in Upstate New York.

This article was republished from Shareable.

See also:
How Sharing Can Help Change Consumption Culture
How To Create An Outdoor Living Room In Your Neighborhood

Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module Edit ModuleShow Tags

Daily Astrology

August 16, 2017

Getting up to speed takes an extra push early this morning. Vitality is sapped and concentration wavers as the Moon tests Neptune. If you happen to be on the road, pay attention. A shifting Cosmic pattern soon fosters rapid progress, mental clarity and…
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Alternative Health Directory

Browse all listings »

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Calendar

August 2017

This show offers an opportunity to purchase natural mineral and gem crystals to enhance your healing, meditation, and experiential activities.  200 retail and wholesale vendors from across the...

Cost: Adults $6, Parking $5

Where:
Eastern States Exposition
Better Living Center
1305 Memorial Dr
West Springfield, MA  01089
View map »


Sponsor: LLD Productions, Inc.
Telephone: 505-867-0425
Contact Name: Regina Aumente
Website »

More information

Barbara Fe is back for another amazing workshop! There is no need to have attended her previous classes to join in for this one - just a willingness to explore your own intuitive abilities!...

Cost: $25

Where:
The Studio at One Earth
191 Emery Mills Road
Shapleigh, ME  04076
View map »


Sponsor: The Studio at One Earth
Telephone: 207-636-2500
Contact Name: The Studio at One Earth
Website »

More information

January 14 - December 9, 2017 With Tom Frederick Novice — This 12-month program is designed to assist you on your journey to spiritual enlightenment. Here we study a variety of esoteric...

Cost: $1300

Where:
Women of Wisdom
118 Washington Street
North Easton, MA  02356
View map »


Sponsor: Women of Wisdom
Telephone: 508-230-3680
Contact Name: Women of Wisdom
Website »

More information

Sunday Reiki treatments with Reiki master and practitioner Linda Simons in Brookline, MA. Start your week off on a more balanced note with a Reiki treatment on a Sunday afternoon. Please join me...

Cost: Sliding Scale $20-$40

Where:
233 Harvard Street
Suite 36
Brookline, MA  02446
View map »


Telephone: 617-304-2205
Contact Name: LInda Simons
Website »

More information

Join us in the Northeast Reiki Center classroom in Framingham for a Reiki Circle in the Usui Reiki System of Natural Healing. We are a gathering of Reiki practitioners and others interested in...

Cost: Free

Where:
Northeast Reiki Center
61 Nicholas Road, Suite B2
Framingham, MA  01701
View map »


Sponsor: Northeast Reiki Center
Telephone: 508-808-5696
Contact Name: Lou Orsan
Website »

More information

Guided loving kindness meditation every Sunday at HeartSong Spiritual Wellness. No charge to attend. Donations are appreciated to help support this non-profit wellness center. Read more:...

Cost: Free

Where:
HeartSong Spiritual Wellness
23 Pine Street
Milford, MA  01757
View map »


Sponsor: HeartSong
Contact Name: Jacki Rose
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

January 14 - December 9, 2017 With Tom Frederick Novice — This 12-month program is designed to assist you on your journey to spiritual enlightenment. Here we study a variety of esoteric...

Cost: $1300

Where:
Women of Wisdom
118 Washington Street
North Easton, MA  02356
View map »


Sponsor: Women of Wisdom
Telephone: 508-230-3680
Contact Name: Women of Wisdom
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

January 14 - December 9, 2017 With Tom Frederick Novice — This 12-month program is designed to assist you on your journey to spiritual enlightenment. Here we study a variety of esoteric...

Cost: $1300

Where:
Women of Wisdom
118 Washington Street
North Easton, MA  02356
View map »


Sponsor: Women of Wisdom
Telephone: 508-230-3680
Contact Name: Women of Wisdom
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

January 14 - December 9, 2017 With Tom Frederick Novice — This 12-month program is designed to assist you on your journey to spiritual enlightenment. Here we study a variety of esoteric...

Cost: $1300

Where:
Women of Wisdom
118 Washington Street
North Easton, MA  02356
View map »


Sponsor: Women of Wisdom
Telephone: 508-230-3680
Contact Name: Women of Wisdom
Website »

More information

We're so excited to have Nicki LeMarbre bringing this beautiful sound healing meditation to us. She will also have some crystal and jewelry at the event for sale as well. Nicki is offering...

Cost: Preregistration online $44, At the door $49

Where:
The Healing Power of Flowers - Heaven and Earth
68 Stiles Rd
Unit A
Salem, NH  03079
View map »


Sponsor: The Healing Power of Flowers - Heaven and Earth
Telephone: 603-275-7688
Contact Name: Stacey Smith
Website »

More information

August 16 - 19, 2017 Healing Trauma and Installing Boundaries. With Judith Swack, PhD. Learn how to heal PTSD. HBLU™ integrates the best of biomedical science, psychology, spirituality,...

Where:
56 Pickering Street
Needham, MA
View map »


Sponsor: HBLU™, Inc.
Telephone: (781) 444-6940
Website »

More information

Qigong is an amazing practice used to prevent and heal disease. Qigong is a series of flowing and repeated movements, stretches and breathing exercises. Qigong movements are gentle and easy to...

