Backwardass Townies, Chicken Littles, and Learning New Tolerance

by Highplainsdrifter

It is my belief that whether we build our lives in a post-peak oil world in-place or move to another location, we are going to be faced with building closer relationships to the locals. A world fueled by cheap energy has provided the luxury of living in one location and working in another. A daily commute has become as common as toothpaste in our everyday routine. Without cheap energy, we will not have the luxury of living and working in two separate worlds. Separate parts of our lives will merge together more and more. Our next door neighbors will become our coworkers, business partners, bosses, employees, suppliers, vendors, marketing agents, accountants, lawyers, doctors and security guards.

A key skill in a post-peak oil world is the ability to gain rapport with the locals, gain trust, resolve differences and trade knowledge, resources and services with them. Folks that for whatever reason have not developed skills for self sufficient living will need this the most. And, you can’t count on sitting on a pile of fiat currency, jewelry or precious metals to buy your needs here either. You can’t eat any of those things.

While participating in a thread on another site, folks were discussing Michael Ruppert’s site, and the map of Lifeboat Docks. For those that are unfamiliar with the concept, collapsenet has a Google map of members and a list of skills they are willing to offer. So, you can see all the knowledgeable resources in your area, develop relationships and work toward the transition away from cheap energy. As of this writing, the website programming has some bugs and troubleshooting to do. I am confident that with time the programming will be functional. But, something about the tone of the comments on this thread made me cringe and worry. After fitful night of sleep over this, I woke up to recall an experience that explained my uneasiness.

This is a true story of the beginnings of a local foods in a small WY town. It all began with an ad in the paper and radio to meet at the local library.

Meeting #1:
There were about 50 in attendance, mostly ranchers and some quiet, old ladies from the local gardening group. The minority was a smattering of people from different backgrounds. The dynamic of this meeting was, in retrospect, heartbreaking. The ranchers were quiet, shaking their heads and staring at the floor in disgust. The garden folks were quiet and introverted. The ranchers and gardeners simply wanted to sell what they raised – excellent quality grass fed beef, lamb, free range eggs, pork, apples and garden veggies.

Bear in mind, due to elevation and climate, this town has a very short growing season. Truly frost free days are from June 15th thru August – the rest of the time requires a whole lotta skill and luck in extending the seasons and choosing varieties.

What eventually shook out to dominate the meeting and decided the direction of the group was one belligerent, condescending battle ax of a group moderator and a core group of five ladies that had moved into the area within the last 5 to 10 years, mostly from the west coast but one was from North Carolina and one was from Colorado. It was clear that they wanted a farmer’s market and a way to find local producers. I remember one of these ladies exclaim, “WE HAD A FARMER’S MARKET THAT WAS JUST SIMPLY FANTASTIC BACK IN PORTLAND. AND, I DON’T KNOW WHY THIS BACKWARDSASS TOWN CANT HAVE THE SAME THING!”

The ranchers and gardeners TRIED to explain to them that they had no interest in a farmer’s market. That there had been attempts in the past but it never took off because of the preparation time did not fit most people’s schedules. That most people didn’t want all of one variety of vegetable one week then all of another the next. This is a consequence of growing in a short season. It was not practical for the ranchers to haul their meat around, keep it frozen in the back of a pickup on hot day and just to sell a few steaks. That most people just wanted choice cuts and they needed to sell the whole animal.

Now, what is heartbreaking about this meeting, in retrospect, is, OMG what a lifeboat dock! There was a incredible wealth of knowledge there! A local, multi-generational understanding of a land that is, some of the most difficult to live in the Lower 48. Here was a group of people that not only knew how to survive and thrive on this land without all the benefits of fossil energy but some of them have actually LIVED into their 20s without electricity and tractors.

