I’m blessed to live in my hometown. Not many people who spent seven years in college can claim such a thing (unless we include “big city” within the definition of “hometown”). I’m further blessed to have four kids who have left home (two in college, two in the job market) that want to get back to their hometown. I realize it’s unlikely. . .
. . . or is it? Thaddeus Russell has me thinking hard about the prospects of small town living. He thinks America’s small towns are set for a renaissance. Or rather, he thinks the renaissance has already begun, as more and more people eschew NYC, Chi-town, and LA for the smaller cities and towns, a transformation made possible by the Internet. He explores this in his recent podcast interview with Dar Williams, singer and author of What I Found in a Thousand Towns. It’s an engaging interview and highly recommended if you, like me, are personally invested in the well-being of your town.
I enjoyed the interview so much, I’ve downloaded two other interviews with her, from podcasts that I’ve never even heard of. I’ve also added the book to my Father’s Day Wishlist. She is apparently a flaming leftist, but of the goodwill sort.
I really like the sub-title of the book: A Traveling Musician’s Guide to Rebuilding America’s CommunitiesOne Coffee Shop, Dog Run, and Open-Mike Night at a Time. Ever since I started my urban production site (one year ago this month, btw), it’s been in my mind that it could be an asset to my small town, a way of giving back to the community that has been good to me. The thought is perhaps arrogant . . . or naive . . . and/or quixotic, but it’s there.
I think the idea was planted by a local township supervisor friend, who told me this would be a great addition to my small city, since (i) there was nothing like it in any town in the county, and (ii) one of the first questions that visiting dignitaries (visiting mayors, consultants, etc.) ask is, “Do you have any urban agriculture?” My vague goal is to turn the MAXimum Greens’ site into a place where (i) we can grow enough crops to make Max and Tess a decent amount of money and repay the large loan I made to the company to get it started, (ii) a few other people can grow organic crops, and (iii) a person can walk by and say, “Whatta nifty ag operation.”
The three goals, incidentally, are still a long ways from met. I’m guessing it’ll be at least two years before I will even know whether the goals are attainable. I am, however, making progress toward all three goals: I expect MAXimum Greens to break even or s how a small profit this year, one of my most skeptical observers said two weeks ago, “Actually, it looks pretty neat, like it’s something now,” and two kids from the local apartment complex are going to garden one of my 25 rows (I’ll be prepping the bed with fertilizer, providing the seeds, and arranging the water, but they’re doing the planting, weeding, and harvesting).
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Speaking of the renaissance, The American Conservative ran this little piece recently that’s worth reading: “Rust Belt Cities Need Investment, Not Gentrification Worries.” The issue of gentrification is discussed in the Russell/Williams conversation linked to above.