Local Heroes written by Lynne McTaggert.

Local Heroes written by Lynne McTaggert.

Lucy Wood of Yelverton, a tiny village of 3000 in Devon in the UK was fed up with having to pay exorbitant prices for meat and vegetables from far-flung locations.  She wanted to grow her own vegetables, but didn’t really have the skill-set – or the land – required.

She sought – and received £18,000 of grant money and went on to found Buckland Food Growers 18 months ago, and opened its doors with seven pigs 17 childrens, five beehives and a selection of planted vegetables. The villagers were invited to join the scheme for £20 sign-up and £15 additional each year, after which they could choose which group – meat, bees or vegetables – they wanted to join in and help out.  A strict rota determined who tended the plants and the animals each week.

All the members thereafter enjoy the bounty of hand-reared meat and home-grown vegetables, at enormous cost-savings.  Wood herself hasn’t bought store-bought vegetables for months.  Although it’s hard work she says, it’s also enjoyable and a good way to build and strengthen her tiny community.

Harnessing the power of connection

People like Lucy around the world are prospering in these troubled times by discovering new ways to communicate, live together, work and resolve differences.  And every one of these success stories shares one thing in common:  an ability to harness the fundamental human need to connect, or Bond, and to move past ‘every man for himself’ to ‘we’re all in this together.’

Many are using ingenious methods of ensuring that they and all around them remain prosperous and in work through a neighborhood “savings bank” of bartered services, communal savings and loan, security watch or food sharing.

And speaking of food,  after Ketvin Cheung heard about a group of students in America, who’d begun collecting leftovers from supermarkets and restaurants and cooking it university kitchens for the poor and homeless, he got a big idea. With just £4000 he set up FoodCycle in 2008 at King’s Cross in London, a place ridden with homeless people.

The idea was that volunteers would collect surplus food destined for the trash bin from restaurants and supermarkets, take it to an unused kitchen in, say, a church or community center, and turn these leftovers into three-course feasts of fresh pasta bake or shepherd’s pies.

Just four years later, Foodcycle boasts a network of 600 volunteers and 16 locations up and down Britain, which have delivered a total of 27,000 meals to those in need, such as the sick or the elderly who cannot get to or afford food from a supermarket.

Every location also provides space for volunteers and recipients to sit down to a meal together. The system subsists almost entirely on free services, with small donations paying for the small food that is not surplus and also for transportation costs. Cheung is working toward having a Foodcycle in every village and down in Britain.

A local currency

Besides food, other people are coming up with ingenious ways to support ailing local economies. Ciaran Mundy and a group of local business people in Bristol in the UK were tired of watching the Euro and indeed world’s financial system in freefall.  They were also tired of banks taking money from out of a local area and into either the City of London or some other remote bank offshore.  And they were frustrated by the slow death of local businesses in Bristol, which were closing down and being taken over the supermarkets or chain stores.

From this frustration, the idea came to them:  why not print their own money, by and for Bristol? And from there, the Bristol pound is being born next month, in £1, £5, $10 and $20 denominations.

Thus far, 100 local companies have signed up to use Bristol pounds, including a family bakery, the Ferry company, the Tobacco Factory theatre, many cafes and even a pub.

Bristol residents will open an account with the Bristol Credit Union (BCU), which will administer the scheme, and for every ordinary pound Sterling they deposit, they’ll be credited with one Bristol pound.

The BCU has come up with hologram designs, a gold foil strip with serial numbers and other security measures to counter forgery. The BCU also has online banking and support of the local council so that local businesses can use the local currency to pay their local taxes.  Local residents are getting involved to help design the logo of the currency on the Bristol Pound website.

The only catch is that Bristol pounds must remain in Bristol; every pound you spend there must be used by the recipient to pay for staff or local supplies or services.  In that way, everyone supports the local economy, Bristol money stays in Bristol, and the residents give new meaning to ‘buying local.’

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