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.

14 comments on “SustainPittsylvania?

  1. Just read the Wikipedia entries on Floyd and Pittsylvania. It’s interesting to see how the histories of the counties have influenced the present.

    Was is central VA last weekend for a wedding.


    • Bill says:

      Hope you enjoyed your time in Virginia Will.

      I don’t know Floyd’s history, but ours was rooted in tobacco farming. Then, after the Civil War, a large textile mill was built in Danville. Lots of people left the farms to go work in the mill. A large percentage of the population worked there and it dominated our local economy. It collapsed under pressure of cheap foreign textiles, filed for bankruptcy in 2004 and closed completely in 2006 (with it’s remaining assets being bought by an Indian company).

      Meanwhile, tobacco collapsed too, but has since recovered significantly. But these days all the farm work is done by workers from Mexico, whereas before the mid-80s it was all done by farm families.

      Our political and economic establishment wants a 21st century version of the cotton mill, ignoring the fact that we’re blessed to be sitting on some of the finest farmland in the world. If we turned our efforts to growing food, instead of chasing fantasies of having high-tech industry here, then I think we could have a resilient healthy local economy. But there is a stigma attached to farming and farm labor. So here we are, while Floyd County blooms.


  2. Wonderful! The future resides in this type of thinking … and doing. This is what will bring us sustainability. Love the t-shirt …


  3. shoreacres says:

    Floyd County’s a perfect example of what I was talking about in my previous comment. Just as any farmer who fights the deer alone is going to be fighting a losing battle, anyone who tries to take on the hordes of ravenous bureaucrats/”developers”/speculators alone is going to get eaten alive.

    I was chatting with one of the owners out at the farm yesterday, and mentioned that I’ve been here for years without ever hearing about them. We ended up talking about the value of word-of-mouth in our respective businesses, and she said something interesting.

    To wit, they had done some advertising in the past, but they found that when they advertised, they got increasing numbers of people who expected a grocery store when they arrived. As she put it, they’re more interested in attracting people who value what they do, don’t trash the land when they arrive, and enjoy all the benefits of picking their own food.

    They do some picking themselves, particularly for older folks who don’t want to spend an hour in the sun, or people on a tight schedule. But there still are a lot of people harvesting their crop for them, paying for the privilege, and enjoying the sociability of working around other people. That sounds vaguely Floyd-ish to me.

    An amusing thought: Floyd County, Texas, is also the home of Floydada, Texas, which is the home of those interesting, travel-inclined Pentecostals. Just another of life’s little coincidences. 😉


    • Bill says:

      I’m so glad you found that farm. I really like their model. One year here bout 10 years ago I planted lots of green beans and offered them free to anyone who would come and pick them. Not one single person took me up on that. Things have changed some since then, but I still doubt we’d get much business if people had to pick their own.

      Would you please ask them how they keep the deer away. 🙂


  4. Gunta says:

    For what it’s worth, Oregon seems to have a growing movement of back-to-the-farm. I’ve never been good at growing things (other than houseplants). I support our local farmers by buying everything I can locally. I also belong to a CSA. Fresh food is so much tastier and better for you!


    • Bill says:

      Yes, Oregon is a center of the food movement. I’m jealous of the farmers there. 🙂
      Good for you for supporting local food! May your tribe increase.


  5. It has the feel of a revolution– quiet and peaceful but world changing. It is a move away from the world of the big and our dangerous dependence on large systems to something that is more personal, manageable, sustainable and environmentally sound. –Curt


  6. Leigh says:

    Bill, what a great post. Dan and I have noticed the same thing about our part of the country. Government chases after the wrong thing leading us down a dangerous trail. It would take a core of dedicated citizens to get a sustain movement going. Wish we had that here.


    • Bill says:

      The levels of awareness are wildly different in different parts of the country. When we look at places that “get it” we are envious, but at the same time we try to remember that it’s places like here where the work most needs to be done. May it happen in our communities too someday soon. 🙂

      I smiled when I saw your comment this morning as I had you on my mind last night when I wrote this morning’s post. Your book is on “my list.” Seriously, I can’t wait to read it. But first I must get through the waiting stack of books I’ve already bought. 🙂


  7. EllaDee says:

    So many places in rural Australia have had to, some with more success than others, reinvent themselves. I agree with “maybe if we pretend there are then good things will follow”. Fake it until you make it.
    One of my fellow bloggers and her husband are involved in SAGE


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