MEETING #2 (next week):

The belligerent battle ax got a bunch of phone calls afterward pertaining to her condescending attitude. She resigned. She was replaced by a soft spoken local guy who had a good reputation as an ex-legislator. That was a welcome change but the core group of 5 came with their friends. Among them were the county extension agent (who is considered by the locals to be a complete jackass), a zealous health inspector and a college culinary arts instructor. There were just two ranchers from the original group. There was one woman who had gotten fed up with the city life and started an organic vegetable farm on a small acreage. In this meeting, the minority became the majority. There were 12 or so consumers who want a farmers market and a way to find producers. And, um, three producers.

One important note in this story, three out of the core group of five were vegetarians. In this part of the world, a vegetarian living off the land here WOULD starve to death.

This meeting became dominated by the health inspector who quoted verbatim a bunch of health codified rules and laws. She said we could not just buy meat directly from a producer legally. She said producers had to have it processed by WY state approved facility which is different from an out of state processing facility. She explained that products like cabbage rolls, jellies, canned sauerkraut and pickles had to be produced in a WY state approved kitchen. (We looked into the cost of one of these kitchens. Price tag = $10K.) The culinary arts instructor showed off her cookbook filled with meatless dishes with vegetables that did not grow here. She explained that the sale of raw milk was illegal. And that we should be careful of all farm fresh eggs that are ungraded. The core group nodded in appreciation for her words.

One of the core group said to the health inspector that those regulations didn’t seem right because a Hutterite colony from out of state was selling produce in a nearby town and that their food was “Simply delicious.” The following week, the health inspector paid a visit and ran them out of town.

We now must drive to a pasture just a few hundred feet across the state line to get our meat and produce from them.

I attended two more meetings. None of the meat producers were at those. The membership fees were set. It cost $100 and $10 per table at the farmers market. The core group of 5 published a beautiful, full color, well written pamphlet with eight or so names of producers on it (who I wouldn’t buy a stick of gum from) and about a page and 1/2 about the benefits of whole foods. I heard a few of the Core group of five on the local radio station declaring their success. There was a farmers market from Memorial Day thru Labor day that had three to four tables in it, usually a honey producer, two people with crafts (leatherwork or baskets), one table with potted plants from a local high end greenhouse and the city to country gardener with a small table of maybe $20 worth of sick looking vegetables that my chickens would pass up. This was a few years ago, I have not seen or heard about the farmer’s market or the directory displayed since that first year.

What does this have to do with the concept of lifeboat docks and building a community to transition into a post-peak oil world?

First, we have people who can help build lifeboats all around us. They are self-reliant, resilient, independent folks who don’t call attention to themselves and quite frankly don’t need you. They know how to take care of their needs. If you are running around saying, “The sky is falling! The sky is falling! We need to build a lifeboat!” They are going to shake their heads in disgust, go to their own lifeboat boat, batten down the hatches, get a few more supplies for the ride, clean and load the guns.

For example, I have an 85 year old next door neighbor who can barely walk but has lived in my small town all her life. She grew up without indoor plumbing or electricity. She has been snowed in for up to three weeks in the recent past without electricity or access to grocery and services in a bigger town 20 miles away. She has three different ways to heat her house and cook. She gets some help from neighbors here and there but has more than a year’s supply of canned food from her garden. As old ranch woman who has grown up in a cowboy town with minimal law enforcement, I pity the fool who tries to bother her. She is a dear friend, an excellent resource of the local lore, but it took more than a year to get to know her and earn her trust.

My family has our own lifeboat dock. We have fruit trees, a greenhouse, chickens, rabbits, a shop full of tools and, between the wife and I, a multitude of skills for self reliant living. Some of those core group of 5 live nearby. They are the last people I want around me when things get tough. I don’t have time for them. I have what I need. I get excellent quality, locally raised grass fed beef, pork, wild game, raw goats milk, free range eggs and veggies from the greenhouse. I have friends throughout the community whom I share resources with – everything from produce to martial arts instruction to gunsmithing to chiropractic sessions. I meet up with the Hutterites (100 ft across the state line) for smoked chickens, hams, cabbages for kraut, cabbage rolls, sweet corn and melons. All of this is hedging around legalities and under the radar. If I supported all the fledgling beginnings of Codex Alimetntrus and the like, well let’s just say I might as well just live under a bridge in a cardboard box out of the friggin Walmart.