Cost: $12

Where:
The Arlington Center
369 Mass Ave
Arlington, MA
View map »


Sponsor: Maryellen LaBelle
Telephone: 781-710-4325
Contact Name: Maryellen LaBelle
Website »

More information

Weekly yoga classes with Rev. Michelle Caron, RMT, CYT, ZIN of Harmony Way on Wednesdays at 12:15 PM and Fridays at 9:30 AM at the Wilbraham Senior Center. Class welcomes all ages and uses a...

Cost: $5

Where:
Wilbraham Senior Center
45 Post Office Park, #4502
Wilbraham, MA  01095
View map »


Sponsor: Harmony Way
Telephone: 413-636-2475
Contact Name: Rev. Michelle Caron, RMT, CYT, ZIN
Website »

More information

MBSR: Tools for Managing Stress and Enhancing Wellbeing Dates: Wednesday Evenings July 12, 19, 25 August 2, 9, 16, 23 and 30 Retreat: Saturday, August 26, 2017 9:30-4:30 PM Join us for a...

Cost: $300 - $650

Where:
Cambridge Health Alliance
26 Central Street
Somerville, MA  02143
View map »


Sponsor: Center for Mindfulness and Compassion
Telephone: 617-591-6132
Contact Name: Bridget Kiley
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

January 14 - December 9, 2017 With Tom Frederick Novice — This 12-month program is designed to assist you on your journey to spiritual enlightenment. Here we study a variety of esoteric...

Cost: $1300

Where:
Women of Wisdom
118 Washington Street
North Easton, MA  02356
View map »


Sponsor: Women of Wisdom
Telephone: 508-230-3680
Contact Name: Women of Wisdom
Website »

More information

August 17 - 20, 2017 The Berkshires is composed of 30 unique towns and two cities bordering Vermont, New York, and Connecticut and is equidistant from Boston and New York City. It is here...

Cost: Please see our website

Where:
Eastover Estate & Retreat Center
430 East Street
Lenox, MA  01240
View map »


Sponsor: Eastover Estate & Retreat Center
Telephone: 866-264-5139
Contact Name: Yingxing Wang
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Learn Reiki — revitalizing self-care and healing in the palm of your hands. Facilitated by Lou Orsan, Reiki Shihan (master teacher) This one-day class covers the basic principles...

Cost: $125

Where:
Northeast Reiki Center
61 Nicholas Road, Suite B2
Framingham, MA  01701
View map »


Sponsor: Northeast Reiki Center
Telephone: 508-808-5696
Contact Name: Lou Orsan
Website »

More information

January 14 - December 9, 2017 With Tom Frederick Novice — This 12-month program is designed to assist you on your journey to spiritual enlightenment. Here we study a variety of esoteric...

Cost: $1300

Where:
Women of Wisdom
118 Washington Street
North Easton, MA  02356
View map »


Sponsor: Women of Wisdom
Telephone: 508-230-3680
Contact Name: Women of Wisdom
Website »

More information

Weekly yoga classes with Rev. Michelle Caron, RMT, CYT, ZIN of Harmony Way on Wednesdays at 12:15 PM and Fridays at 9:30 AM at the Wilbraham Senior Center. Class welcomes all ages and uses a...

Cost: $5

Where:
Wilbraham Senior Center
45 Post Office Park, #4502
Wilbraham, MA  01095
View map »


Sponsor: Harmony Way
Telephone: 413-636-2475
Contact Name: Rev. Michelle Caron, RMT, CYT, ZIN
Website »

More information

Come unwind at the end of the week with your Anastasia's Health Happenings tribe! Fridays in Amesbury… Kick start your spiritual journey by supporting others on their spiritual...

Cost: $5 suggested donation

Where:
Anastasia’s Health Happenings
110 Haverhill Rd
Bldg. C, Suite 342
Amesbury, MA  01913
View map »


Sponsor: Anastasia’s Health Happenings
Telephone: 978-621-8435
Contact Name: Patti Anastasia
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Join Cayce Lannon of Maine Yoga Kids for her first of two kid-focused yoga workshops here at The Studio at One Earth! Bring the whole gang for some yoga fun! We’ll...

Cost: $20.00 per family (up to four people), extra family members $5 per person

Where:
The Studio at One Earth
191 Emery Mills Road
Shapleigh, ME  04076
View map »


Sponsor: The Studio at One Earth
Telephone: 207-636-2500
Website »

More information

January 14 - December 9, 2017 With Tom Frederick Novice — This 12-month program is designed to assist you on your journey to spiritual enlightenment. Here we study a variety of esoteric...

Cost: $1300

Where:
Women of Wisdom
118 Washington Street
North Easton, MA  02356
View map »


Sponsor: Women of Wisdom
Telephone: 508-230-3680
Contact Name: Women of Wisdom
Website »

More information

Join Cayce Lannon of Maine Yoga Kids for a great family yoga experience! This will be the second workshop of the day.  Explore the restful side of yoga in this fun and...

Cost: $20 per family (up to four people), extra family members $5 per person

Where:
The Studio at One Earth
191 Emery Mills Road
Shapleigh, ME  04076
View map »


Sponsor: The Studio at One Earth
Telephone: 207-636-2500
Contact Name: The Studio at One Earth
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module Edit ModuleShow Tags