Table of Contents | Appendix C

Appendix C
Maryland - Wyoming


Alliance for sustainable communities (asc)

Annapolis, Maryland

Contact: Anne Pearson, Director; Alliance for Sustainable Communities; 5103 N. Crain Highway; Bowie, MD 20715; Tel.: (410) 741-0125; Fax: (same)

Scope: City/county

Inception Date: 1993

Participants: Residents, city, county and state officials, grassroots organizations, businesses, civic associations

Project Type: Comprehensive community development, public education, local business development

Methods Used: Public education, workshops, demonstration programs, ecologically-based planning, microenterprise development, and media coverage

Lessons Learned: Value of building creative partnerships with government. Importance of learning about innovative approaches that are working. Effectiveness of making the broader perspective specific. 


The Annapolis Alliance for Sustainable Communities was formed to "provide a livable future for the diverse residents, businesses, workforce, and visitors in the Greater Annapolis area, based on its extraordinary environment and historical importance." 

Inspired by the innovative work taking place around the country and her work to develop a local public television series on sustainability, Anne Pearson founded the Alliance and, with the encouragement of colleagues like Richard Crenshaw, co-author of Sustainable Cities, began to build a foundation of support for this project in 1993. She established connections among organizations representing all facets of the community to start projects guided by sustainability principles. Residents of Annapolis, the capital of Maryland, concurred that the time was right. They were seeking leadership toward bold new approaches. 

Since its inception two years ago, this effort has attracted the participation and support of residents, public officials, small business enterprises, educators, housing activists, and many more. The Annapolis Alliance draws on the expertise of a wide range of local citizens to carry out its work and is supported by grants from foundations, public agencies and local civic groups. A significant number of advisors and citizen activists from academia, public agencies, private firms, and nonprofit organizations have volunteered time and expertise. Over the past two years the Alliance has focused on two major activities: citizen summits and a number of specific community projects. 

Bringing the community together

Recognizing the important contribution that citizens can make to chart their own future, the Alliance planned a series of well-attended public meetings beginning in October 1994. The first, Toward a Community Vision, evoked a vision of what the community could become, what obstacles needed to be overcome, and what activities could be pursued; the second, Sacred Places, drew on the collective knowledge of local citizens who expressed their connections to what they valued and wanted to preserve and created a map as a means for steering the City/County Comprehensive Review; the third, Can the Creeks Run Clear?, was dedicated to public education and solutions for improving the quality of local waterways and to develop a set of watershed-based principles for development which led to the development of citizen-based watershed surveys during the Comprehensive Review. The fourth summit, Solutions from the Ground Up, scheduled for the fall of 1995, will focus on bringing citizens, businesses and government together to develop practical approaches to ecologically-sound planning and to explore ways to finance community-based solutions that are economically viable. 

The Annapolis Summits blend vision, inspiration and pragmatism and have attracted a wide range of speakers and of people with diverse interests from six counties and the cities of Baltimore and Washington. They provide an effective forum for citizens to contribute ideas and solutions, building support for innovative approaches, and orchestrating citizen involvement with local planning and development. Inquiries have come from five states and two municipalities are planning summits patterned after those in Annapolis.

Although it is premature to identify substantial change as a result of this process, the overwhelming response from citizens and public officials alike has been very productive. These summits have provided a forum to strengthen intangible connections, such as common "sense of place", and reinforce citizens' knowledge of and commitment to bringing about change, for example, to make local transportation planning more resource efficient and pedestrian friendly. The Summits have brought out the importance of addressing the needs of one of the low-income neighborhoods in Annapolis, Clay Street, by facilitating the efforts of residents who want to mobilize their community. 

Clay Street community projects

Green Gardens project

"It's not where you live, but how you live," commented Bertina Nick, a local community activist and employee of an affordable housing company which donated land on Clay Street, in the heart of Annapolis, for the organic gardening pilot project. Sponsored by the Alliance and the UJIMA Clay Street Planning Action Committee, it is staffed by two full-time gardeners and volunteers of different ages, some of them neighborhood children.

The impetus for this project grew out of one of the goals of the Alliance: facilitating empowerment of local citizens through hands-on, experiential programs. The Green Gardens Project combines training and skills building, planning and organizing, and the experience of collaboration. Ultimately, the project aims to address several dimensions of sustainability: ecology, economics, and social equity. Already their work has helped to regenerate the soil, stimulate ecological diversity, prevent runoff, and inspire neighbors to adopt similar approaches. It is anticipated that some of the produce and flowers will be sold to local restaurants or at farmers markets in the county. Ongoing creation of skills and jobs is being encouraged through gardening and the development of a related landscaping and other businesses stimulated in partnership with a new organization, the Business Ecology Network (BEN).

The Business Ecology Network, a nonprofit organization supporting the use of business ecology, an innovative approach to planning and development, has been working with Clay Street citizens and businesses within Annapolis and surrounding county to support exchanges such as that of food, energy, materials, water, money and information. One such example of ecologically-based development is the use of spent grain from the Fordham Microbrewery (Ramshead Tavern) for livestock feed for goats and cows at the nearby organic West River Farm. In turn, the cow and goat cheese produced at the farm is being sold back to the tavern.

In another collaborative project Clay Street residents are working with Reasoning, Inc., a local nonprofit, to survey community skills using the process outlined in the guide, Building Communities from the Inside Out, authored by John Kretzmann and John McKnight, which is designed to help community members rebuild their communities. They are also exploring the possibility of using an alternative economic system called Time Dollars to bank and exchange volunteer service hours. 

College Creek cleanup

Adjacent to the public housing in the community are the headwaters of College Creek, one of the least-impacted waterways in the area. Working with the Maryland Youth Corps, the Anne Arundel Community College, the Public Works Department, and the Department of Natural Resources, residents are working with the Alliance to develop a wide-ranging citizen education and action program to restore urban ecology, create innovative methods to prevent pollution, and monitor progress in containing effluent. Other projects include a habitat survey and water testing project. 

Resource conservation

The Alliance has also initiated a number of other on-going projects which include:

• • • A long-term community wide plan for a tree canopy that will not only contribute to energy reduction but also serve to re-introduce native species.

• • • The designation of Annapolis as an energy efficiency showcase city.

• • • The successful coordination of a collaborative effort to assure passage of a number of amendments to the county's solid waste plan that focus on waste reduction. 

Comprehensive land use planning and zoning 

A number of counties in Maryland are reviewing their long-term land use plans, among them, Anne Arundel, where Annapolis is located. Recently a series of public hearings were held by the planning department to solicit citizen "visions" of the future, yet no clear mechanism exists to integrate these into the planning process. The Alliance is proposing using the Sacred Places map created by citizens at its second summit as well as watershed surveys to help guide what should be preserved, how land is zoned, and to develop a framework for planners to assess proposed development around the state.

This effort is focused on systemic change — drawing on local knowledge and ties to valued physical sites in the area to guide land use preservation and planning. 


Institutionally, the most immediate need is for more funding. Although the Alliance has been successful in securing funds from diverse sources, both public and private, and at leveraging other resources, its budget is lean, and it depends heavily on donated time to plan and oversee its projects.

Another challenge is more fundamental: changing traditional planning processes at the neighborhood, town and county levels into a more integrated, inclusive, long-term framework. Developing new working relationships, facilitating practical solutions, and creating whole systems thinking demands creativity and commitment. Alliance members are modeling new approaches to help residents and professionals alike learn from each other and collaborate in areas of mutual interest for the benefit of the larger community.


Cambridge, Massachusetts

Contact: John O'Connor; Greenworks; 160 Second Street; Cambridge, MA 02142-1502; Tel.: (617) 876-6828; Fax: (617) 876-6903

Scope: Cambridge

Inception Date: 1994

Participants: Start-up businesses, non-profit organizations and Cambridge residents

Project Type: Restoration/cleanup, redevelopment, business incubators

Methods Used: Brownfield redevelopment, business development, organizational support

Lessons Learned: Sharing resources helps new businesses and non-profit organizations survive. 

The Greenworks facility is a set of three adjoining buildings, totaling 30,000 square feet, in the community of East Cambridge, just across the Charles River from Boston. An adaptive reuse of a former contaminated rubber manufacturing facility, the buildings were rehabilitated to provide low-cost space and support for businesses and non-profit organizations that work on social change issues in the fields of employment and/or the environment.

Reclaiming a Contaminated Building

East Cambridge, like many older communities in New England, was once a neighborhood with light industry and residential streets in close proximity. East Cambridge residents worked in neighborhood factories. Now, much of the industry has moved to suburbs, other parts of the country, and even overseas, leaving a legacy of contaminated buildings. 

The Greenworks buildings were formerly a rubber manufacturing plant and warehouse. When the company moved to the suburbs in 1993, the buildings were contaminated with asbestos, lead paint and a leaking fuel oil tank. Before anyone could re-occupy the space, a great deal of remediation was needed. 

The construction and start-up costs for the facility were financed by a $2 million bank loan. Greenworks' founder, John O'Connor, also raised funds to back the loan from other Cambridge residents. O'Connor recalls: "with so many advances in environmental technology, it seemed that we should be able to turn that development into what people need as much as they need environmental protection—environmental jobs." The Greenworks building has been designed to give a home to those entrepreneurs and non-profits that are working towards that objective.

Incubating Small Businesses and Organizations

The failure rate of both small businesses and nonprofit organizations is high. Yet these businesses and organizations provide much needed services to the community. Greenworks was started to help non-profits and small businesses working for sustainable development improve their chances of survival. Reduced rents, flexible leases and sharing the cost of major office equipment such as copy and fax machines have helped Greenworks tenants keep their fixed costs low.

Energy and Water Conservation

Boston has the highest water and sewer rates in the country as well as high electricity costs. These utility costs can be a significant burden to new businesses and small non-profits. By implementing energy- and water-saving technologies, Greenworks is able to save its tenants substantial amounts of money while minimizing waste and depletion of natural resources. 

Conservation devices currently include low flow toilets and sinks, and a system to catch rainwater on the roof. A solar powered research station being constructed on the roof will be used by one of the incubator businesses to evaluate photovoltaic panels from different manufacturers. Electricity from the research station also will be provided to building tenants to help defray utility costs.

Businesses That are Environmentally Sound

The Greenworks facility houses five small businesses that are creating jobs through the development of environmental technologies. Tank Protectors produces an electro-chemical device that prevents underground storage tanks from leaking. The company, which employs four people, recently went to market and has already sold over 10,000 of these devices, primarily for use in residential fuel oil storage tanks. Tank Protectors may soon be ready to move from the incubator to make room for another start-up company. Lead Solutions is a company that produces in-home lead detection kits with a guide to preventing lead poisoning. Atlantic Biosurvey Laboratories breeds fathead minnows used to conduct effluent testing and performs bioassays. The Solar Jobs Company produces off-grid solar technology lighting systems. Solar Jobs is currently developing a less polluting system for etching photovoltaic solar cells. Armenian Crafts USA distributes crafts made of renewable wood resources throughout the United States; this company employs two people in Cambridge and provides a livelihood for hundreds of woodcarvers in Armenia.

Organizations Working Towards Sustainability

Greenworks also houses a range of nonprofit organizations who share space, equipment and ideas. The Armenia Tree Project raises funds and support for reforestation efforts in Armenia that provide food, fuel, wood, environmental benefits, and opportunities for economic growth. As of October 1995, the Armenia Tree Project has planted over 100,000 5-foot tall fruit and hardwood saplings in Armenia. The project works collaboratively with one of the incubator businesses, Armenian Crafts USA.

The Citizens Environmental Laboratory is a nonprofit testing laboratory that offers water, air and soil testing and sample analysis to community groups and individuals. The Lab also provides technical assistance to environmental businesses, including those in the Greenworks facility, in their product testing and development.

Another Greenworks tenant is the Native Ecology Initiative: an organization that provides legal and other technical assistance to Native nations and peoples regarding ecology, sovereignty and justice. Massachusetts Citizen Action, an affiliate member of a national consumer and environmental advocacy group, focuses its work on pesticide bans and health care reform. Massachusetts Jobs with Justice is a coalition of unions and other workers' rights organizations that seeks to improve conditions in the work environment; the Jobs With Justice New Priorities Committee is pursuing sustainable development opportunities in the local area.

The Good Neighbor Project for Sustainable Development provides technical assistance to community groups that are working to lessen toxic pollution from factories in or near their communities through voluntary "good neighbor" agreements with companies. The Jobs and Environment Campaign is a nonprofit that works to create jobs "that are good for people and the environment." The organization provides technical assistance, leadership training, policy research, and organizational development services to groups and individuals working for sustainable development.