So, even though I support Ruppert’s efforts, there is a certain hard reality here that everyone out there needs to get.

If you want to trade and learn from the self-reliant, resilient community of people around you then I suggest that you:

1. Be open and listen with humility. Do not come with your own ideas of how things should be. If you don’t like it here, go back where you came from.

2. Avoid condescending someone’s way of life either indirectly, subtly or directly. Live and Let Live. If it is necessary to dress down like the locals or drive a crappier car, so be it. Today’s symbols of success will not insure tomorrow’s success. That greasy redneck next door neighbor may be your lifeline in the future – think about that.

3. Bring some useful skills or resources to earn your seat at the table. I’m sorry I don’t need the services of a retired pilates instructor, an interior decorator or a golf event organizer. A pilates instructor needs to learn how to build a fence. An interior decorator needs to learn how to refinish hardwood floors. A golf event organizer needs to learn how to get stuff that busy people don’t have time to find.

4. Avoid calling attention to people who don’t want it or threatening their way of life in ANY way. More often than not self reliant people are that way because they just want to live without any attention. Bear in mind….The last holdouts of the oil rich paradigm will be the government. I’m not advocating lawlessness here. I am saying that the laws which restrain people from being self-reliant are threats. The government will continue to legislate and enforce regulations that are impossible to follow in post-peak oil world. They will do their jobs with gusto because jobs in the private sector are becoming ever increasingly scarce. And the most dangerous aspect of all, these folks will do their job for your own good.

5. Be willing to work hard and get dirty. Nothing makes a better impression on these people than being willing to work and sweat. Even if you don’t know which end of the shovel to use, there is still plenty of little tasks that can be made lighter. And, I guarantee you that EVERYONE you meet will show you how to use a shovel!

My martial arts instructor reminds us frequently that our character is our first line of defense and greatest source of strength. Courtesy, humility, integrity, perseverance, self-control and indomitable spirit – these character traits are embodied in all of these suggestions.

To conclude, here are the hard realities of community building:

  • We need others in our community to survive or thrive. They can provide us with resources, skills and knowledge that will make our lives easier, safer and better.
  • You must earn rapport and trust with people first. Begin now because it takes time.
  • Self reliant and resilient people, by definition, don’t need you and they are hiding everywhere in plain sight. Learn to spot them and get to know them.
  • You must be able to give what you take – you must have something that people need.
    You will be avoided if you become a threat.


Highplainsdrifter hides in plain sight in a small town in WY. He grew up in a family of self reliant, resilient people in a farming community in SD. By day, he is an engineering manager working for a global fossil energy corporation. By night, he is the greasy redneck next door neighbor who does not want any attention.

About Kathy McMahon

Kathy McMahon Psy.D. is a clinical psychologist who is internationally known for her writing about the psychological impacts of Peak Oil, climate change, and economic collapse. She's written for Honda Motors, and has been featured in American Prospect, Greenpeace International, the Vancouver Sun, Freakonomics, Itulip, Ecoshock Radio, and Peak Moments Television.


  1. Fantastic.
    Absolutely spot on.

    Thank you.

  2. In fairness to Ruppert, he wasn’t advocating turning up in a community of resilient people and standing on a soapbox so to speak, but rather suggests staying where you fit in and building up your relationships there. Local lifeboat building is the key.

    On the other hand, while we have the internet, we can use it to learn skills, communicate internationally with each other to find out what is going on and to share useful information, and of course find who is like-minded locally, who may live just around the corner from you but who you might never be aware of otherwise.

    A good article though and I think the advice is relevant whether you stay put or re-locate.

  3. “By day, he is an engineering manager working for a global fossil energy corporation.”

    Self-reliant my ass.

  4. It’s ironic that the author portrays Pilates instructors as useless, and suggests that they need to “learn how to build a fence”.

    Where I live, there’s an abundance of fence-building rednecks with debilitating back problems who’d benefit enormously from Pilates – but they share the author’s pre-conceived notion that Pilates is meaningless nonsense for useless vegetarian city-slickers. More fool them.

