A New Cottage Industry
by Will Pierson
Local foods, renewable energy, tunnel green houses, community life, cottage industry, social justice, finding grant funding, land trusts, intergenerational, small scale farms; the vocabulary expressing ideas around SOL resemble those at One Spirit. Of course you already know much about the School of Living and Borsodi’s ideas. You may know less about those of One Spirit and the Oglala Lakota Nation of Pine Ridge SD. To be clear, One Spirit does not speak for or represent the Lakota in any way. Please do not get the idea we’re an east coast band of Wanabe Indians. One Spirit works to support the Pine Ridge communities in the spirit of what has been called decolonization, a form of social justice. In some ways this relationship resembles that between SOL and the land trust communities. SOL, in some ways, tries to find ways to support the activities envisioned by communities, but more importantly, those envisioned by individual community members.
Similarly, One Spirit works to support initiatives lead by individual Lakota. While a local Pine Ridge community may endorse the envisioned activities, an individual recognizes the opportunity for action. To help manifest the vision, One Spirit reaches out to individual small donors, funders and grantors to raise the funds needed. Some years ago, an Elder of Allen dreamed of a center where his community could gather for intergenerational sharing of meals and the learning of traditional ways. He dreamed of a place where kids could find shelter from the endemic poverty, drugs, alcohol, violence and suicide. One Spirit raised funds empowering Allen’s families to build and staff the Allen Community Center. As a result of another Lakota led initiative, One Spirit funded dream. The Charging Buffalo now provides locally raised free range buffalo and wild caught game. This moves Pine Ridge closer to food sovereignty, securing a source of traditional food; and keeps money in the reservations economy.
Individuals in Pine Ridge’s communities still dream of new ways to help their people emerge from their recent history of entrenched and desperate poverty and unemployment. One Spirit works to help fund these new dreams. Folks working at the Charging Buffalo dream of a small tractor to till adjoining fields for gardens to supply local produce. Folks in Allen dream of a greenhouse added to their community center where master farmers can teach the kids about farming, the joys of working hands deep in the soil, and the economics of growing local produce for sale to their community. We work now to help the folks of Porcupine who depend on donated food to supplement their inadequate federally allocated rations, to find and repurpose a building for food storage and distribution. This food bank will provide desperately needed supplies when their monthly food distributions run out early. Folks, particularly the young, around the reservation dream of computers to learn the computer skills and to develop social media networks. They dream of finding or creating incomes via internet access creating wider markets for the products of their cottage industries.
In these and many other ways, One Spirit encourages individuals to dream rather than succumb. We work to improve life in the Pine Ridge communities by helping to realize the dreams of individuals. In some ways this resembles the relationship between SOL and the individuals of its land trust communities. Perhaps One Spirit’s work resembles SOL’s board and members endorsing and helping to manifest visions initiated by individuals from SOL’s land trust communities, such as Turtle Way and Heathcote’s classes in small scale farming and Permaculture. One important way that SOL can help individuals contribute to building the land trust communities may be, as One Spirit does, by building a broad network of volunteer supporters, friends, donors, social media and internet developers and, grant writers.
Effective grant writing certainly requires specialized skills. SOL’s board gave Karen, our Executive Director the mandate to set grant writing as her primary responsibility. She certainly commands the experience and skill in researching and writing grants to execute this priority well. The task, however, need not fall to her alone. More of us can help by chatting with individuals in SOL’s land trust communities and helping to develop their visions and opportunities. With Karen’s guidance, we may be able to help with finding relevant grant opportunities. Or, we can just jump in head first; and start consulting Mr. Google to find grant opportunities. (Mr. Google may not the best consultant, but he is one place to start.) Of course, writing a productive grant proposal requires many good skills not the least being the skill write clearly and concisely.
These skills can be learned, practiced, repurposed and reused from other professions and otherwise developed. Most community colleges offer on-campus and on-line training in grant writing for we who’ve just begun applying for funds. More, writing a successful grant proposal requires a detailed knowledge of the proposed project’s budget and scope. This is where facilitating clear communications between the individual’s vision, SOL’s mission, history and future, and most importantly the candidate funder’s interests and granting guidelines. This uses technology appropriate to a cottage industry as most have access to computers with word processors and internet connections. Use of these tools to seek funding was likely not on Mr. Borsodi’s mind when he wrote about cottage industries; nor is grant writing likely to be a quick road to adequately fund a “flight from the city” life. It may help spread Mr. Borsodi’s ideas as he wrote them, or as they’ve further matured through our own, individual and contemporary experiences.
SOL Board Member