Published by Kerry on 28 Mar 2011 at 06:20 am
This week we would like to introduce the story of WiserEarth member, Rebecca Russell. Rebecca works at the intersection of multiple healing passions: helping to nurture her local community physically through her profession as a yoga teacher, and to connect, educate, and inspire through a growing community garden project.
Location: Los Osos, CA, USA
Work and life: transitions and opportunities
Rebecca currently teaches a variety of yoga courses ranging from beginner to restorative. She moved to Los Osos sixteen months ago and is already nurturing a budding community garden project there.
Her career has taken her through many aspects of sustainability, from biology and ecological studies, to environmental management, to yoga instruction and permaculture design consultation. She was deepening in her personal yoga practice while working in permaculture, when she decided she wanted to teach movement therapy.
She sees yoga, permaculture and biology as interconnected. “Teaching yoga complements the physical fitness essential for gardening and implementing permaculture designs. We must take care of our bodies in order to truly care for our earth,” she explains. “My work started to come together [when I realized that].”
The missing link
Rebecca was introduced to WiserEarth via a permaculture design course in Sonoma County, where another WiserEarth member, Benjamin Fahrer, was a course leader. She saw it as a helpful networking tool for individuals with environmental passions, but admits, “I was pretty inactive until I moved to a new area and needed to meet new people!”
When she moved from the San Francisco Bay Area, her home for eight years, to Central California, Rebecca made use of WiserEarth: “I was able to connect and contribute, via WiserEarth, with the HopeDance and Transition Towns folks doing great work in my new home locale.”
She specifically searched for Transition Towns because she knew that they worked with permaculture principles, did community-building projects, and activated different catalyst groups.
She e-mailed the group organizer for Transition Towns – Coastal (for several coastal cities including Los Osos), who let her know about a local Transition Towns meeting. Her community garden project launched as a result.
HopeDance was another organization she got acquainted with via WiserEarth, which overlaps the work of Transition Towns. They organize viewings of documentaries in local community spaces: short, solution-oriented films geared towards informing on peak oil and climate change issues. They also write a publication which promotes slow food, socially responsible restaurants and more.
After connecting with these organizations, Rebecca pounded the pavement for assistance. She began cold-calling, hand-shaking, meeting people in local agencies like the Parks and Recreations Agency, community parks, the church community, and local nurseries for donations of materials. She went to the local farmers market with a sign-up board, generating a list of interested parties.
The online connection was a useful catalyst, however. “In a smaller town, it’s less obvious how you find organized groups, so it was very helpful to find Transition Towns and HopeDance on WiserEarth,” Rebecca notes. “There’s no center to towns [like mine], they’re small with grocery shopping and people go back home after work. I started to recognize leaders while browsing.”
She returned to WiserEarth recently to check in and update her profile, and says, “WiserEarth definitely came through for me when I needed to connect with [activist] groups.” She also finds it inspirational to read about others’ projects and ideas.
An ongoing process
Rebecca is realistic about the timetable for the garden, describing it as a “long, arcing project,” where one needs a lot of patience. Much work has so far gone into finding partnerships and figuring out logistics, such as community access (traffic, visibility, proximity to the center of town), building law, soil quality, and water use. Two churches were negotiated with for the garden site, however, so far one golf course looks to be the top candidate offering land.
An ongoing relationship with Transition Towns connects the project in a broader way with the county: the organizations relay relevant updates to one another, which gets people new to TT informed. This has led to additional signups, ideas, and resources.
For example, CalPoly students started a project called “garden matchmaking” in San Luis Obispo, a database of people who have land to garden and who need to find gardeners, and separate list of gardeners seeking land. It matches based on locations, personalities, etc. Rebecca hopes that this group can help find a manager for her garden.
Vision of the Community Garden
Rebecca has a great vision for the Los Osos community garden. She sees it as an educational demonstration garden that can inspire people, as well as a center of community-building to meet others across political, social, ethnic and age boundaries.
“We want to create other centers of engagement, get people out of that model of just spending a lot of time in their house,” she explains.
“We’re hoping to have workshops and special events where we host educators and others who can broadcast information about self-reliance and growing one’s own food,” she says. “We hope more people are inspired around organic and permaculture techniques as well as edible landscaping and biointensive gardening, where you’re maximizing what can be grown in a small space. This is a way of really knowing what’s in your food and staying healthy, knowing there are no questionable fertilizers or pesticides infused in it.”
She adds, “We hope that it brings this sense of neighbors. We hope for a diversification of ideas and a real understanding of what’s going on in people’s lives.”
Tips for launching your own initiative
Rebecca’s tips include:
- Be specific, if looking for local resources and people, and search your zip code.
- Look for groups that exist or start your own! In her area, 3 people were listed in the Transition Towns group. Statistically, there’s only a certain amount of people who are computer savvy and use networking sites.
- There’s nothing better than really connecting in person, take it out of the virtual realm and make it a reality!
- Don’t lose hope, the number on a networking site isn’t necessarily a reflection of the movement in your area, keep that in mind… the on-the-ground movement is often much larger.
Many thanks to Rebecca. Stay tuned for further tales in this series!
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