  5. Fandral72 says:

    I agree with Samantha it’s somewhat of a contradiction to label a Pilates instructor as ‘useless” while celebrating
    “We need others in our community to survive or thrive. They can provide us with resources, skills and knowledge that will make our lives easier, safer and better”.
    But I think his point is calling out a specific foundational skill set, I suspect he thinks Pilates is all well and good after the fence is built, but now we’re wallowing into a cultural skirmish.
    If you want to be tolerated, be tolerant. If you want to be appreciated, appreciate.
    It cuts both ways.

  6. HighPlainsDrifter says:

    I appreciate the comments – the good, the bad and the ugly. Vera – thank you.
    Martin – I agree with you on Ruppert. I applaud what he is doing. And, yes, he advocates a retreat-in-place. My story was just as much for the retreat-in-place crowd as the grass-is-greener crowd.
    Ed – Im not sure if it is a) engineering manager or b) energy corporation or c) all of the above which doesnt seem to correlate with self-reliant for you. But, rest ASSured I am all of the above. If you don’t agree, then let’s hear it.
    Sam – I value pilates instructors. I have taken pilates classes and see the benefit to fence building rednecks with debilitating back problems. I think golf event organizers are demonic evil but that’s just me. ;>) These are real life examples in my community. The retired pilates instructor is a neighbor who hung out watching tv when I rebuilt the fence that separates our property because SHE complained about it. Perhaps, she should have engaged her core and skipped a few “100’s” to help me tamp in some posts or at least offered to pay for half. Perhaps, I should have left it leaning on her property after a windstorm. Hell,I didnt build it there in the first place. The interior decorator is frustrated because he can’t get any work but a hardwood floor refinisher just a few doors down can not find help. The golf event coordinator is a goto guy for the rich in this area but regularly condescends the less than rich. What if the fiat money of his clientele suddenly became worthless?
    To all of you – my intent is to encourage readers to honestly assess your relationships, the perceptions of yourself in the community, your skill sets and how you interact with people in order to survive and thrive the challenges we face in the future. Hopefully, at the very least, you might be thinking about it.

  7. “Ed – Im not sure if it is a) engineering manager or b) energy corporation or c) all of the above which doesnt seem to correlate with self-reliant for you. But, rest ASSured I am all of the above. If you don’t agree, then let’s hear it.”

    Then quit your job and prove that you can get by without a steady dose of blood-money from the fossil fuel industry.

  8. “To all of you – my intent is to encourage readers to honestly assess your relationships, the perceptions of yourself in the community, your skill sets and how you interact with people in order to survive and thrive the challenges we face in the future. Hopefully, at the very least, you might be thinking about it.”

    What you’re really doing is saying that you are the king of your post-peak mountain if people want to gain entre’ into your club that you have to know the secret handshake.

    In other words, you’re placing the entire burden on the outsider to figure out how to be accepted. That is not how you build a thriving local community. It’s how you drive wedges through the community, through exclusion. It’s how you create cliques, fraternities, or gangs.

  9. Fandral72 says:

    Ed,In a time of limited community resources the entire burden IS on the outsider to figure out how to be accepted. That is human nature, and twas ever thus.
    Cliques, fraternities, and gangs are the survival mechanisms for those who, for whatever reason, can not or choose not to incorporate in the larger social fabric.
    Another thing. having read your posts here for some time I have to wonder if you are as rude in person as you are in print.
    Lighten up Ed.
    Lively debate is one thing, but your snide sarcasm is annoying.

  10. HighPlainsDrifter says:

    Thanks, Ed for the clarification. I can live without the steady dose of money – been there done that. It wont do anyone any good to martyr myself. If I were to quit my job, someone else will take my place. Probably, someone who has less consideration for the world than I do. Yes, there is blood money. However, unless you have lived in a cave, eat what you grow and were virgin born, there is fossil energy blood money behind the use of every lightswitch, PC,cellphone,automobile, appliance, asphalt road, bottle of Dawn, bicycle, piece of renewable energy equipment manufactured…everything and everyone. Post peak cheap energy oil is going to change all that and quite frankly, in the long term, for the better in a whole lot of respects. In the short term, I am going to continue this illusion of security with fiat currency and do my best to turn my efforts into tangible things that can help my family survive through the transition. This time is gift, Ed. I urge you to use it wisely.

