An Ethic to Support Local

There are only three days left to bid on items in the Online Auction to support research and first year development of the BerkShares Local Currency Program.

The Wall Street Journal columnist’s first question was, “Why is there a need for a local currency in the Berkshires?  All the small shops are doing well, aren’t they?”  He was researching an article about BerkShares for an end of September issue.

Certainly there is an ethic in the region to support local businesses, especially concerning food.  Restaurant patrons query wait staff for the source of ingredients before ordering, and then chat about their visits to the farms named.  Chef’s eulogize about the color, texture, flavor, quality of  their farm fresh menus.  This partnership between farms and restaurants is celebrated by a number of regional organizations including Northeast Organic Farmers Association, Berkshire Grown, New York Regional Food and Farm Project, Hartford Food System, Yale Sustainable Food Project, Hawthorne Valley Association, and any number of other innovative groups which you might support as member or trustee.

Our region is rich with an active network of Community Supported Agriculture Farms.  Citizen shareholders guarantee the yearly operating costs of the farm through purchase of a share of the harvest.  In return they become more keenly aware of the yearly rhythm of the field and rivers, more aware of how the play of rain and sun determines the availability of tomatoes in their weekly baskets, more appreciative of the endurance and skills needed to till and sow and weed and harvest.

But what of products other than food.  The maples and oaks, cherries and ash that give color to our autumn hills could be the basis of a thriving local furniture manufacturing. The woolen mills, once the source of employment in the region, could retool and sheep could again graze on our cleared slopes.  Local currencies are a way for consumers to self-organize to support local production of items now imported into the region.  Merchants would recognize a guaranteed clientele for their regional products.  New businesses would be encouraged to form and old skills revived.

“Yes,” we commented to our interviewer, “there is great likelihood of a successful  BerkShares program in this region.  Residents already understand the importance of supporting their local economy.  And if proven here, then a local currency would be easier to implement in a region facing different economic conditions from those of the Berkshires.  If the reconstruction effort along the Gulf Coast following hurricane Katrina were paid, in part, with a regional currency it would ensure that local residents would have priority for the jobs-serving the double tasks of cleaning up AND creating lasting local economic development.

We ardently reminded our Wall Street Journal friend that there was as yet no BerkShares program and that he might wait until one was launched.  He responded by pointing out that we were fundraising for BerkShares and that there WOULD be a program and that he wanted to tell that story.

If there is so much attention to a local currency program before it is implemented, imagine the media focus once in place. We need your help to meet our fundraising goals with your bids. The full BerkShares proposal and pictures of auction items are online including a 2006 Share for Indian Line Farm, a 2006 Share for Chubby Bunny Farm, Monterey Goat Cheese, a farm tour of Moon-in-the-Pond Farm with “Bacon Bucks,” Judy Grunburg’s Chewy Hot Fudge, and dinners at restaurants committed to using locally grown food such as Red Lion Inn, White Dog Café, and the Blue Plate in Chatham.

Auction donors have helped with their gift of products, won’t you help by bidding on your favorites?  Bidding closes September 23rd.