Long Spoon Collective

SUBHEAD: Is this kind of community a new form freedom for millenials or a new form of serfdom? Maybe it's both.

By Pamela Boyce Simms  on 10 February 2015 for TransitionUS -

Image above: Participants of the Saugerties Transition building a cob oven. From original article.
Photo by Karuna Foundria.

The Long Spoon Collective, a Working Group of Saugerties Transition, grows food at multiple locations, and builds tiny energy efficient houses from repurposed materials salvaged from demolition sites. Members are rapidly working their way off of the grid, and are moving toward moneyless, share economy operations.

Turned outward and united in service to community and the region, Long Spoon is working with the Mid-Atlantic Transition Hub (MATH) to establish a City-to-Valley flow of Transitioners to and from the NYC Metro area and the Mid-Hudson Valley with food security and relationship building in mind.

The Long Spoon Collective mirrors the Transition adage: “Let it Go Where it Wants to Go.”
Synchronicity brought the group of millennial college grads, permaculturists, and baby boomers together. (Overview of the Long Spoon Collective) Constant experimentation with approaches sustains the collective’s vitality. Solutions that are appropriate and emergent in the moment carry the day.

Working group members are living sustainably rather than talking about it. Long Spoon models openness to possibility, ability to cope joyously with uncertainty, and trust in the collective genius; Transition hallmarks. The group offers an instructive example to the Transition movement, which is sifting and sorting through six years of experimentation to note what truly serves the greater good.

Initially, seven stalwart Saugertians steadfastly followed the “Ingredients of Transition” guideline-script. They dutifully formed an Initiating Group and held down the fort through a recommended public awareness raising period; conducting thought provoking public panel discussions. But then, as is often the case once a group collectively incubates and internalizes the Transition mindset of deep-connection, spontaneous serendipity took over.

Transition-Long Spoon self-organized as connections organically emerged at farmers markets, and via area Transition gatherings where Karuna Foudriat, Saugerties Transition initiator, met the collective founder, Chase Randell and later Frank O’Leary. A floodgate of pragmatic innovation opened wide, galvanizing other talented kindred spirits, and newly formed friendships and began to deepen instantly.

Now populated by 20 and 30-somethings in league with boomers, Long Spoon elders provide land while younger members do the bulk of the farming work. Multiple varieties of vegetables are grown in accordance with soil conditions particular to each of several sites. Some collective locations also cultivate and raise: bees, chickens and meat rabbits. Excess food is given to the hungry.

Long Spoon Collective Downtime

By Karuna Foudriat on 10 February 2015 for Transition US - 

Image above: Participants of the Saugerties Transition gardening last summer. From original article. Photo by Karuna Foundria.

It’s winter, and members of the Long Spoon Collective, a working group of Transition Town Sustainable Saugerties, have welcomed the change from the swift and relentless pace of our work in the summer and fall. While we were planting, harvesting, and processing the food from our two-acre garden, as well as building and /or winterizing the small sustainable buildings which now shelter the core labor force, we met almost daily at one of our gardens or home sites.

Now the whole network only gathers together for bi-monthly potluck meetings. We mostly work alone, or in pairs, trios, or quartets. Like the earth beneath the snow, however, a tremendous amount of activity is happening unseen.

Part of our work has been celebrating and reflecting on our past year and a half together. Starting from our small beginnings as a garlic-planting group in September of 2013, we created a month-by-month calendar of our activities and accomplishments.

We were all amazed by what a small, fluctuating group of 3-8 fulltime folks, embraced and supported by a larger (30+) community of regular part time helpers, could accomplish. Another “aha” we collectively experienced was that we attracted some of our most dedicated members after public talks, particularly at Transition Woodstock or Saugerties events. This insight inspires us to do more of them.

Even as we rejoice in the past, the LSC is looking forward to the 2015 growing season and beyond. Last year, the sheer volume of work we were doing made it difficult to clearly craft and articulate our mission and vision. Because of our relatively small numbers, we experienced a tension between trying to “walk the walk” of localizing our food sources and living a moneyless, low-impact lifestyle, and trying to educate and spread our model to as many people as possible.