  11. HighPlainsDrifter says:

    Yes, Ed, you are right – I AM placing the entire burden on the outsider to figure out how to be accepted. The other alternative is to tell everyone that they should accept YOU and YOUR way of doing things – how’s that working out for you? That was pretty much the attitude of the Core group of 5 in the story – in their mind, they got what they wanted – farmer’s market and a directory. But this community still does NOT have a local foods system. We had a blizzard last year and the Interstate traffic was interrupted for 3 days. The grocery shelves were bare in 3 days! You cant turn in any direction without seeing a cow grazing around here; yet I have to pay a $1/lb more to legally have a state certified butcher shop process beef than going to Walmart and getting Argentinian beef. WTFsense is in that? My family has our own local foods system. It aint pretty. It aint legal. It aint fun. We have to deal with a bunch a grumpy fuckers (like you) but we have fresh eggs delivered daily, a cooler full of grass fed meat, raw milk, apples and a vegetable garden. Nuf said.

  12. The article, to me is symptomatic of our collective “growing pains.”

    In defense of “chicken littles,” there is practically zero public discourse regarding energy descent, Peak Oil, resilience building, etc. And many, far too many, efforts to introduce any of the relevant topics anywhere, any time, are met with denial or “let’s-change-the-subject” or “You’re a doomsdayer” or “Things will be fine.”

    The use of the term “chicken little” makes light of a looming situation that is much, much larger than how self-reliant (or not) some people, somewhere may or may not be. Co-sufficiency is necessary everywhere now. Self sufficiency is now a selfish and wasteful illusion (if one wants anything to do with civilization).

    I don’t think the author is aware of ecological and climate crises that demand unification and immediate co-operation.

    We will all endure less-than-perfect meetings as our consumerist culture crumbles and attempts to re-structure.

  13. HighPlainsDrifter says:

    Leigh: I am PAINFULLY aware of ecological and climate crises that demand unification and immediate co-operation. I am offering the perspective of those who 1)for a number of reasons, are NOT painfully aware. 2)have the skills and knowledge to be self-sufficient. 3)do not have the social skills or motivation to organize an effort to become co-sufficient.
    Is it going to do any good to run around saying the sky is falling and to demand unification and immediate co-operation? No, not here. You can do all the speeches and promotion that you want with the same result until the problem is at their feet and people stop listening to the media. In this part of the country, the problems are not evident. I am offering a way to survive (To live to fight another day.) not a way to save the world.

  14. In fairness to Highplainsdrifter, I entitled it, not he. I gave it that name, because gradually (or not so gradually) we are going to have to drop the labels of “doomsayer” or “chicken little” or “Backwardass townie redneck” and start referring to people by their names and what they do for the town. I think it isn’t helpful to wait until our town catches up to whatever our agenda is. We have to figure out what is useful now and start doing it to serve them. If you are an exercise instructor that strengthens the torso, and you’ve got a neighbor who threw out his back building fences or what have you, volunteer to work with him, teach him the thing he might do to strengthen it for the next time he’s out working, once it heals. In the meantime, bring him and his family meals, because being out of work hurts everyone. In other words, if what you do is valuable, but people in your neighborhood don’t value it, give it away, and service the heck out of them until they DO see the value. If it is valuable, but they won’t pay for it, they’ll owe you, and want to give back something else. If they don’t give anything back, it is either not valuable to them (maybe you are ahead of your time or maybe it isn’t as valuable as you think…) or they aren’t the reciprocating type. Either way, you’ve learned something. If a exercise instructor neighbor sits watching TV while the fence she complained about is being repaired by the guy who lives next door, she’s not with the program of what it means to be “neighborly.”