Sustaining Each Other

A commitment to economic, environmental and social justice may take different forms, but it is the common thread among the businesses and organizations located at Greenworks. Weekly, informal "lunches" in the shared conference room promote the interchange of ideas and methods that each organization employs. Bulletin boards further enable the exchange of information.

John Williams, the Technical Director of Atlantic Biosurvey Laboratories, comments: "Tenants here at Greenworks seem to have a camaraderie that helps each individual company and organization succeed. If you are having difficulties, you can talk to someone without paying huge consulting fees. People at Greenworks all want everyone to succeed because the stronger we are, the stronger the social and environmental change movements are. I have never experienced this anywhere else and I like to know that there is a place for companies like mine that try to protect the environment and be socially responsible."


In large part, volunteers have been the core of the Greenworks facility's success. An advisory panel of business experts have donated their time to assisting the entrepreneurs in the building. A technical working group of engineers and scientists also contribute their knowledge to the start up companies. 

The incubator businesses and nonprofit organizations in the Greenworks facility occupy approximately half of the available space. Commercial tenants such as an electrical contractor have been recruited to occupy the remaining areas; they pay market-rate rent and building related fees that will continue to subsidize the non-profits and developing "green" businesses. As the small businesses expand and begin to generate profit, they too will become part of the financing mechanism of Greenworks.

Urban resources initiative

Detroit, Michigan

Contact: Kerry E. Vachta; Urban resources 

Initiative; Department of Forestry; Michigan State University; 126 Natural Resources Building; 

East Lansing, MI 48824; Tel.: (517) 353-5103; Fax: (517) 432-1143

Scope: Local/neighborhoods, urban

Inception Date: 1991

Participants: Citizens, neighborhood "Block Clubs," university program and Extension offices

Project Type: Redevelopment, urban forestry, economic development

Methods Used: Presentations to neighborhood associations, meetings with interested communities, needs assessment of area, community design of project, donated plantings and materials from URI, maintenance of project by community with assistance of available resources through Michigan State University extension offices and local citizenry organizations, one year evaluation of project

Lessons Learned: Projects require active, on-going community participation and dedication to develop community ownership and empowerment over the long-term.


Between 1965 and 1990, Detroit experienced a population decline of 600,000 people. This led to a large number of vacant homes in the city. The problem became so severe that in 1989 the city instituted a widespread demolition program to remove the "dangerous and abandoned" buildings. Consequently, Detroit lost 60,385 housing units leaving 65,000 vacant lots in the city (Detroit Free Press, 1989). The vacant lots, often used as illegal trash and waste dumps, led many Detroit neighborhood groups to identify the vacant lots in their area as among the top problems in their communities. 

But the vacant lots also present an opportunity for Detroit communities. Through the Michigan State Universitys Urban Resources Initiative (URI), Detroit communities have begun to reclaim vacant land and use it for forestry projects that offer economic, social and environmental benefits. 

The Urban Resources Initiative, a program of the Department of Forestry, is a community forestry program that operates using a bottom-up approach to address community needs. The program is funded by the Kellogg Foundation and the U.S. Department of Agricultures Forest Service. Its funding will carry through September of 1996, at which time URI will close operations. The impermanence of the organization is borne out of the organizations primary objective that it provide resources for community sustainability by emphasizing community participation, ownership and responsibility of the projects.

Community Involvement

The Urban Resources Initiative and participating communities have designed a wide range of projects based upon the economic and social needs and resources within the community. When a community is interested in starting its own project, it requests technical assistance from URI staff. Once the community decides to embark on a project, it conducts an in-depth needs assessment. The needs assessment identifies all of the goals, concerns, limitations, and resources of the community. Everything from one residents expertise in landscaping to the availability of another residents lawn mower are accounted for. Relying upon the talents and knowledge that already exist within the community is key to creating community ownership and empowerment. The community must decide upon the focus of the project and who it wants to be involved in the project, whether the project will have a focus on youth and/or seniors, and whether the project with have an economic benefit to the community. 

URIs involvement in the project is determined by how much technical assistance the community members feel they need. Assistance usually includes providing a list of possibilities from which the community will make the final decision (e.g.. the types of projects that could achieve the goals of the community or the appropriate tree species for a specific project). At the heart of the project is active community participation and decision making. 

Benefits of Reclamation

Many community groups have a small core of people who do most of the work. While it can be difficult getting younger residents to participate in their activities, teens and young adults often contribute to the tree-planting projects. Since the projects require regular maintenance, they provide participants with a constant reminder of the contribution they are making to the community. Those involved usually remain dedicated over the long-term and eventually become active in other community activities. 

The projects are mostly in very low income neighborhoods and, while the forestry projects may be small, they can provide a source of seed money for future community projects. Some possibilities include planting community orchards, community tree nurseries, and Christmas tree and timber lots. Because the projects are only 3-4 years old, they have not yet reached a point of economic maturity—where trees can be harvested or orchards will bear fruit. Planting trees in urban settings helps reduce air pollution, increases shade and decrease the temperature in the surrounding areas in the summer. They also attract birds and butterflies and other desirable wildlife. The reclamation of vacant lots is working to prevent the illegal dumping of chemicals and construction debris as well as provide safe places for children and community members to congregate. Through the Urban Resources Initiative, vacant lots that were once viewed as dirty or dangerous are now important assets to the communities.

Sampling of Projects

Prairie Street

The first URI/neighborhood project was planted by the Prairie Street Block Club. This project includes nitrogen fixing shrubs that are enriching the soil for future community garden projects, shade trees under which the Block Club has been meeting in warm weather, fruit trees to educate the neighborhood children about how fruit grows, and a natural fence blocking illegal dumping from the alley. 

Appoline Street

Appoline Block Club members have worked together in a community garden for the past several years. Block Club president, Alice Dye, works with the children of the neighborhood, teaching them about plants and ecology while working in the garden. The children have a vegetable stand where they sell their produce to their parents for a nominal fee and utilize the profits for other community projects or common benefits such as a summer picnic. To lessen the use of pesticides and chemical inputs, the Appoline Club surrounded the community garden with nitrogen fixing shrubs and will be working with the Wayne County Cooperative Extensions 4-H urban gardening program to acquire further skills and information on organic gardening. 

Burnett Street

The Burnett street group was most concerned about a large vacant area that covered nearly the entire northeast third of their block. The vacant area was the result of a large fire that destroyed seven homes. After the fire, the lot became overgrown with weeds and grasses and was often the site of drug sales and other illegal activity, according to the block residents. 

To increase the safety of the area as well as provide a "nature path" for potential environmental education programs, the community built a woodchip path lined by 90 trees of species used by the Michigan timber and paper industries. The group may later choose to harvest some of the trees for sale as firewood or timber. 

St. Marys Street 

The St. Marys Street block club originally developed a highly innovative project integrating a community nursery and Christmas tree plantation with an agroforestry garden aimed at enticing adults to the site to supervise the children playing in the remaining open area. Unfortunately, due to difficulties, the Christmas tree lot and agroforestry garden had to be abandoned. After re-evaluation, the community has decided to continue developing the community nursery. The trees from the nursery will be "adopted" by the residents throughout the community for slightly more than the cost of replacement, thereby ensuring the financial sustainability of the project and additional funding for other community projects. The group will plant a hedge along the back of the lot to impede illegal dumping from the alley and turn the remaining area into a community gathering site. The group hopes to build a barbecue pit and acquire benches, to appeal to adult residents, and leave more open area for the children to use as a playground. 

Making it Work—Meeting the Challenges

URI staff realizes that for communities to feel ownership of and responsibility for a project, there needs to be active, on-going participation. URI never enters a community uninvited. All projects are initiated by the residents themselves. One project that did not gain widespread community support eventually fell apart. 

Making sure the projects are compatible with the community's needs and resources has been very important. For instance, an older population may be able to maintain a fruit orchard more easily than a Christmas tree lot. Providing communities with additional technical assistance resources, such as university departments specializing in horticulture, has been key to the continued maintenance of projects. 

Another challenge in the past was wide-spread planting of highly invasive tree species. Educating residents about appropriate tree species has been an important aspect of URIs involvement

Resources for Future Urban Forestry

Despite the challenges, URI has completed 7 projects within four years and foresees 3 more within its last year. At the time of closure, URI will have available a number of manuals for Detroit communities and for organizations in other cities wishing to start similar initiatives. 

The Community Resources Manual includes general information on care and treatment of trees as well as a technical assistance guide with about 75 references for sources that can provide more extensive expertise on the care and maintenance of the plots. The manual also contains descriptions of the trees that have been planted in projects, the different ecological needs of those trees, and the benefits of each species to the community. URI is also developing smaller manuals on specific types of projects such as Christmas tree lots or fruit orchards.

A second publication, Building Communities-Forestry Partnerships is written for organizations that want to start a similar initiative within their own city. It contains project descriptions, extensive sources of funding for projects, community organizing hints and tips on developing similar projects. Also included is a list of tree species and sections that may be reproduced for community group organizing. This manual will soon be published by the Government printing office. 

The green institute

Minneapolis, Minnesota

Contact: George Garnett, Executive Director; Annie Young, Associate Director; The GREEN Institute; 1433 E. Franklin Avenue, Suite 7A; Minneapolis, MN 55404; Tel.: (612) 874-1148; Fax: (612) 870-0327

Scope: Phillips neighborhood in Minneapolis

Inception Date: 1992

Participants: Neighborhood residents, community organizers/activists

Project Type: Community economic development, environmental justice/equity, citizen-led initiative

Methods Used: Community education, community planning, eco-industrial park, business incubator, re-use of construction materials

Lessons Learned: It takes a lot of time and patience to make a project like this work. The more people that are involved, the bigger the dream will become.

The GREEN Institute is the name of an organization and the building the organization is creating on a site in the Phillips Neighborhood of Minneapolis that was previously intended to be a waste transfer plant. The mission of The GREEN Institute is "to create community-based models to protect and nurture the natural and urban environment through education and sustainable economic development." The Institute plans to eventually create 200 - 300 jobs through the following projects:

• • • A Materials Exchange and ReUse Center retail store. The Center is slated to open in October 1995.

• • • An eco-industrial park that includes a business incubator for 15-20 enterprises that pioneer new environmentally sound technologies and products. There are currently 10 prospective tenants for the incubator. 

• • • A think tank that develops ideas for new enterprises. Some potential projects are a community window factory and a garden and lawn center.

• • • An urban environmental education and job training center that will promote understanding of the urban environment and industrial and community ecology.

• • • Office space for non-profit environmental advocacy groups.

• • • Landscaping and garden demonstration areas throughout the complex.

Construction on The GREEN Institute building, which will house the incubator, think tank, education and job training center and office space, is scheduled to begin in 1996. It will be built using salvageable and reused materials and will incorporate features that minimize energy consumption and waste generation. Three people currently work at the Institute and eight work at the ReUse Center.

The GREEN Institute site is one mile from downtown Minneapolis, in the southeast corner of the Phillips neighborhood, Minnesota's poorest and most ethnically diverse neighborhood. This location was the site of a 12-year struggle between the city and the county and neighborhood residents who defeated plans to build a large county garbage transfer station in their community. 

Turning a Negative Into a Positive

The struggle over the transfer station began in 1981. In 1992, the activists fighting the transfer station met with a professor from University of California Riverside. Annie Young, the founder of The GREEN Institute, recalls that "When we said we were tired, she asked what will you all do when you win this struggle; what' s your plan for the land? She went on to say that you have to turn a negative into a positive. That generated the dream and is one of the driving forces of this project. We are taking a negative and turning it into a positive."

Young, a long-time community organizer from the Phillips Neighborhood, later had a dream of a sustainable vision for the site with windmills, trees and wildlife surrounding a building with solar panels. She shared this vision with the rest of the group who liked it and helped turn it into a concept on paper which eventually became The GREEN Institute. During the end of 1992 and all of 1993 Annie Young and others worked to plan The GREEN Institute.

Money for The GREEN Institute has and will come from a variety of sources. The Institute hired a capital fundraising company to help start a capital campaign for the industrial park building. The GREEN Institute received $415,000 in Early Access funds as part of a larger amount allocated to the People of Phillips organization by the City of Minneapolis' Neighborhood Revitalization Program. Some future funding for The GREEN Institute will be received in 1996 from the same program. The Institute has received approximately $280,000 from a federal Enterprise Community (EC) grant. Profit-generating centers, including the ReUse Center are being developed to support the Institute's non-profit work such as the planned education center.

