I love my community. It’s always been my home (even during the years I didn’t live here) and my family has been here a long time.
But I admit to being envious of our neighbors in Floyd County. While the powers that be in our county continue to chase visions of an industrialized county economy, Floyd recognizes and embraces its agricultural strengths. Our county has built numerous now-abandoned industrial parks, at taxpayer expense, in failed attempts to attract industry and the promise of jobs. Meanwhile we continue to have one of the highest unemployment rates in the country and nearly all of the farm labor here is done by seasonal workers from Mexico.
Floyd County has it right. They’re working to become self-sustaining in energy and food. They are promoting and encouraging traditional music, craftsmanship and folk art. They have a vibe that is attractive, even if not to multinational corporations in search of cheap unskilled labor.
Floyd County promotes itself through an entity called SustainFloyd. Here’s how it describes its mission:
SustainFloyd works to leverage and preserve Floyd County’s existing assets and traditional strengths in agriculture and craftsmanship to help build a resilient rural local economy.
We can’t support the growth of our community’s next generation alone, which is why we work closely with local and state governments and agencies, local businesses, like-minded non-profits and local citizens. Together we can find ways to develop the financial and ecological health of our community for the well-being of all citizens of Floyd County. But we also join with other communities throughout the region and around the globe to model new ways of living on, working in, and caring for the world around us.
Our project areas focus on efforts to:
Localize our economy
Enhance and protect natural and cultural resources
Advance issues related to energy independence, transportation, waste and recycling, and education
Generally speaking there is no significant movement here to localize our economy, or to preserve and promote our traditional strengths in agriculture. There is no SustainPittsylvania.
But that doesn’t mean it will never happen. Small farms like ours are starting to come to life again. There are an increasing number of people who make the effort to buy and eat locally grown food. Our Piedmont Sustainable Living group is going strong now, with a solid core of people who share our vision for this community.
One of our regular customers at the market yesterday was wearing a “Republic of Floyd” t-shirt. Could we ever have that spirit here? I’m hoping so.