    My sense, Leigh, was that the author wasn’t implying that things aren’t serious. They are. I think he was describing an attitude whereby someone first learns about Peak Oil, freaks out, and suddenly tells people who have been living dramatically simpler lives that they have to “change” or “adapt.” A fanatic won’t change his mind and won’t change the subject. As I’ve said before, there’s a guy who doesn’t “believe” in climate change, and “refuses” to reduce his energy consumption, but he pays under $25 a month for electricity and refuses to have an answering machine because it uses fuel. He calls it “thrifty.” His whole lifestyle is radically local, his values are old Yankee values, and he resents a guy with a $10,000 a month electric bill making movies telling him how to live.

    When we stop labeling, and we start realizing that, like it or not, these people around us are who we are stuck with (or we move…) we have to believe that we can learn to peacefully co-exist. It isn’t appropriate for us to say “You have to change how you are living because I want you to or the planet needs you to.” Oh, you can say that, but don’t be surprised if you’re ignored or resented, if you press the issue. And people hear things more clearly from friends than from strangers who live next door. Highplainsdrifter is giving you the secret handshake in five easy steps: stop, look, and listen before you inject how to radically change your new town for the “better.” Respect people, even ones that aren’t initially warm or receptive. Isolated or small towns are wary of strangers, and take time (even years…mine takes 5-25 years is my estimation, without knowing people ahead of time…), don’t talk down to people who have been living off the land and have a resourceful network already in place. It may not have a name, but the sustainability network is there, just the same. Do what’s needed now, not just what SHOULD be needed, or might be needed in the future. Go out of your way to find out who needs what and figure out how you can provide it. Think “local” first, and “government” second, third, or not at all. Be slow to make an enemy, even if you have the regulations to demonstrate that you are “right.” If you threaten someone’s livelihood, you threaten them, period. If they are doing things quietly, maybe that’s the way they want it. Be aware of the impacts of your talk, especially to “officials.” Discretion is sometimes the better part of valor. And #5 means to me that anyone can “talk” about the importance of local food production or doing things on our own, but manual labor has recently been considered “low status” work, while work that’s “all talk” is often more highly paid. If you refuse to do any manual labor, you are sending a message that you may not intend to be send. If you are capable of physical labor, be the first one to jump in cheerfully (or silently) and the last one to leave.

    The best people I’ve met here, and learned the most from so far, were the folks I’d say I’d have nothing in common with, and would have no reason to be friends with. That was before Peak Oil, I’m ashamed to admit. It took Peak Oil to realize how important my neighbors are. But it is never too late. My theme song:

    Amazing grace! How sweet the sound
    That saved a wretch like me
    I once was lost, but now am found,
    Was blind, but now can see.
    T’was Grace that taught my heart to fear.
    And Grace, my fears relieved.
    How precious did that Grace appear
    The hour I first believed.

  15. HighPlainsDrifter, I would love to hear your thoughts on how local foods ought to be organized in your area. Farmers markets are a buyer/customer initiative. What sort of a system would your local ranchers and gardeners want? What would it look like if it were put together by the old timers there, based on their needs and experience?