ReUse Center

When the Hennepin County Board of Commissioners voted not to build the transfer station they did keep funding for one component: a building materials exchange and reuse center. The County Board gave The GREEN Institute $30,000 in 1993 to do a feasibility study for the Center and followed that the next year with a $100,000 grant to set up and open the ReUse Center.

The ReUse Center is stocking doors, windows, sinks and many other reusable piece from dissected buildings, which will be sold to low income people and environmentally conscious builders. Rising refuse disposal costs, the development of an environmental ethic encouraging reuse of materials, and the need for affordable construction and remodeling materials in a low-income community make the ReUse Center a viable concept, according to George Garnett, The GREEN Institute's executive director. The store hopes to stimulate additional enterprises in the area; for example, there might be crews of people who contract to salvage the guts of houses scheduled for demolition. 

The ReUse Center will be opening in a 26,000 square-foot space in the Hi-Lake Shopping Center, across the street from the eco-industrial park site. Recently, the McKnight Foundation awarded the ReUse Center a $150,000 grant. The ReUse Center also is getting $250,000 from a federal Enterprise Community (EC) grant for rehabilitation of its building.


Another project of The GREEN Institute is the Eco-Village which aims to revitalize the Phillips Neighborhood by working with residents to create a community that is sustainable both environmentally and economically. The project is not designed to require substantial capital investment, but rather to emphasize the improvement of local systems in order to create incentives and reshape the traditional patterns of consumption, development and employment into more efficient and sustainable patterns. In the Eco-Village, there will be an emphasis on energy efficiency, stressing passive solar heating and cooling, encouraging local food production, and reliance on local resources; and fostering creation of on-site jobs and neighborhood stores to revitalize communities and eliminate commuting.

The Eco-Village will be aided by a revolving loan fund. The District 4 neighborhood group will set specific design guidelines for all new construction and rehabilitation. The fund will finance changes in existing structures made by homeowners or landlords. These loans will be made in stages. The early stages will be for simpler conservation changes like getting every house to full insulation, retrofitting windows, and installing low-flow toilets. Later stages will be for homeowners or landlords who want to generate their own electricity through photovoltaic cells or wind generators. 

Environmental Design Charrette

The GREEN Institute will participate in an environmental design charrette (EDC) to involve the community and youth in the planning and design of the Institute. The charrette is one of 19 organized nationwide by the American Institute of Architects (AIA) Committee on the Environment and will take place on October 6-8, 1995. EDCs are intensive short-term workshops that are part of a longer, multi-disciplinary project study. According to the AIA, EDCs will educate citizen groups and make resources accessible to them; foster linkages among the community, professionals and the government; and accelerate the economic, environmental and energy benefits that can be realized through the adoption of sustainable development principles and practices. At the charrette, they will start by sharing information: maps, dreams, and slides of the neighborhood. Work teams will then be formed with community members and design professionals. 

Education/community involvement

The GREEN Institute is committed to educating the community about sustainability. "We are doing education now," says Annie Young, "People call us all the time and we go speak about the project. We are starting a workshop series in the fall on sustainability. We also see this as an eco-tourist site—we are building the design so that it can be an education center. One of our big commitments is to transfer our information." This includes publishing The GREEN Institute's quarterly newsletter, Green News & Views.

One of the key elements in the success of The GREEN Institute has been the involvement and support of the Phillips Neighborhood. Annie Young is using her organizing skills to educate the community. "I have been out hitting the pavement and talking to people," says Young, "Once the neighborhood bought into it, it was a lot more successful. Building community is about many many people being involved. When you're building a community it has to be a bigger picture." 

Young says that the biggest barrier to the project's success has been government bureaucracy, "Government never makes things easy for people. Our local politicians have not necessarily been as cooperative as other branches of government." However, this has been compensated for by support from other areas, "We are getting help from a lot of resources that we never expected. You have to reach out to a broader community, everybody wants to help; the reuse center has gotten an incredible amount of in kind donations."

The GREEN Institute is committed to changing the quality of life for Phillips Neighborhood residents. "Inner-city neighborhoods don't have to erode into slums, and they don't have to be gentrified," says Annie Young, "They can be restored and maintained for their original mission: as healthy environments for people of diverse means to live, work and grow together." 

Southern echo

Jackson, Mississippi

Contact: Leroy Johnson, Co-Director; P.O. Box 10433; Jackson, MS 39289; Tel.: (601) 352-1500; Fax: (601) 352-2266 

Scope: Statewide;

Inception Date: 1989

Participants: Mississippi residents

Project Type: Leadership development/training, environmental justice/equity, comprehensive community development

Methods Used: Intergenerational leadership development, community organizing

Lessons Learned: Leadership training helps people understand their own power. It takes time to overcome barriers and develop communities from the bottom up.

Southern Echo is a leadership development, education and training organization working to develop grassroots leadership across Mississippi and the Southern region. Southern Echo's primary objective is "to make the political, economic, environmental and education systems accountable to the needs and interests of the African-American community" by developing strong community organizations that address these four areas.

Training and technical assistance

In its five years of existence, Southern Echo has designed and conducted 16 residential training schools, more than 125 workshops and more than 650 community meetings for people from across Mississippi and the South. The staff have produced 15 training manuals on community organizing; non-profit organizational and board development; legislative, county and municipal redistricting; environmental racism; and creating a quality education system.

Environmental safety zones

Southern Echo is working with people across the state to identify and create environmental safety zones, where limits will be placed on the use of agricultural chemicals and other environmental hazards. Many community people believe the misuse of agricultural chemicals and the spraying of fields surrounding churches, schools and homes is a primary cause of the high incidence of cancer, disease and developmental disabilities in poor and African-American communities. Forty young people from seven Delta counties attended a recent training conference to learn more about environmental degradation and how to build support for the environmental safety zone concept.

In September 1995, Southern Echo will hold its third residential school on fighting environmental racism. The three-day program will be attended by young people, public officials and community activists from around the region. The curriculum helps people understand the hazards of agricultural chemicals and other pollutants, the ways that these substances move through an ecosystem, and how local zoning policies can be used to protect the community. Participants learn through hands-on activities that "there are difficult issues to balance when doing a zoning plan, but that they have the capacity to understand the issues and develop policies that are responsive to the needs of the environment and the community."

Empowerment Zones/Enterprise Communities

Since its beginning, Southern Echo has worked with small farmers, who cannot compete effectively against large plantations, to help them move toward diversification through alternative crops produced by organic and sustainable agriculture practices. Southern Echo has also participated in the region-wide economic justice network. More recently, Southern Echo's members have pushed the organization into new areas of economic development.

Southern Echo is currently working with a federally designated Empowerment Zone (EZ) and three different Enterprise Communities (EC) covering a total of 15 counties in the Mississippi Delta to plan economic development "from the bottom up." Southern Echo is helping to design the process of bringing the communities together over the next 6 months. One goal is to assess what resources are available in the different counties, and what "homegrown" businesses and cottage industries can be developed from within based on available skills. Another goal is to develop value added industries, such as sawmills to process the lumber from Mississippi tree farms. Southern Echo is also hosting meetings of workers and injured workers from the many catfish and poultry plants in the region to plan ways to improve the work environment in the industry.

Intergenerational model

The organization places a special emphasis on the inclusion of young people on an equal basis as adults. Young people are represented on Southern Echo's board, participate in projects with adults and elders, and run their own youth-led projects. Youth are involved in the entire organizational process, not only doing the work but defining what work should be done and critically evaluating the results. 

This intergenerational model is at the heart of Southern Echo's work and flows from the experiences of the organization's founders. Co-Director Leroy Johnson recalls first meeting Southern Echo's President, Hollis Watkins, in 1963. Johnson, then 5 years old, was brought by his father to a Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee meeting in Holmes County at which Watkins, then 21 years old, was speaking. "The intergenerational process ties communities together, as generations learn about each other and we recreate ourselves. How do we continue that process? Those linkages remain a vital part of the ongoing struggle for justice."


Southern Echo began in 1989 when the three founders, who were working for different organizations, realized that communities were constantly bringing them together to provide training. Hollis Watkins came from the Mississippi Association of Cooperatives, Mike Sayer from the Center for Constitutional Rights' Voters Rights Project in Greenville, and Leroy Johnson from the Rural Organizing and Cultural Center in Lexington. The organization's board is composed of Mississippi residents who are active in their communities. Southern Echo depended heavily on volunteers and in-kind donations from the community, such as meeting rooms and office space. Only in 1993, after establishing a solid track record, did Southern Echo finally acquire grant money to open its own office. Southern Echo's budget this year is $250,000.

Obtaining resources and fighting racism

Obtaining enough resources to do the level of work requested has been a major challenge. Johnson notes, "The more successful you are, the more you get pulled to do. Meanwhile, funders think non-profits should be able to take $100,000 and hire twenty people. We're expected to do more with less than other folks do with plenty." The organization has forged partnerships with a number of foundations as "allies." The current goal is to develop more broad-based financial support, focusing on operational support rather than project-driven grants, through an extensive membership drive in grassroots communities in Mississippi.

Another major barrier the organization faces is racism. Southern Echo works in collaborations as widely as possible, but there are limits to how much the organization can broaden its base in Mississippi. Johnson states: "We need to stop viewing racism as a barrier that can never be breached. The reality is that we can. But it takes hard work, being creative, and being honest. Truth is absolutely necessary." In the meantime, the organization focuses on building political power to dismantle historical and institutional systems of domination and control over black communities in Mississippi.

Sometimes Southern Echo finds resistance from adults in the community to "giving up the baton" to young people. Johnson notes that "established leaders don't always want to play the role of elders, teachers, mentors and advisors while handing the spotlight to young people."

Southern Echo feels that it overcomes obstacles due to the strength of its members. "Once the human spirit is activated in people, once you give them the tools and the strength to move forward, you can overcome the obstacles and problems." An example is Tallahatchie County, where recent struggles to obtain potable water and fair election districts for black communities mobilized people to such an extent that additional changes have been made: the election of the first black county supervisors; new, affordable low-income housing; a bond issue to create and expand industries with higher-paying jobs; and two new public parks to which the black community will have access for the first time in the county's history.

Farm-to-city marketing project - patchwork family farms

Columbia, Missouri

Contact: Rhonda Perry, Program Director; Missouri Rural Crisis Center; 710 Rangeline Street; Columbia, MO 65201; Tel.: (314) 449-1336; 

Fax: (314) 442-5716 

Scope: Statewide

Inception Date: 1992

Participants: Rural family farmers, urban community residents.

Project Type: Cooperative marketing, community economic development, sustainable agriculture

Methods Used: Certification of the "Patchwork Family Farms" product label; marketing to targeted urban and rural groups 

Lessons Learned: Good planning is critical. Participants have to be committed to the long term and to learning new ways. Federal agriculture policy poses barriers to small farmers.

The Farm-to-City Marketing Project uses a brand label, natural farming, marketing to targeted urban and rural groups, and cooperative arrangements to help family farmers remain viable and support inner-city economic development. The project's goals are to provide sustainable economic development for family farmers, give an alternative to corporate control of all levels of food production, improve the quality of the food supply, and save the environment for future food production. 

The Farm-to-City Marketing Project is a response to the proliferation of corporate hog farming. The concentration of livestock and vertical integration of the industry in Missouri flooded the market with hogs, displaced family farmers and small processors, and contaminated groundwater. The Project was created by the Alternative Economic Development Committee of the Missouri Rural Crisis Center. The Committee's members are current or former hog farmers, vegetable farmers, and an employee of the US Department of Agriculture in St. Louis who is an organizer of the government employees' union.

The "Patchwork Family Farms" label

This Committee developed and gained USDA approval for the "Patchwork Family Farm Products" label. The label tells consumers that the product was raised by local producers who follow strict standards of sustainable agriculture such as no growth hormones or antibiotic feed, integrated pest management, environmentally-friendly methods of fertilization, crop rotation and minimum tillage. The lower concentration of livestock than that found in corporate feeding operations leads to less local groundwater contamination from manure. 

The name "Patchwork" was chosen because the project brings together diverse groups, linking rural family farmers with low-income, urban communities of color to develop regional channels of processing, transportation and distribution. This will provide healthful food at prices that are fair to both producer and consumer and create jobs in both rural and urban communities. Patchwork products (currently pork and vegetables in season) have been marketed through churches in Kansas City and community groups in St. Louis. For example, the Project established a marketing program with the St. Louis Women's Support Group, an African-American organization that will sell meat through community groups. Direct marketing is also being done through six rural cooperatives with approximately 700 member families.

