Thursday, November 13, 2008

Why Stop Sign Farm?

When people come to Stop Sign Farm, they usually assume we coined the funny name because we painted our farmhouse red.  But, unbelievably, I actually didn't put it together that our house was the color of a stop sign until we'd been SSF for over a year!

No, our name comes from how we built the first true farm element on the property, our sheep pasture.  After building our house and mom's cottage, we were flat out of funds - witness the sea of mud that was our front yard for the first 6 months in yesterday's post.  When we decided to bring sheep into the picture, we had to figure out a way to do it on the cheap.  Turns out, a friend had found a public sector source nearby for all those stop sign and road sign posts that get knocked down or broken in accidents.  These are great 4X4 cedar posts and, to keep them out of the landfill, the public agency sells them on a first-come basis for almost nothing.

Well, almost nothing was almost exactly the price we were looking for.  Our sheep pasture is about an acre and built almost entirely from used stop sign posts and second-hand woven wire mesh bought off friends and neighbors.  All told, we saved over $3000 on just that project alone.  Since then, we've joined the local Freecycle listserve here and have scored barn doors, windows, bricks, and a host of other materials and items that are the building blocks of SSF.

And saving money has allowed us to build this farm more quickly than we could have otherwise.  But, it's more than that.  More broadly, the name Stop Sign Farm references an underlying principle that guides what we do here.  Reusing durable goods and resources helps save everyone money, helps keep superfluous items from crowding our landfills, and, maybe most importantly, introduces people to their local economy again.  

Our local economy is not just about what we buy; it's about the people we buy from.  Or sell to.  Or share with.  I can't count how many fascinating conversations I've had in the past two years leaning over a doghouse I'm picking up or helping load some boxes I don't need for someone or over email as we finetune our arrangement.  My son got a laptop to help him in the classroom.  My chickens got their first and second coops.  And in the process, I heard stories and admired handiwork; I shared my story and others felt good about where that used stuff was heading.  Almost invariably, my Freecycle interactions end with one of us laughing and saying, "I LOVE Freecycle!"

There's growing discussion out there about the power of shopping your local farmers market - and it's a lynchpin conversation.  But, your localvore experience doesn't have to end with the food you buy.  Imagine if every one of your consumer transactions connected you to a neighbor.   We're so far away from that, it's tough to even wrap our brains around.  But, talk about consumer power - wow.  

There's a good chance there's a Freecycle group near you. Click on the URL under "What I'm reading" to find one and have fun!

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