  16. HighPlainsDrifter says:

    Good question, Vera. The foundation of such an organization is trust and communication between the consumers and producers. This is where the effort failed.
    Ranching and gardening demands a lot of time. During the summer, it is a sunup/sundown job that is not very profitable. Profit is function of the size of the herd. Herd size is a function of land and water. And, the bigger the herd; the more hours of labor required.
    During the winter, there is some rest but still requires more than 40 hr per week. Consequently, there needs to be a way to network people yet not take up lot of the producer’s time. Gardening with a full time job and family is also a sunup/sundown endeavor from May through September. With work, I spend a ½ hour in the morning, a ½ hour at noon and 2 hours per night tending a very modest backyard with a garden, chickens and rabbits. You can make around $10K with a substantial investment in a greenhouse but gardening is pretty much an expensive hobby for most people.
    The directory was a good idea but the medium was not. Since it was printed once a year and leaned more toward the vegetarian side, it was outdated within a few months. The trust/com was destroyed between producers and consumers and replaced with government intervention and contempt.
    Early on I proposed a website which could be updated as needed with different producers contact information, provide private messaging and feedback to connect users. Those that do not have internet would call the webmaster and get their phone number on it. At that time, we had 30 to 40 names that I listed. It wasn’t my area of expertise but I quickly put together the beginnings of a website using some freeware and presented it to the group with a cost summary to do it right. One gal who knew more about websites offered to be the web administrator. The group decided it would cost too much and wanted a printed directory. The county extension agent built a website for the Farmers market that had some obscure government url that no one could remember. (I just tried it and it is gone.) They ended up spending more on the printed directory than I had estimated for the website.
    Upon this foundation, to LEGALLY promote sales of meat, a state approved kill/butcher facility is required. This facility would be a clearinghouse for several ranchers. There are available locally for beef, lamb and pork but there are problems with these folks as well. One is cost. The cost of the meat on the carcass, processing and storage is higher than Walmart meat. Second is consumer expectations. The producers need to sell the ENTIRE animal not just the prime cuts. So people need to learn the value of the non-prime cuts and organs. The producers need to sell at certain times of the year. Calving is in the spring then fall is butcher time. The consumers need a place to store that much meat. We have 21 cft freezer with a one beef, a pig, a turkey, a deer and about ½ a dozen chickens that pretty much fills it up. The consumers need to adjust their taste expectations. Grass fed meat tastes and has a mouth feel a whole lot different than corn fed meat even if you fatten on corn for a few weeks; there is still a detectable difference. Sometimes it is tougher, sometimes it is more tender. But you live with what you buy for a year as opposed to one meal from the supermarket.
    To LEGALLY promote veggies, they needed to hold the farmer’s market in season and indoors. The group was absolutely insistent upon having the Farmer’s market outdoors on the pavement in the downtown. Take some fresh veggies and put them on the hood of your car for about ½ hour in the sun and see what they look like. (You can find better veggies in the dumpster behind the supermarket.)
    There are several places indoors that they could have housed the farmers market. Most of the gardeners club were ladies in their 50 yo plus and the hours were from 8 am to noon on Saturdays. That is the hottest part of the day on the busiest day of the week for most. Who wants to spend all week on a garden then get up at 4 am harvest and spend your only day off in the hot sun with a bunch of crappy veggies while your family went fishing? Again consumer perceptions need to adjust. For instance, you get a diaper load of zucchini all at once and you eat them until you are sick. Then next week you get a load of tomatoes and you eat and can them until you are sick. Homegrown veggies from this region are smaller and look different from veggies grown 1500 miles away. They are higher in flavor but for some people, they don’t like them because taste different.
    Now, I highlighted LEGALLY. Legally, you have to be follow the laws, avoid liability, yammer, yammer, blah, blah. At a small ag conference, I have met with Joel Salatin. He spoke about his book “Everything I want to do is Illegal” and it really speaks to what I believe is our biggest barrier to local foods in this country. The problem is not bad food. The problem is paranoia caused by bad food handling! And, the food advice from all the corporate food supported associations is shit. If I ate the American Diabetic association, I would be on insulin. That is a fact. I follow the guidelines of Weston A Price Foundation ( and there is no way that I could live my life with the vigor and energy that I do now at 45 yo. Also, I had cancer in my 20s and WAPF provided the only explanation I can find as to why and how to keep it in remission after searching for 20 years of searching. This is why nothing fucking pissing me off more than a bunch of food Nazis telling me what I can and cannot eat.
    That said, here is how to develop an informal ahem possibly illegal local foods network.
    Find the producers in the area. Learn about the laws in your state. You can find producers by talking with the local family owned butcher facilities. They know who sells what. When dealing with butchers make sure that YOU GET THE SAME MEAT YOU PAID FOR! Some butchers will just bring all the animals in at once and butcher assembly line style and just give you pound for pound without regard to which animal it was. You can also find veterinarians who know who has what. Talk to the 4H club organizers. Pick up one of the nickel/dime want ad papers. All of these papers in this region have ads for grass fed meat in them. Go talk to the producers in person. Tell them what you want. Ask them about what it takes to get tender meat. Ask for their terms: usually you pay by the carcass pound and they deliver it to the butcher/kill facility. If they blow you off or you don’t trust them, don’t buy meat from them. When you get an animal, have it butchered and it turns out to be tough or tastes different, cowboy up, deal with it and don’t go back.
    Ask others where they get their meat, eggs or raw milk from ranchers. And, KEEP YOUR MOUTH SHUT ABOUT IT. Raw milk is an especially hot legal issue. Both set of my grandparents lived into their 80s and 90s on raw milk, organ meats and farm eggs. It’s bullshit. To get around the laws, I bought a milk goat from a guy and paid him monthly to milk it and take care of it. Perfectly legal, eh, eh, eh.
    I believe that community support ag of meat, milk and veggies is another answer. Look for those. Since they are in the public eye, they must adher to the laws. I spoke with one CSA farmer in CO and he was playing hell with the government regulations to sell raw milk. Once he found out I was a member of the Weston A Price Foundation, he gave me two quarts of wonderful creamy fresh raw milk and a pound of turkey jerky for the trip home.
    We found out about our egg lady from the hair dresser in town. She was trading 3 doz farm fresh eggs per week for haircuts for the egg lady, husband and daughter. The goat guy wants to go back to work so we are working on a cow share with the egg lady’s family.
    Grow as much as you can on your own. Find gardeners in your area. Go to a garden club meeting. Take a Master Gardener class. Look for greenhouses and big gardens in backyards. Learn to preserve food. Learn to handle a lot of one vegetable at a time with recipes, drying and canning. Offer to help them can veggies an evening or so a month for a share of the veggies. Offer to take care of the garden while they go on a family vacation for a week or weekend. Once you have a garden you are stuck until the season runs out. It takes daily care and long hours harvesting and canning. Your help will be GREATLY appreciated.
    In my opinion, more lives and a stronger social system is developed by informal local foods systems. It aint pretty. It aint always fun. You may not agree with it. But, it works for us.
    Hope this helps. Other readers please chime in with suggestions!