Elements of success

The Farm-to-City Marketing Project assists family farmers to survive in their business and on their land. The Project provides an economic base for rural businesses and communities that relieves some of the employment pressure on cities. In 1994, the Project's five participating hog producers sold a total of $38,000 in meat. This was the main source of income for one of the farmers and allowed another to resume raising hogs.

The Farm-to-City Marketing Project has been supported by the other organizing and advocacy programs of its parent organization, the Missouri Rural Crisis Center (MRCC). A non-profit organization formed in 1985 in response to a tripling rate of farm bankruptcies, MRCC's mission is to "preserve family farms, promote stewardship of the land and environmental integrity, and strive for economic and social justice by building unity and mutual understanding among diverse groups, both rural and urban." The organization has a membership of over 3,200 families statewide.

The Farm-to-City Marketing Project also draws on a number of non-profit and government agencies in and outside of Missouri. The Federation of Southern Cooperatives provided training and technical support for committee members in how to conduct a feasibility study, focus the marketing efforts, and ultimately set up a producers' cooperative. The Campaign for Human Development gave MRCC a grant to conduct the feasibility study. The Missouri State Department of Agriculture's Marketing Department subsidized appearances of Patchwork Family Farm Products at trade shows and provided technical assistance. The University of Missouri Agriculture Department's extension program provides technical assistance in developing new value-added products; for example, formulating jams and jellies with a stable shelf life. 

The Project Coordinator cites a number of key elements that have made the Project work. The participants took the time and effort to educate themselves about how to start a business and do the research for a feasibility study, identifying markets as concretely as possible. For example, the Committee has decided not to target grocery stores because of numerous barriers to small producers such as expensive slotting fees. Bed and breakfast inns, on the other hand, are a likely market because they are locally owned by independent operators and are more flexible in their purchasing, and because many pork products are breakfast foods.

The Farm-to-City Marketing Project builds on the knowledge of its members: "They're hog farmers already; we're not asking them to raise ostriches." At the same time, the project depends on the willingness of project participants to learn something new: "The cooperative style is contradictory to the entrepreneurial mindset; farmers had to be willing to let others have a say in how they run their farms."

A major barrier has been the weather. The heavy rains that flooded fields and the local meat processing plant (along with much of the Midwest) in the summer of 1993 prevented the Project from meeting its first year goals. In June of 1995, some fields were already flooded and many crops were not yet planted. It also takes time for farmers to achieve the production standards required under the Patchwork label—raising a hog completely without using growth hormones or antibiotic feed.

Policies posing obstacles to family farmers

Another major barrier has been federal government policies relating to credit and technical assistance that favor high-chemical input, high-yield agricultural methods and large agricultural operations. Currently, the only access to the procurement agency of the USDA for family farmers, minority-owned businesses, and family farmer-run closed cooperatives is through subcontracting with large corporations. MRCC would like to see procurement policy change to encourage purchasing from family farmers. The federal Farm Bill also supports corporate livestock feeding operations while EPA regulations that provide some protection of water quality from large confinement feeding operations are in danger of being weakened.

The Committee has identified five markets for its produce: people who were raised on and maintain ties to farms, union members, members of urban community organizations concerned with environmental or social justice, health food stores, and bed and breakfast inns. The Committee will focus on developing more extensive relationships with these groups. The plan is for the Project to become financially self-sufficient within three years. Once that goal is reached, Patchwork Family Farm Products will spin off as a an independent cooperative business.

The Committee is investigating ideas for value-added products to make from vegetables raised during the summer of 1995, such as salsa. Missouri's climate often means a very short growing season for vegetables; value-added would allow family farmers to market products all year for more consistent income. By assuming the function of further processing and packaging, farmers also will retain more of the profit in food production and create additional jobs for low-income rural and urban people. Developing cooperative processing facilities is the next priority for the project.

Beartooth front community forum (BFCF)

Red Lodge, Montana

Contact: Gary Ferguson; Beartooth Front Community Forum; P.O. Box 1490; Red Lodge, MT 59068; 

Tel: (406) 446-2388 

Scope: Town/county

Inception Date: 1992

Participants: Residents, businesses, ranchers, planners, elected officials, developers, nonprofit organizations

Project Type: Communitywide visioning, comprehensive community development, public education

Methods Used: Public forums, working committees, grantmaking, education 

Lessons Learned: Need for early, tangible successes and for ongoing communication. Time to develop trust among residents in towns and neighboring rural areas. 


Red Lodge, Montana has many assets, both tangible and intangible, that make it an excellent place to live. It has a high quality of life, clean air and water, mountain views and good recreational facilities, a healthy economy, and a neighborly citizenry who value and participate fully in the life of the community. 

In recent years, however, like many small towns located near the entrances to national parks, Red Lodge has been experiencing an annual influx of thousands of tourists. Known as a "gateway community" located 70 miles north of Yellowstone National Park on the Beartooth highway, it faces the potential challenges of growth from an increase in its population. 

Residents engage in anticipatory planning

In 1992 residents concerned about the possibilities of a changed character of the town as well as concurrent impacts of development needed a forum in which to discuss alternative futures in order to channel change. They invited Luther Propst, the Executive Director of the Sonoran Institute in Tucson, Arizona, to facilitate a forum to help residents develop a vision for the future. The Sonoran Institute has conducted a number of two-day Successful Communities workshops in many towns in the West facing comparable land use and growth issues. 

The workshop was attended by roughly 160 participants, a significant attendance in this town of 2000. Key to its success was the representation of a broad cross-section of the population: ranchers, developers, business people, educators, and senior citizens. In this community planning session, participants were invited to identify what they value, what they wanted to protect, and how they wanted to do it. In the course of the workshop a shared vision was developed of what the community might become. 

They defined what they liked best about the community, identified potential threats, and then formed committees to further explore what needed to be done. Among those areas identified as needing to be preserved were the water supply and the small town atmosphere. Town needs included more recreational choices for boys and girls, comprehensive planning and a protected greenway. This exercise helped to focus the needs and to provide the energy for local problem-solving and planning.

This workshop led to the development of the Beartooth Front Community Forum, a locally-based citizens organization that is inclusive, multi-faceted, and non-partisan. Its guiding philosophy has been to bring people together and find common ground. With a current membership of around 300 volunteers, it seeks to preserve and enhance Red Lodge's quality of life.

Early successes and a long range vision

As a direct result of the workshop, several projects were defined, both short-term and long-term. Among the early undertakings and successes were the creation of a youth center, a water quality monitoring program, a master land use plan, and a new post office in the heart of town. 

Boys and Girls Club

The prompt establishment of a Boys and Girls Club to serve the younger children of the area had general support from the community and was a significant milestone. It demonstrated precisely and visibly what citizens could do for themselves. Now as many as 250 children benefit from this center which offers after-school programs and summer-long recreational activities which encourage kids to explore their own talents and interests. It is staffed by an Executive Director and housed in facilities donated by St. Agnes Church. 

Post Office

One of the most galvanizing efforts for the BFCF centered around the proposed relocation of the post office. In Montana, there is no postal delivery for towns with a population under 2500. In Red Lodge, the post office serves as a social gathering center especially for senior citizens who make up 25% of the population.

When the government proposed moving the post office outside of town, many were concerned about the social changes that would result as well as the possible loss of downtown businesses. The possible gutting of the downtown area prompted a full-fledged resistance by BFCF and other civic groups which resulted in keeping the post office downtown. 

Land Use Master Plan 

The success of the post office proved to be just the right stimulus for other local initiatives. During the twelve months following the 1992 Forum, the BFCF land use committee talked with many individuals around the country — planners, elected officials, and others in small communities who had undertaken similar planning exercises. The BFCF presented the findings to residents in a public forum and helped to raise part of the funds necessary to hire a planner. Once hired, the planner helped to guide the process. 

In the fall of 1994 the BFCF brought townspeople together to help establish priorities in the plan. In April 1995 the first draft of the Red Lodge Master Plan was presented to the public. A series of "listening posts" were planned to solicit input in May and then the second draft, which included the central business district, the entrances to the community, residential neighborhoods, open spaces, growth areas and infrastructure, was presented and adopted in June. A more expanded plan to encompass areas as a special planning district just outside the county will be discussed over the coming months. 

Water Quality Monitoring

The BFCF committee, concerned with water quality in two local creeks, the Rock Creek and West Fork, was instrumental in starting a water monitoring project under the direction of A-CRIC (the Absaroka Creeks and Rivers Information Council). Initially funded by the Greater Yellowstone Coalition, this ongoing project serves to provide a baseline of information about the health of these waters. Volunteers of all ages, trained in proper testing techniques by the Canyon Ferry Limnological Institute, collect the water samples. This work is now expanding to other areas along the Beartooth Front. 

In recent months there has been a growing interest in developing an assisted care living facility for senior residents and the possibility of linking with Habitat for Humanity to increase the availability of affordable housing.

Building a support network 

Ongoing assistance from the Sonoran Institute has proved very helpful in guiding this planning process. The Institute helped sponsor a workshop on sustainable jobs and has been instrumental in linking this effort with that of the newly-formed Corporation for the Northern Rockies. The goal of the Corporation is to help bring people together to work towards collaborative problem-solving and to search for ways to meet economic needs while sustaining their environment. It has been working with BFCF on sustainable economic issues. One of the ongoing challenges the town faces is to define exactly what kind of local enterprises are in fact sustainable.

During the past few years the local media has covered the issues, not simply the controversies, but much of the consensus and successes and has been quite supportive of the work of BFCF. Other support within the town has come from local elected officials, some of whom serve on the steering committee of the Forum. 

Challenges ahead

One of the most challenging aspects of guiding change has been to keep all interested parties engaged in and directing the process. It is important that land use decisions, for example, reflect the ideas and interests of the ranchers in the nearby outlying areas who tend not to participate in the town-oriented forums and are wary of changes they consider being generated outside the community. So the organizers and volunteers are taking a measured, inclusive approach to make certain that all voices are heard and information shared. 

Another extremely important area is finding out what other communities with similar needs are doing. Small jurisdictions often do not have the local expertise nor the budget to staff planning offices or employ expensive techniques to educate residents. The BFCF has been a useful forum in which to exchange this type of information. It also publishes a newsletter to keep citizens informed of recent developments in Red Lodge. 

The Beartooth Front Community Forum has gained state-wide recognition for its ability to foster community problem-solving. This past year representatives were invited to attend a Montana Consensus Council instituted by Gov. Mark Racicot. The model of coming together, developing a vision, and then breaking up into small groups for idea generation has worked for the Forum and has helped to educate other public officials on methods that result in consensus. 

The Beartooth Front Community Forum is demonstrating how effective a democratic, inclusive, long-term process can be. Early successes, ongoing communication and a "can do" philosophy is yielding very encouraging results. 

Center for Rural Affairs Land Link Project, Rural Enterprise Assistance Project 

Walthill, Nebraska

Contacts: Marty Strange, Program Director; Center for Rural Affairs; P.O. Box 406; Walthill, NE 68067; Tel: (402) 846-5428; Fax: (402) 846-5420 

Land Link: Joy Johnson, Program Director; Rural Enterprise Assistance Project: Rose Jaspersen, Program Director; Tel./Fax: (same)

Scope: Statewide, multi-state, national

Inception Date: 1973

Participants: Farmers, ranchers, educators, civic workers, other nonprofit organizations, businesses, government agencies

Project Type: Rural community development, sustainable agriculture, economic development

Methods Used: Research, advocacy, organizing, training, leadership development, and education

Lessons Learned: Importance of taking responsibility for rural communities. Need for partnerships with individuals and communities. Effectiveness of integrative approaches and intergenerational initiatives.

"We are committed to building sustainable rural communities consistent with social and economic justice, stewardship of the natural environment, and broad distribution of wealth. We work to advance our vision of rural America through research, education, advocacy, organizing, and leadership development."

— Mission Statement


The Center for Rural Affairs was founded in 1973 in Walthill, Nebraska, a town of 800 residents, to provoke dialogue about social, economic, and environmental issues affecting rural America, especially the Midwest and Plains regions. Some of the issues it addresses are the loss of farms and residents, an aging population, the need for greater diversification of rural income, and greater access to information. Here in the northeast section of the state a staff of 24 carries out an integrated, complementary set of programs dedicated to improving rural communities and their residents. It is governed by a volunteer board of diverse constituencies representing agricultural, business, education and civic interests.

Strengthening rural communities

The programs of the Center fall into two broad categories: Stewardship and Technology, which includes projects on Agriculture Policy, Beginning Farmer 

Assistance Agriculture, and Research and Technology; and Rural Economic Opportunities, which includes Family Farm Opportunities, Land Link, Nebraska Issues, and the Rural Enterprise Assistance Project (REAP). 

