Community-Supported Economy

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Susan Witt:

"Could concerned citizens model an ethos that would support a local furniture factory, a cannery, a humane slaughterhouse, a water-powered electric generation plant or the type of small business proposed by a neighbor? Could we build ‘import replacement’ businesses that provide well-paid jobs for our youth and keep the local economy vibrant with a diversity of production, skills and people while maintaining a commitment to a healthy ecology?

James Patterson’s grant program to independent bookstores provides a prototype for meeting this objective. Imagine the possibilities if a similar grant program were introduced at a regional scale. A group of 10 people interested in expanding a local wool industry might pool $20,000 to give as grants. They would then seek applications from weavers, knitters, sheep farmers, shearers, carders and local retail stores for innovative initiatives to further the industry. The process would attract media attention, unleash the creativity of business owners, develop local pride in locally made wool products, and draw attention to the issues faced by small-batch production carried on under ecologically and socially responsible conditions—in other words, ‘Community-Supported Wool.’

The opportunities are limited only by the imagination of citizens of a region: Community-Supported Pottery, Community-Supported Textiles, Community-Supported Bicycles, Community-Supported Energy Generation. Consumers helping producers to create the conditions needed for their business to thrive in the local economy.

Transitioning to an economic system that is both equitable and sustainable will require many willing hands. Citizens can no longer stand on the sidelines waiting for the business community to take the lead. Our communities are at stake, our eco-systems are at stake, our very humanity is at stake in how we move forward. James Patterson’s bold example of grants directed to small independent businesses provides one of many potential strategies for building a community-supported economy. More are needed." (

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