We’ve been asking ourselves how to incorporate people of differing levels of commitment and ability in ways that help everyone feel included. The long and short-term goals we developed over the past month are an attempt to honor our commitments to both sustainability and community building. In particular, we plan to emphasize sharing the food we grow in 2015 rather than trying for complete food self-sufficiency.

While we are spreading our food growing efforts across many different sites, we plan to pay particular attention to two large plots of land that members of our network have generously offered to us. We hope these sites will ultimately house and sustain others who want to join in the work of the collective, either as part-time volunteers or as full-time members of our team. Long term, we hope to use these places as a school where we can pass on the tools, skills, and community that the next generation will need as it transitions to a post-fossil fuel future.

Then there are the practical tasks. We are getting the rocket stove in the greenhouse up and running in time for a February plantings of onions, greens, and root vegetables. We’ve tested the viability of the seeds we saved, created a local food calendar, learned to use the USDA soil survey website, cleared forested land for new gardens, and picked up the vegetable scraps and food waste from a local health food store for chickens and compost bins, to mention a few of our winter projects.

Finally, what fun to sit by the fire together and pour over seed catalogues, or read books on permaculture (Gaia’s Garden and The Resilient Farm and Homestead are current Long Spoon favorites) or foraging or dye plants.

We’re sharing delicious hot cereals, bread, and pancakes from the corn we grew, soups redolent with the beans and sauerkraut we processed, and toast from the perfectly good bread we plucked from the waste stream. The time we spend dreaming, reading, eating, and relaxing together nourishes our friendship and commitment to each other while it strengthens and prepares us for the growing season to come.

Two directions that characterize the evolution of Transition Initiatives are the support-group, and service pathways. Both are valid and affirming but each has a different focal point. The former which leans toward insularity, creates a nourishing comfort zone needed by many in uncertain, turbulent times.

The latter typified by Transition-Long Spoon is consciously committed to sustaining a service-oriented, outward ripple effect. The intent is to connect with and educate the public by walking the talk; living their convictions, and sharing what they learn widely with others.

Compassion for climate-vulnerable populations progressively spreading up the Hudson Valley prompts the collective to repurpose materials used to build energy efficient “tiny houses.” Building materials are salvaged from the demolition of existing structures. The collective is preparing and planning to absorb and integrate others in need into their community as the climate change dial turns up.

Transition-Long Spooners are disentangling themselves from the consumer economy that degrades the environment. Members live simply but qualitatively well; minimizing dependence on the consumer economy. Moving toward a gift economy whereby services and goods are gifted for no expectation other than what the depth of relationship yields, the collective isn’t fueled or directed by “old paradigm consumer-capitalism money.”

As per Karuna Foudriat:
“We’re educating ourselves to move away from the consumer-oriented, zero-sum paradigm of competition, scarcity, transactional exchange, and private profit to a producer-oriented economy of abundance, cooperation, mutual gain, and gift giving. Bottom line, we are trying to ask, “What can I give?” instead of “What can I get?”
Resonant with practices of the Do-it-yourself (DYI) and Maker movements which Transitioners fold into purposeful “reskilling” adventures, Long Spooners experiment with applications for tried and true carbon neutral technology such as grain grinders, hydraulic presses, heating and cooking devises.

Decisions that emerge from group discernment and make practical sense eclipse the need for, “expert-dependent” approaches as they experiment. Strangers to the word inertia, group members become the experts rather than call in “experts.”

In true Transition fashion, Long Spoon members have come to trust each other, and most importantly, trust themselves to make good choices. They are way-showers in vision, concept, action, and follow-through.

To learn more, join the upcoming Mid-Atlantic Transition Hub teleseminar "Meet the Transition Towns and Cities of the Mid-Atlantic Region" on Thursday, February 26 from 7:00-8:30pmEST/4:00-5:30pmPST. Register here.

Blog post submitted by Pamela Boyce-Simms, Convener, Mid-Atlantic Transition Hub (MATH)

Photos courtesy of Karuna Foundriat, Transition Saugerties


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