Much of this work is national or regional in character and concentrates on rural communities and sustainable agriculture. Marty Strange, one of the Center's founders and current Program Director, explains that it is based on the philosophy that people need to take responsibility for their lives and their communities. One of the greatest challenges they face is widespread indifference and ignorance nationwide about the characteristics and needs of rural areas. He adds that the major contributions of the Center fall into the following categories:

• • • Defining the relationship between social systems, technology and the environment focusing on agriculture and rural communities. They have worked "to develop appropriate technologies with farmers who want to become more environmentally responsible and who are socially motivated."

• • • Organizing those who believe in family farming and the environment to work for policies that have an influence on both these areas. In this regard they work directly with the leadership of other organizations.

• • • Analyzing a wide range of policies ranging from global warming to environmental health implications of farming.

• • • Developing and delivering strategic services.

The Center is funded through grants from foundations and other private sources, contributions, the sales of its publications and fee-for-service contracts. Its FY94 budget was a little over $1,000,000.

Land Link Project 

Among the most recent and effective strategic services is the Land Link program. It addresses the need to create new opportunities to keep farmers on the land by matching young people who want to farm with older land owners who have the knowledge, management skills and resources to help them. This full service operation includes a range of farm management services, a licensed realty division and a computerized clearinghouse to help put people in touch with each other. Its main contributions have been to help individuals reconnect with community, to build relationships between generations, and to increase the numbers farming sustainably. As a successful model it has influenced program replication in fifteen other states throughout the Midwest, as well as in California, Massachusetts, and Pennsylvania. It is also responsible for developing a curriculum on sustainable practices for community colleges that is now being used across the country.

Because the Land Link program has received a lot of free publicity from national television, major journals, and local and national newspapers, there has been no difficulty attracting young people. One of the services Land Link provides is to help young people decide whether farming is what they really want to do. Another is to help them with management practices particularly those who have been away from farming for awhile. On the other hand, engaging the interest of older farmers has been more challenging. Timing is key. Many do not think about future of their farm until they are ready to sell. Others lack interest in the mentoring aspect. 

Matching the long range goals of each party is important. The computerized database is one tool to identify possible matches. Hundreds of listings exist. Staff at the Center act as brokers between the landowner and the young farmer and can help negotiate an agreement that is agreeable to both. In some cases there is a 50/50 partnership; in others, a diversification of the farm; in some, immediate or phased-in sale of farms. Staff help train young people to become sustainable farmers and offer them financial guidance. One ongoing concern, however, is the reduced funding available for financing both within the public and private sectors. Lack of access to capital is helping to steer young people into sustainable farming as it requires fewer and lower inputs. 

Numerous arrangements have been worked out. One such match, profiled in the Center's 1994-95 Annual Report, describes a young family that has participated in this program. Jim and Cheryl Bose and their two children took over a farm in Bloomfield, Nebraska when they wanted to build their cattle operation but did not have enough room on their family farm. Through Land Link they were able to connect with a land owner whose farm they now manage. They also stay in touch with the Center for ongoing support and assistance. 

This process is working well. According to its Annual Report, as of the end of 1994 the Center had successfully made 169 matches that collectively cover over 125,000 acres in just four years. In addition, the Center reports that more than 1,200 other farmers with an average age of 34 are interested in seeking a match. 

The Rural Enterprise Assistance Project (REAP)

In 1990, the Center began another exemplary program, the Rural Enterprise Assistance Project, a Grameen-bank type of micro-enterprise system, designed to increase and diversify rural income and to develop local businesses. It helps members of local business associations to secure loans and receive assistance with strategic planning, loans to get them started, and ongoing counseling to manage their businesses successfully. The Center provides all these services to community members to help them expand and diversify their income base.

This program builds on local entrepreneurial spirit, and talent to keep locally generated dollars invested locally. Since its inception, REAP has lent roughly $130,000 in loans averaging $1,500 and experienced a default rate of under two per cent. The businesses created range from bed and breakfasts, crafts, and accounting to desktop publishing, small mechanics, and catering. One participant, a life-long farm wife, is now head of the Shell Creek Small Business Association, which serves five rural communities. These associations are key to the success of this program.

One of the advantages of this program is that it encourages small communities to support business formation. REAP requires the formation of small business associations comprised of microbusinesses and local residents, which, in turn, raise money within their communities. They typically raise from $1,000 to $3,000. For every dollar raised, the Center matches as many as ten from its endowment, which is funded by private foundations and the Small Business Administration. Members of the associations approve the loans and more than one member may borrow at any given time. Through this process, associations have a commitment to the communities and the communities have a strong stake in the success of the projects. 

Other states, among them Iowa, Kansas, Nevada and Pennsylvania, have replicated this program as a result of the annual training programs offered by the Center. REAP has established 22 associations in three states with over 180 active members representing 77 communities. Associations learn about the work of their counterparts through the REAP Business Update and periodic meetings. The Center also publishes a number of different newsletters and journals, staffs a hotline and has begun an electronic "conference" on the Internet. Among the publications are The Center for Rural Affairs Newsletter, The Beginning Farmer Newsletter, Consortium News. Many of these are free or available for a nominal fee. 

Leadership for the future

These two programs, in combination with the others, have helped individuals and groups take responsibility for their communities. They encourage participation, inclusiveness, diversification of businesses, local investment and capacity building over the long-term. They have promoted sustainable farming practices and policies and preserved family farming. The Center for Rural Affairs has provided the leadership and vision to increase social, economic and environmental sustainability. 

Unlv Office of Energy and Environmental Education

Las Vegas, Nevada

Contact: Christine Chairsell; Office of Energy and Environmental Education Environmental Studies Program; University of Nevada Las Vegas; 4505 Maryland Parkway; Box 454030; Las Vegas, NV 89154-4030; Tel.: (702) 895-4438; E-mail: 

Scope: Local/regional, urban

Inception Date: 1991

Participants: University personnel and students, state energy office, state utilities, local government agencies, local professional organizations, schools/students, citizens

Project Type: Public education; energy efficiency; economic development; natural resource management 

Methods Used: Partnerships and collaborative projects with local businesses

Lessons Learned: Corporations will participate in community education efforts; working with ecological subject matter is a good way to hold the interest of students.

Project Summary

The University of Nevada Las Vegas, Environmental Studies Program, Office of Energy and Environmental Education was created to stimulate a shift to a more energy-efficient, sustainable society in Nevada. The office has initiated a number of projects and programs directed toward the community at large, government agencies, utilities and businesses to promote a variety of goals including:

• • • improving natural resource management;

• • • preventing pollution;

• • • reducing global environmental stress;

• • • improving the quality of life; and

• • • improving the local economy.

These efforts are being undertaken with the belief that innovative ideas must be developed locally and have their effectiveness tested and demonstrated before being spread throughout the rest of the nation.

The programs undertaken by the office are designed to promote conservation and reduce consumption. The office also seeks to further the knowledge of government, business, and industry on matters related to:

• • • environmental restoration;

• • • environmental remediation;

• • • sustainable development; and

• • • energy efficiency.

Specific programs organized by the office in collaboration with its local partners include a series of conferences and workshops related to energy and the environment; educational programs for high school and elementary students; and the creation of the Nevada Energy Consumer Educational Council, which is producing a home energy manual, as well as expanded public and professional education programs.

The UNLV Office of Energy and Environmental Education receives no state allocation of funding through the University of Nevada Las Vegas. It relies solely upon funding through grants, partnerships, and revenue from contracted education events.

Regional Conference Program

A number of regional conferences have provided forums for local professionals to examine a range of current and potential problems. These have included: the Colorado River Basin Workshop, which was organized in conjunction with the President's Council for Sustainable Development; the Facilities Uniting to Utilize Resources Efficiently (FUTURE) workshops, dealing with energy and water issues; The Western State's Emergency Management Exercise, simulating responses to a natural disaster; Photo Voltaic Cell and Solar Workshops, exploring the state's role in using new energy technologies; Electro-Magnetic Fields (EMF) Conferences, examining health issues; and a Boiler Efficiency and Safety Conference, for local facility managers. Partners in these conferences have included the Southern Nevada Water Authority, the Las Vegas Metropolitan Water Authority, the Nevada State Energy Office, the Nevada Power Company, the Sierra Pacific Power Company, the Southwest Gas Company, and the Western Area Power Authority. Other partners in specific conferences include U.S. Department of Energy, the Nevada Division of Public Safety, Sandia National Laboratories, and the Southern Nevada Facility Managers Association. 

Related courses for environmental professionals and managers have covered environmental risk management, remediation of subsurface contamination, organic chemistry nomenclature for remediation, pre-engineering energy efficient fuels curriculum, real estate seminar on energy efficiency, and an air quality workshop.

School Programs

The office has organized energy and environmental education projects for school children grades K-12. These have included workshops and a summer academy for teachers and the development of resource materials in areas such as society and the environment, energy and water, and Native American philosophies related to the environment. The office also established a "mentor" program in which students from the environmental studies program visit classrooms and present materials about energy and the environment, while serving as positive role models demonstrating their own environmental concerns. The office recently launched a highly successful SUNRISE (Students Understanding the Natural Resources in Society and the Environment) Explorers program, which involved 1,600 disadvantaged elementary school children. The program included summer energy carnivals at two local elementary schools and field trips to the Las Vegas Water District's Desert Demonstration Garden. Sponsors included the U.S. Department of Energy and the Southwest Gas Company. Forty university students participated as volunteers.

Recycled Art Project

The office organized a Recycled Art Project in cooperation with a number of local businesses in Spring 1995. The project utilized over 1,500 pounds of trash and defective materials that were collected and sorted for the project. About 8,000 students participated in a hands on "trash-to-art" activity at the Annual Earth Fair Celebration, which were viewed by 40,000 visitors to the fair. This project resulted in the establishment of a Reuse Center to collect scrap materials form local businesses for use in classrooms.

Nevada Energy Consumer Education Council

The UNLV Office of Energy and Environmental Education also established an ongoing partnership of local energy companies and government agencies, which is called the Nevada Energy Consumer Education Council. The council includes most of the partners previously identified with the conference programs, as well as the Southern Nevada Homebuilders Association. Other groups affiliated with the council include the Nevada Association of Professional Architects and the Southern Regional Association of Energy Managers.

The council, developed to build partnerships with educators, community organizations, government agencies, the media, local school districts, and public and private corporations and businesses, supports and coordinates programs that will improve the quality of life and the environment in Nevada. 

Goals for the council include encouraging the public and businesses to:

• • • use energy efficiently;

• • • improve indoor comfort;

• • • manage consumption behavior; and

• • • maintain health and safety.

It was established in response to a state-wide survey (conducted by the Office of Energy and Environmental Education) of public energy awareness. The survey indicated high levels of concern about energy conservation and a need for additional public education. The council will maintain a number of the educational initiatives for school children and professionals begun by the Office of Energy and Environmental Education. In addition, the council will be active in public education, using a variety of media, including public service announcements, billboard displays, enclosures in utility bills, fact sheets, and newspaper articles and columns. The council will also publish a quarterly newsletter Energy and Environment News. One of the council's major efforts is the development of a consumer energy manual, which will be provided to builders, real estate agents, and property managers for distribution to new home buyers and renters.

Home Energy Manual

The Home Energy Manual; A Homeowner's Guide to Maintaining the Energy Efficient Home, which is currently available in draft form, provides a collection of information about home energy and water conservation measures and techniques. Some of the topics covered include:

• • • wall, duct, and pipe insulation;

• • • door, window, and other opening insulation;

• • • sun-shading devices and techniques;

• • • thermal mass storage;

• • • setback thermostats;

• • • energy efficient furnaces and air conditioning systems;

• • • fireplaces for heating;

• • • home ventilating systems;

• • • plumbing and water conservation systems; and

• • • lighting and appliances.

The manual also contains sections outlining home maintenance procedures for energy conservation and reviews a variety of energy-saving techniques. In addition, it discusses major home improvement techniques such as the use of water efficient landscaping to reduce heat gain and to provide screening, and the installation of fans to facilitate natural cooling.

The council is planning to engage in several other educational and awareness activities. These include sponsoring home/neighborhood energy audits and workshops, promoting energy conservation in low income housing complexes to reduce utility bills, and conducting a follow-up energy awareness survey to assess the progress that has been made. Another proposal for the council is to develop a state energy conservation icon and accompanying slogan, for use in recognizing energy efficiency efforts and programs.