  17. Been thinking about your post quite a bit, Highplainsdrifter. Lots of good ideas! Still wondering what would work best in place of farmers markets. On the buyer side, I have been a long time supporter but I don’t go now. Where I used to live upstate NY, the veggies were good but overpriced, and much of the fruit was still picked unripe. I got tired of paying “tree-ripened” prices for unripe fruit.

    Where I live now, there is a farmers market in the nearby town, and the rumor has it that there are people there masquerading as farmers, who just bought the (overpriced) stuff from a wholesaler. So I go to a farm stand instead, but they also get much of their stuff from elsewhere. But at least they say so.

    I just picked up this news story… (IL or IN?) “NORMAL — A one-stop shop where farmers could more easily process, store and market their products would take the burgeoning local-food movement to the next level, a group of local food advocates said.

    At a meeting this week, the group will seek feedback from stakeholders about the need for a local-food “innovation center,” an incubator that could offer washing, slicing and bagging services, humidity and temperature-controlled storage, and inventory management, among other things.

    The area’s poor infrastructure for local food is evident, she said, in the story of a local farmer who was unable to sell his carrots to a local school because he didn’t have the on-farm ability to wash, peel and cut them into small pieces. The nearest place to do that is in Michigan, she said.”

    Now how come a school kitchen can’t wash and cut carrots? Isn’t this whole thing backwards? Now maybe a processing place is needed, but the freshest food is the one that comes to you and you process it. How much would this “innovation center” add to the price and the waste? Do we need another middleman for local food too?

    In England, they are tinkering with a thing called a food hub. They list local foods on the computer, and people order there, then volunteers distribute it from a church. Seems more like a coop, and I wonder if this doesn’t depend too much on volunteers who will burn out?

    I would like to continue the conversation, HPD. I run a blog at and if you would stop by, we can keep on talking. There’s got to be a better way… :-)

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