The Community School

South Tamworth, New Hampshire

Contact: Martha Carlson, Director; P.O. Box B; South Tamworth, NH 03883; Tel.: (603) 323-7000

Scope: Bearcamp Valley/Lakes Region (Southern NH)

Inception Date: 1988

Participants: Teachers, parents, students, community members

Project Type: Environmental education, land use, community economic development

Methods Used: Creation of a school as economic development; progressive education for sustainable community development

Lessons Learned: Sustainable development is not linear; developing housing, jobs, land protection, and young people are related and synergistic activities. Community connections are vital.

The Community School is a private school on a restored, historic 307 acre farm. Forty-two students in grades 6-12 attend from Carroll County, the Lakes Region and western Maine. The school's goal is to teach students to be life-long learners and problem solvers; the school is also concerned with returning land and resources to sustainable production and promoting local economic development.

Developing Students and the Community

Students at the Community School learn about land management by taking charge of the farm and forest land. Students raise products that they sell, mainly vegetables and white pine. The school sold $40,000 of timber just from thinning the 230 acres of forest; students are also developing value-added products from "under-utilized" woods. After more than twenty years of neglect, the farm is getting back into the business of feeding people through a community supported farming effort. Local residents who subscribe to the program pay $200 in advance to receive a basket of food each week from late June through September; they are also invited to participate and help with harvesting.

Director Martha Carlson emphasizes the Community School's role as a new business contributing to local economic development and job creation. After beginning with two teachers, the school now employs seven full time and eight part time employees: twelve teachers, a bookkeeper and a secretary. Carlson relates that for three teachers who received health benefits from the Community School this year, it is the first time that they or their families have ever had health insurance.

Building the School

The Community School was created in 1988 by local residents, led by Martha and Rudy Carlson and Katy Thompson. The three had worked together previously on land preservation, local economic development, and low income housing, as well as teaching. The School opened in the Carlsons' house with nine students while the board, staff and parents raised money from the community to purchase the Perkins Farm under a conservation easement. 

The land and 110 year old farmhouse were purchased in 1991, at the recession price of $90,000. An initial $210,000 was raised to rebuild and expand the structure before moving the school in 1992. Parents and local residents donated their time and labor as well as money. A local philanthropic trust provided a total of $75,000 for start-up costs. The Trust for New Hampshire Land, a one-time state program, contributed $60,000 to purchase the conservation easement. Another $190,000 has since been spent on rehabilitation and reconstruction.

The school's budget this year was $260,000. Eighty percent of the budget is covered by tuition, set at $5,600 a year, plus another $1,000 for transportation. A scholarship fund helps support some students from single-parent families or families where only one parent is working. A number of students contribute as much as $1,000 from summer job earnings. Although Carroll County is the poorest in New Hampshire, some "summer families" and retirees contribute substantially to the school and scholarship fund.

Sources of Support

The New Hampshire Department of Education encouraged and facilitated state approval of the Community School's operation. The School has achieved the first step in the formal accreditation process, affiliation with the New England Association of Schools and Colleges. Fifteen seniors have graduated so far and are attending colleges such as the University of New Hampshire, University of Vermont, Goddard College, and Maine Maritime Academy.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Stewardship Incentive Plan has provided technical assistance from the Agricultural Stabilization Service to map, inventory and plan the management of the school's land. This process has made the school eligible for some federal cost sharing in land management for example, brush management on a 3-4 year rotation in a flooded former hayfield.

A major barrier to the school's own sustainable development was the economic recession of the late 1980's/early 1990's. Although the land and building were available at a "once in a century price," the school was hit hard on operating income. Parents lost jobs and could not afford tuition. "It was like the Great Depression up here." The school is planning alternative sources of energy as one method of decreasing costs and remaining sustainable. The conservation easement contains permission from the state (approved by special vote in 1991) to put up a windmill. The school cannot sell the power, but plans to install a wind pump irrigation system.

Working Toward Sustainability

The School is planning an endowment and reserves to maintain the physical assets. The need for scholarship funds also keeps growing if the School wants to remain a true "community" school. The staff and board are beginning to develop a "Year for a Year" program to provide full scholarships for students who agree to return after college to work in sustainable businesses or perform community work in the Bearcamp Valley.

To create sustainable local jobs that will allow youth to return to and remain in the community, the School participates in a local development planning project sponsored by the Ford Foundation. The "It Takes a Community" Project is generating and evaluating ideas for economic development in the Lakes Region that will provide employment opportunities at different skill levels.

The School is already implementing a new "eco-tourism" project, advertised as "A Day in the Bearcamp Valley," one of the last undeveloped valleys in the White Mountain area. Staff, students and volunteers will educate tourists about sustainable development, sell the students' vegetables and wood products to raise additional money for the scholarship fund, and help support local restaurants and businesses with tourist dollars. Community School Director Martha Carlson stresses that this model of schooling drawing on and contributing resources to the community can be replicated with different forms in different places. In an urban area, such as New York City, the neighborhood community, the multicultural society, and the arts are unique resources. In a rural area like northern New Hampshire, the great resource is the land and its forest. 

Carlson states, "we believe that young people are useful and that the world needs them. Our community is our classroom. Students apply their studies to solving real problems that arise on the Perkins Farm, in local towns, or the White Mountain National Forest." For example, students learn to use Geographic Information Systems (GIS) as a land use management tool for the farm and forest. They also collect data with GIS for a University of New Hampshire study on the effects of ozone pollution on white pine trees, an indicator species. Students use GIS as a resource for local development, as well; the Town of Sandwich requested mapping of well tests, and students were asked to create a database to determine replenishment rates in nearby underground watersheds.

Martha Carlson cites the century-long tradition of conservation efforts in the communities of the region as one reason why they generated so much support to purchase the farm and establish the school. For example, the League of New Hampshire Craftsmen was formed in the Bearcamp Valley in the 1920's to help local people develop and market high quality versions of their traditional crafts; eleven shops around the state still exist to market these products. Twenty percent of the land area of the neighboring towns is protected as part of the White Mountain National Forest. Local people were receptive to the notion of the school because "for a long time, before we knew the word sustainability, people have been thinking about how to protect this place and preserve the community."

Isles, Inc.

Trenton, New Jersey

Contact: Martin Johnson, Executive Director; 126 North Montgomery Street; Trenton, NJ 08608; Tel.: (609) 393-5656; Fax: (609) 393-9513

Scope: Trenton region

Inception Date: 1981

Participants: Community residents, local and state government, businesses

Project Type: Comprehensive community development, land use

Methods Used: Organizing, community gardens, environmental education, housing development, job training, "brownfield" redevelopment

Lessons Learned: For organizations to endure they need to build relationships and develop credibility over time. Workable solutions help provide the resources and the framework for people to promote long-term change in their own communities.

Isles, Inc. is a community and environmental development organization that addresses issues of food, housing, and environmental improvement by fostering neighborhood-based "islands" of development. Isles has four focus areas: urban greening and land recovery, environmental education, affordable housing, and job training.

Urban Greening and land Recovery

Isles works with communities to transform vacant land into productive and valuable neighborhood assets. The Community Garden Project focuses on food production and community environmental improvement and control. Isles has created 65 community garden and beautification sites designed, constructed and maintained by local residents. The community gardens produced more than $100,000 worth of fruit and vegetables in 1994. Isles provides technical assistance to urban gardeners, including an annual plant sale for inner-city residents, a tool lending library, soil testing and experimental methods of removing lead from soil. Isles has completed a 200-page "how-to" gardening manual for use by other cities and organizations.

In its most recent endeavor, Isles is cooperating with the City of Trenton and the NJ Department of Environmental Protection to reclaim abandoned industrial facilities, beginning with the seven-acre former Magic Marker site. Isles is bringing together area residents, government, and technical assistants to help clean up the site, plan its reuse and participate in its redevelopment while educating young people about this important New Jersey issue.

Environmental Education

The urban environmental education program has trained 100 teachers since 1991 and reaches 7,000 Trenton children every year. The Cadwalader Park Environmental Education Center provides hands-on science and environmental experiences for urban youth and teachers. The Children's Garden encourages participation from very young children. The Trenton Neighborhood Tree Project, a partnership between local schools, the community, the City of Trenton, Trenton Board of Education and the NJ State Department of Environmental Protection, has been implemented in six city schools.

Affordable Housing

Isles has constructed or rehabilitated 69 units of affordable housing in Trenton; 21 additional units are currently under construction. Local, minority crew members and contractors are employed on these projects. Isles recently formed a joint venture partnership with a for-profit developer to convert a local factory to 46 units of affordable housing and office space for nonprofit organizations. Isles has provided home ownership training in English and Spanish to more than 100 Trenton families; the organization also conducts home maintenance and repair training and mortgage counseling. 

To institutionalize this work, Isles helped to create statewide intermediaries. During the 1980's, Isles founded the New Jersey Community Loan Fund, a statewide nonprofit lender and technical supporter of housing and jobs development. Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) negotiations provided an initial infusion of capital. Some foundations gave program related investments and corporations and utilities also participated. The Loan Fund is up to $7 million capitalization and is growing. Isles also co-founded the Affordable Housing Network trade association.

YouthBuild Training

Isles has trained 36 at-risk youth in construction trades while completing affordable housing projects. Isles recently received a YouthBuild implementation grant from HUD to provide construction job training, classroom education and leadership skills to an additional 60 young people who will rehabilitate four vacant homes in Trenton's "Weed and Seed" neighborhoods. The homes will be sold to low income families.


Isles began as an offshoot of a student-initiated seminar at Princeton University in 1980. Director Martin Johnson recalls: "we were promoting appropriate technology development in the third world, but we were ten miles from Trenton. We had to look in our own backyard." The Institute for Community Economics, based in Massachusetts, was particularly helpful in helping them frame their early thinking on local development. Isles started as a technical assistance organization coming from an academic arena; over the next seven or eight years, the group evolved into a locally owned and controlled development organization. 

Key to this successful transformation was the commitment Isles' founders made to living and staying in Trenton, working with established community groups, and broadening their base of support by building relationships within the community. Each Isles program has evolved over time through the "creative tension" generated by the dialogue between technical ideas and community perceptions. Johnson sees time and commitment as major barriers to doing this work. "If you don't have relationships, you can't get things done, no matter how smart you are. We're successful because we've stuck it out. We built credibility over time."

To succeed, Isles had to integrate the different cultures of organizations that worked on economic or housing development, and environmental organizations that tended to be non-urban and middle class. Early on, housing development was seen as competition for open land. Isles' strategy was to define both open space and housing as basic human needs, critical to a sustainable quality of life in urban areas. Johnson relates: "We had a broadly interpreted goal of community organizing and development. We can make cities more self-sustaining through development initiatives that are controlled locally, culturally appropriate, environmentally sound, and speak to basic human needs."

Diversifying the Funding Base

Another barrier to overcome was financing the work without sacrificing integrity or the ability to be independent. Isles has strengthened its board's fundraising capabilities by creating a separate Resource Development Committee with thirty members who have ties to corporate and institutional interests and are willing to lend their names and their time to strengthen the organization financially. This board plays an advisory role to the twelve voting members of the Board of Trustees. 

Isles currently has a $1 million annual operating budget. Forty percent of funding comes from local, state and federal government sources. Sixty percent comes from the private sector—foundations, corporations, individuals and religious institutions. Johnson notes that "in New Jersey, we have tremendous wealth as a state dotted with pockets of poverty." The current challenge is to further diversify the funding base by targeting individuals and employment-based giving programs.

Johnson emphasizes that the comprehensive nature of Isles' work helps the organization to sustain itself over time; it broadens the base of financial and political support while reducing revenue volatility. Furthermore, Isles has a greater ability to affect state and local policies on a range of issues than it would as a single-focus organization. In New Jersey, environmental groups, largely based in middle-class suburbs, are more organized and have more political power than the urban community development organizations. By building relationships in both communities and breaking down preconceptions, Isles is able to tap into a stronger power base to further its work.

Ironstone Gardens

Santa Fe, New Mexico

Contact: Burke Denman (Developer); Denman & Associates, Inc.; P.O. Box 4938; Santa Fe, NM 87502; Tel.: (505) 983-6014; Fax: (505) 986-1419

Michael Ogden; Southwest Wetlands Group, Inc.; 901 W. San mateo, Suite M; Santa Fe, NM 87505; Tel: (505) 988-7453; Fax: (505) 988-3720

Scope: Local, urban

Inception Date: 1991 (phase 1 - renovation); 1994 (phase 2 - new construction)

Participants: Developer, residents

Project Type: Commercial development, redevelopment, 'green construction', waste water reuse 

Methods Used: Construction and rennovation using new building materials that replace wood and new technologies that save energy and minimize water consumption and waste

Lessons Learned: Find an advocate within the local bureaucracy to support new and innovative building techniques.

Project Summary

Ironstone Gardens is an innovative commercial development in the heart of Santa Fe, New Mexico's warehouse district. Situated in an abandoned industrial site—the former home of a concrete company—the development consists of 25,000 square feet of space, on a 85,000 square foot (or 2 acre) lot. The project began in 1991 with the rennovation of the existing buildings on the property.

The goals of the project's developer, Burke Denman, are to create a commercial development that is environmentally sound, aesthetically pleasing, and economically viable—with the overarching goal of creating a living environment that provides both a pleasant and a stimulating place in which to live and work. 

The many innovative features of the development include:

• • • passive solar design;

• • • low energy consumption;

• • • co-generating heating system;

• • • low water use; 

• • • on-site waste water reuse.

• • • heavy insulation (R40 in roofs; R24 in walls);

• • • low timber use;

• • • steel structural framing (60-70 percent recycled content steel); and

• • • pumice-crete building material.

Architectural Design Incorporates Old and New

Ironstone Gardens design incorporates 7,000 square feet of existing warehouse space, renovated at a cost of about $25 per square foot, and 18,000 square feet of new construction, at a cost of about $65 per square foot. Numerous plants, fountains, patios, benches, trees and pathways surround the buildings, which are clustered in a compound-like setting. To help preserve the park-like atmosphere that the landscaping provides, parking is located on the periphery of the property. 

With space for 20 tenants, the development is made up of offices, retail space, and artist studios (seven of them live-in). Second story studios have views of mountains from private balconies. Tenants include an engineering firm, landscape architecture firm, sculpture studios, photo darkroom, exercise studio, art gallery, and retail stone company. Annual lease rates are typical of rates in the area. Ironstone Gardens has leased all but one of its tenant spaces. Public enthusiasm for the project has been evident in the fact that all leases have been handled through the developer, with no need for a leasing agent and with minimal advertising.

Alternative Building Materials Save Wood

The existing buildings in the Ironstone Gardenss development included a cement block building and a steel structure (unstuccoed). Renovation, which began in 1991, included increased insulation, solarizing (by adding south-facing glazing) and cosmetic improvements. Of the four new structures in the development (built in 1994), three of them are constructed using a typical, metal warehouse-style steel superstructure. The steel "R-panel skin" is reversed, screwed in place, and then stuccoed to achieve the appearance of adobe, a popular building material in the Southwest. Interior walls are insulated with fiberglass (R24) and then sheet-rocked. The only wood used in the buildings is small-dimension wood used for trim, window and door frames, with 90 percent made with metal. Any large timbers used in the project were recycled from another building that was demolished by the developer.

The fourth building (5,200 square feet) is constructed with a material called "pumice-crete." This substance was used to build parts of the Parthenon, 2,400 years ago, and is being used as a commercial building material for the first time in Santa Fe. Because timber is an expensive commodity in the Southwest and is straining old-growth forest reserves elsewhere, pumice-crete not only produces cost savings while minimizing the impact on the environment, but also provides a stronger, more durable product for construction than many other alternative materials. 

Pumice-crete is a light-weight, cast concrete material that uses light weight pumice nodules bound by a light coating of cement and water. Typical concrete uses four to seven sacks of cement per cubic yard. Because of the energy-intensive methods used to make cement, it is a product that, while low in price, has high hidden environmental and energy costs. Pumice-crete, on the other hand, uses pumice, which is derived from volcanic ash. Only 2 1/2 sacks of cement per cubic yard is mixed with the pumice to produce a material superior to adobe in compressive strength and durability, with a natural insulating "R value" of "1 1/2 per inch," (versus an R value of ".3" for adobe or "1" for wood). This translates, in the case of this building, into an insulating value of R 24, using just the pumice-crete alone, without additional insulation. In addition to its insulating value, pumice-crete has a compressive strength of 600-700 pounds per square (psi) inch, compared to adobe, which is around 200 psi. In terms of overall cost comparison, pumice-crete is approximately 25 percent less expensive than adobe.

Energy Savings Through Solar & Co-Generation

The development—designed with the sun in mind—is positioned to maximize solar rays for interior heating in winter. It will also use a co-generation heating system for the first time this winter. A glassblowers studio in the compound, with two glassblowing furnaces that run at 2000 degrees, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year will be tapped to heat an additional 10,000 to 12,000 square feet of artist studios in winter.

The roof and walls are super-insulated for both heating and cooling efficiency. Heating costs are projected to be 25 percent less than normal; cooling, 50 percent less through the use of extra high ceilings, 10 to 20 feet tall. In summer, the high ceilings draw the heat away from the lower living and working areas, to produce comfort on most days.

Waste Water Saves Water

Water is a precious commodity in the Southwest. To minimize the impact of the Ironstone Gardens development on the aquifer and on community resources such as the sewer plant, several water-saving features, including low-flow devices for plumbing fixtures and 1.5 gallon low flush toilets, are used. 

What is most notable is the innovative, on-site waste water treatment system for water reuse that has been built into the project. It handles all waste water from the complex, returning it to be used for flushing toilets and irrigating the developments landscaping. 

The system, designed and installed by an engineering firm that is also a tenant of Ironstone Gardens, will allow the development to be taken off the already overloaded city waste water treatment system. The on-site wastewater treatment system uses anaerobic pretreatment tanks, constructed wetlands (with gravel beds planted with reeds, rushes, and cattails), and recirculating sand filters that have been incorporated into the site landscape plan. The advantages of this on-site treatment and reuse system are:

• • • water obtained from city water supplies decreases by approximately 70 percent (it is used only for drinking and washing); 

• • • treated effluent is made available for irrigation or, further disinfected through a UV disinfection system, and used to flush the toilets;

• • • since no wastewater leaves the property, the hydraulic loading of the city sewers and wastewater treatment facilities are not increased, and are, in fact, decreased.

Because the on-site system is the first of its kind in a commercial development in New Mexico, it is being used as a demonstration project. Periodic monitoring reports will be made available to interested parties and the facility is open to public view.

Working Through Challenges

The main challenge to Ironstone Gardens was the initial reluctance of the regulatory bureaucracy to allow the use of proposed, new technologies in constructing the development: Their cooperation was essential in obtaining approval of the innovative alternative building materials and wastewater methods. Persistence was required to gain the needed approvals for the project. At first, by challenging, and then by working to educate and build a proactive relationship with local authorities, the project eventually gained the needed approvals. 

Today, the developers vision is a reality and Ironstone Gardens can be credited with advancing the standard for commercial development in Santa Fe and the Southwest. 

Other sustainable building development projects are underway in the area, including one using "strawbale" construction, with a constructed wetlands for on-site waste water treatment. 

Nos Quedamos/we Stay

Melrose Commons, South Bronx, New York

Contact: Yolanda Garcia; Nos Quedamos/We Stay; 811 Courtlandt Ave.; Bronx, NY 10457; Tel.: (718) 585-2323; Fax: same

Scope: Neighborhood - 35 contiguous blocks

Inception Date: 1993

Participants: Residents, planners, architects, lawyers, public officials, civic organizations, businesses

Project Type: Coalition building, comprehensive community development, economic development

Methods Used: Community organizing, public education, citizen-led planning

Lessons Learned: Importance of strong collaborations between government officials and residents as equal partners. Early involvement of residents/stakeholders in planning. 

"All people have ideas worth hearing and saying.... differences in age, race, gender, religious affiliation, language, and cultural background should motivate people to work towards true, long-lasting change."

— Yolanda Garcia


Nos Quedamos is not only the name, but the mission of this nonprofit organization located in the heart of the South Bronx. It represents a broadbased, grassroots coalition of residents and groups who have a longstanding commitment to their community, Melrose Commons. 

In a few short months this organization created a sustainable plan for their community and developed an effective and productive collaboration with public agencies to implement it. The process they employed was responsive to social, economic and environmental issues and brought the community together in this successful effort to shape its future. For their work they have been recognized by the New York City Landmarks Commission, the New York chapter of the Architects/Designers/Planners for Social Responsibility, and the metropolitan chapter of the American Planning Association. 


Melrose Commons, a 35-contiguous-block area east of Yankee Stadium, had largely been neglected by the city for roughly 30 years and suffered from the traditional housing, infrastructure and unemployment problems associated with urban decay. In 1990 it had 6,000 residents, primarily Latinos and African Americans, whose median annual household income was less than $12,000. The city owned 65% of the land and 30% of total housing stock. Of that 10% was abandoned during the 1960s and 1970s. 

In 1992 community residents came together to respond to the city's proposed Urban Renewal Plan. This plan would have resulted in major changes to the whole neighborhood. Estimates were that it could have displaced as many as 6,000 local residents and 520 local businesses. Citizens who had lived there for years and wanted to stay decided to undertake a planning process to put forward some of their own recommendations for the design of their neighborhood.

Building a collaborative planning process

The proposed Urban Renewal Plan was based on traditional planning designs and did not represent the desires or ideas of residents who would be affected. Those that attended the meeting stated that as long-term residents who had stayed in the community they knew best what transportation routes worked, what type of buildings were needed, the kind of employment they desired, and where parks were best located in the area. They wanted a community that would reflect their values and needs. 

Following the meeting, home owners, tenants and business owners came together to share ideas and information and called themselves Nos Quedamos or the We Stay Committee. They worked with the Bronx Center project initiated by the Bronx Borough president and co-chaired by Richard Kahan of the Urban Assembly and Harry DeRienzo of the Parodneck Foundation. The Bronx Center, a community-based planning effort in a 300-block area in the Bronx, would help direct the investment of two billion dollars of anticipated public and private funds. Hundreds of volunteers — citizens, public officials, educators and professionals — formed a number of working groups to address such issues as job training, technical assistance, housing and transportation. 

By 1994 Nos Quedamos had succeeded in postponing the certification of the proposed city urban renewal plan and had obtained a six-month extension granted by the Borough president to continue to develop an alternative proposal, the new Melrose Commons Urban Renewal Plan. Since that time the community initiative set up Studio 811, the Nos Quedamos office where city officials came to work with the residents on the initiative.

Residents conducted block-by-block surveys and held meetings at a local church to update those who could not attend the planning meetings. Ms. Garcia estimates that they held as many as 168 meetings during that year. In anticipation of the forthcoming election, they also conducted a voter registration drive at every meeting, increasing the voting rolls by 65%.

The participation of public officials in the community planning sessions was key. It gave government representatives a better understanding of local needs and resources and gave the community members the respect and consideration they deserved. According to Petr Stand, one of the architects who has worked very closely on this project, it demonstrated that "a positive democratic process was possible." Government was responsive to the needs of the citizens and the citizens assumed their civic responsibility. 

This community effort attracted the assistance of many professionals — planners, architects, lawyers, and others— who have contributed their expertise during the developmental stage. Two architects, Petr Stand of Magnusson Architects and Lee Weintraub of Weintraub & diDomenico, and urban planners worked with residents to help translate their ideas into a new urban design. Members of the community established a set of planning principles for the new Melrose Commons Urban Renewal Plan which became further refined as planning continued. They addressed social, environmental, housing, design, infrastructure, and many other community issues. 

Elements of sustainable planning

One of the initial issues to be resolved was the location of a proposed two-acre park. The city plan had placed it in the geographical center of the community, but the real center of activity was in the northeast section. Community members were interested in open spaces but they feared this park would attract criminal activity.

They developed alternative plans for various discrete block parks designed for different types of activities. The plan now includes a one-acre public park, small mid-block parks, and community gardens which are very important to residents. There will also be an area in the northern section of the neighborhood which will be developed for active recreation. Another area, now containing old railroad tracks, will serve as a tree-filled buffer zone to set it off from a manufacturing area.

Residents were also very interested in public transportation. They explored possibilities of increasing transportation links, mass transit and 'friendly' sidewalks and created a plan to reduce the amount of private parking as required by the city. Other attention centered on water use. As water is expensive in New York, ways to capture and recycle it through rainwater systems were explored. Planning for community gardens included consideration of water retention. 

Initially the plan included a number of middle-income housing units and blocks of attached houses. What the residents preferred was a mix of buildings — some with six- to eight-story buildings with businesses on the ground floor and other smaller ones, such as town houses and single family houses, that were affordable and built with environmentally-sound materials. These housing prototypes, while unusual, could be possible models for other urban areas. 

Nos Quedamos worked with local developers to help in the project. They received a grant from the NY State Council on the Arts to host a series of community design workshops. These attracted developers and contractors and prompted conversations about what housing could be and what guidelines would be needed. 

Currently 1700 new units of housing are planned, some for seniors, occupants of shelters, those 60% below the median income level, and potential homeowners. As over 70% of the families in the neighborhood are female heads-of-household, they are exploring possibilities for adapting co-housing models, which would include day care facilities, to the urban environment. 

A number of potential funding sources have been identified at the federal, state and local government levels. Two projects have been funded: one, a US Housing and Urban Development grant for loans for senior citizens; and the other, a city grant for the homeless and those under the 60% income level. 

Throughout the process Nos Quedamos has emphasized the importance of using local contractors to implement the plan and have met with local labor coalitions. A job completed by the middle of 1995 as a joint venture of a local contracting company with one of the largest construction companies in the city employed 80% of the workers locally. 

All of these efforts have increased the visibility of and knowledge about Melrose Commons locally and nationally. This process has brought in students from local colleges and universities such as City College and Columbia, other members of civic organizations, and from many downtown areas to attend hearings and to demonstrate support for the effort. In this way, others are connecting with Melrose Commons and the neighborhood residents are feeling less isolated.

Challenges ahead

Access to technical assistance and funding are continuing challenges. City funding is being cut back at a time when the neighborhood needs it to acquire some of the properties residents would like to sell. They also need to attract developers to construct and renovate the housing.

Institutionally, the strength of the organization and its efforts have been in organizing the community. In order to continue to implement this ambitious plan, ongoing momentum and support will be needed. 


Durham, North Carolina

Contact: Anne Aitchison, Executive Director; SunShares, Inc.; 1215 South Briggs Avenue, Suite 100; Durham, NC 27703; Tel.: (919) 596-1870; Fax: (919) 596-5382

Scope: Local/state, urban/rural

Inception Date: September 1980

Participants: Urban and rural residents, low-income housing communities, schools, businesses, churches

Project Type: Recycling, energy efficiency, waste reduction, water conservation, public education

Methods Used: Demonstration projects, education, programs maximizing citizen involvement as volunteers and participants in community building projects 

Lessons Learned: Strong leadership and vision spurred initial activity in the community. SunShares' history and reputation in the community inspired the public trust and the building of institutional relationships necessary to expand activities and access opportunities.

Summary of Project

Since its inception in 1980, SunShares has grown from a small, local nonprofit organization with two staff members and an annual budget of $40,000 to a nationally recognized leader in the field of resource recovery, employing 62 people and generating $3 million annually for the local economy. 

SunShares' mission is to help people use the earths resources in a more sustainable, efficient, and healthful manner. It provides opportunities for communities and neighborhoods to recycle, reduce waste, conserve energy and water, and use more renewable resources. 

SunShares programs maximize citizen involvement as volunteers and participants in community-building projects. It partners with individuals, local and regional government agencies, corporations, small businesses and other organizations to facilitate the transition of the "Research Triangle" region (including the cities of Durham, Raleigh and Chapel Hill) toward a more sustainable economy. SunShares works to facilitate that transition through education, demonstration and policy activities designed to involve the citizens and institutions of the region. 

Building the Foundation

In 1979, the Energy Information Office (EIO) was founded with proceeds from a newspaper recycling project established by the Council of Garden Clubs and the City of Durham Sanitation Department. Newspaper revenues allowed EIO, a non-profit organization, to offer energy conservation information and winterization services to the general public. In 1982, SunShares, a grassroots campaign to build low-cost solar heaters, was founded as a project of EIO. SunShares then merged with EIO to form a single non-profit dedicated to promoting recycling, energy efficiency and solar energy. 

The experience and contacts from these organizing efforts, combined with the resources of ECOS, an established local recycling effort, enabled the new SunShares to win long-term recycling contracts in a three county area, with the City of Durham, the Town of Cary, Durham County and the Orange Community Recycling Program. 

Partial funding for SunShares recycling programs comes from revenues generated by landfill tipping fees and solid waste collection fees. The revenue that SunShares makes from the sale of recyclables partially off-sets program costs. As a non-profit organization, SunShares also receives grants to investigate issues and carry out programs such as energy efficiency, water conservation, and market development for recyclable materials such as mixed paper. Individual and corporate partnerships help to support outreach and education programs. 

Leader in Recycling Technology

SunShares recycling programs now include 33 drop-off sites, serving over 300,000 residents in Durham and Orange Counties; as well as curbside collections from 43,000 homes in Cary, Durham and Orange Counties. Commercial and fee-for-service programs collect from over 200 area businesses.

SunShares is able to collect and process the materials cost effectively because of its unique collection system, recycling facility, and community participation. From curbside trucks, to drop-off bins, to the expander curbside container attachment—for which SunShares holds the patent—SunShares has been a leader in developing new designs for effective recycling. These designs have been adopted in many areas of North Carolina and other states, helping to make recycling more efficient and cost effective. 

SunShares community education programs support awareness of the "Reduce, Reuse, Recycle" concept. Broad public participation in separation of recyclable materials enables SunShares to maintain the integrity of the materials it collects and helps to insure stable markets and maximum convertibility of new products.

SunShares Research and Product Development

Recycling is only a part of what SunShares is about. SunShares current research and development focus is on reducing waste at the source of generation, locating stable market uses for problematic recyclables, and combining organic portions of the waste stream together to produce compost. 

SunShares practices a team approach to decision making, analyzing with Board, staff, and client communities strategies that will result in long term economic, social and environmental benefits for the region. A good example is the process by which "Bull Durt" has been developed. Mixed paper constitutes approximately 20% of the total waste stream being landfilled in this country. With funding from the North Carolina Office of Waste Reduction and the Environmental Protection Agency, SunShares and its local partners, the City of Durham and Durham County, worked for three years to research and test this compost product that combines hard to recycle mixed paper with treated municipal sludge. At the same time, a public education campaign introduced "Bull Durt" to the public, answering questions related to product safety and applicability. SunShares, the City of Durham, and Durham County are in the process of establishing ongoing production of Bull Durt, providing a ready bulking agent for sludge treatment processes as well as a local, stable market for mixed paper. 

As part of a team approach, SunShares engages the community in research on "next steps" for waste reduction to determine actions people are most interested in pursuing. Results include: reduction of junk mail, alternatives to household toxins, and the re-use of items. SunShares directs information and educational materials to the community on these topics and on how to make source reduction and backyard composting familiar behavior in our residential and business communities. 

Sunshares Energy Programs

Energy saving projects are an important part of SunShares operations. Since 1980, Sunshares has trained 2,000 residents to build solar collectors and weatherize their homes. Together with the North Carolina Alternative Energy Corporation, the Duke Endowment, and hundreds of volunteers, they have retrofitted over 600 churches and non-profits, to cut utility costs by $500,000 since 1987. 

The new "Resourceful Buildings" program is SunShares expanded energy program. SunShares has recognized a need for an integrated approach that goes beyond energy efficiency to address indoor air pollution and the reduction of solid waste and toxins. The new program focuses on making buildings healthy, safe, economical and comfortable. Staff members provide assistance in increasing energy and water conservation, reducing building health problems dealing with issues such as lead, carbon monoxide and moisture, and incorporating waste reduction activities. 

Sunshares Education Programs

SunShares has partnered with the North Carolina Museum of Life and Science and the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service to locate three permanent backyard composting exhibits in Durham. Several methods of composting are displayed, and regularly scheduled workshops on backyard composting are given free of charge to community residents. SunShares has also provided "vermicomposting" workshops, bins and technical support to 129 teachers in Durham Public Schools. 

SunShares provides in-depth recycling and waste reduction information. A quarterly newsletter is circulated to 102,000 households in the region, a more in-depth SunSpot publication to members, activists and officials, and environmental programs are promoted through the media. Education activities conducted by SunShares include: 

• • • Earth Day Celebrations—Since 1990, SunShares has worked with corporate sponsors and the City of Durham to bring together dozens of environmental and conservation organizations and entertainers with thousands of citizens to inspire, educate and celebrate. 

• • • The Scrap Exchange—SunShares provided early institutional and financial support for this organization that provides teachers, artists, children and others with scrap industrial materials and instruction for creative reuse.

• • • The Block Leader Program—When SunShares expanded curbside recycling to the citizens of Durham and Cary, hundreds of volunteers in each neighborhood were recruited to talk to their neighbors about the new program;

• • • The Schools Program—SunShares has offered recycling and waste reduction programs and tours for students since 1988. SunShares provides recycling collection services to Durham Public Schools and works through Environmental Educators of North Carolina, the NC Cooperative Extension Service, other organizations, school systems and individuals to assure comprehensive environmental education programs in the Triangle. 

Recycling Challenges

A barrier to recycling and energy conservation efforts in general is that current governmental and corporate policies often do not consider environmental impacts or conservation opportunities. Early on, SunShares realized the importance of policy development and advocacy in the recyclable materials marketing arena. Between 1988, when SunShares began the Durham Recycles program, and 1993, the price paid for recycled commodities dropped nearly 50% on average. To reverse this trend, SunShares realized that governmental and corporate policies for retooling the industrial infrastructure to make use of recycled materials needed to be put into place (virgin material use is still subsidized and preferred). SunShares became active in national policy development through the Recycling Advisory Councils Market Development Committee to advocate federal legislation and infrastructure changes to facilitate the transition to materials reuse and recycling. These efforts paid off in increased governmental mandates for recycled products that brought prices back up and increased production of recycled products and the creation of jobs. Initial policy work by SunShares has focused on those areas in which new or revised policies can foster the next steps in the sustainable transition. 

Carrington Research Extension Center

Carrington, North Dakota

Contact: John C. Gardner, Superintendent; Carrington Research Extension Center; North Dakota State University; P.O. Box 219; Carrington, ND 58421; Tel: (701) 652-2951; Fax: (701) 652-2055; E-mail: 

Scope: Statewide

Inception Date: 1960

Participants: Researchers, farmers, processors, consumers, Native Americans

Project Type: Sustainable agriculture, partnerships, market development 

Methods Used: Whole-systems approach; development of alternative crops; variety in testing methods; value-added projects; team approach of researchers, educators, farmers, processors, and consumers 

Lessons Learned: Integration of research into applied farming. Emphasis on whole system approach and sustainability. Support from state government agricultural leadership.


North Dakota is one of the most farming dependent states in the country. Over 64% of the land is in crops. The type of practices used and the crops raised as well as changing economic trends and agricultural policy have had a broad impact on the health of its land, air and water and the economic viability of farming. 

The Carrington Research Extension Program in central North Dakota has played an important role in influencing choices. Unlike traditional research centers it employs a multi-disciplinary whole-system approach linking agricultural science with economics. The Carrington research and education programs go far beyond basic crop research by developing "value-added" products and new partnerships to meet the needs of farmers, processors and consumers. According to John Gardner, Superintendent of the Center, "We want farmers and consumers to understand each other's needs."

Originally conceived as an irrigation research facility, the Carrington station opened in 1960. Its original mission was to develop new ways for farmers to use water more efficiently, develop irrigated agriculture and to do research on specific vegetable crops. Livestock research was added to help farmers use farm-raised crops, often by-products, to feed cattle. In the 1990s, the focus shifted to an approach that examines a variety of ways to help farmers economically as well as to introduce more environmentally sound farming practices. Now it is more of a community-based land grant institution that intertwines applied science with community education programs in order to set up a mutually beneficial agenda. 

The Carrington Station is located on 1,200 acres. Its staff of 24 carry out more than 36 crop and livestock projects within an annual budget of $1,000,000. It is important to note that about half of its funding comes from the sale of seed and livestock and from foundation, government and industry grants. The remaining comes from the state general fund.

Expanding Sustainable Agriculture

Carrington Center is no ordinary research center. Here sustainability is in evidence throughout the programs with John Gardner a leading proponent. He believes that "sustainability means taking into account how a crop or other agricultural product fits into the social and economic system. We look at the social, economic and environmental impacts, as well as agronomic profiles, of our research." This means that all the aspects of production, processing and consumption are factored into its approach. The focus is on partnerships and whole systems that help to encourage the development of new crops and markets, the reduction of pesticide and fertilizer use, and the potential for increasing the number of local value-added crops. The Center uses a variety of methods to implement these ideas.

• • • Variety and yield tests are run under different controlled conditions at the research facility (dryland, irrigated land) as well as under real-life conditions on farms both on- and off-site. 

• • • Diverse crops are raised (oilseeds, grain legumes, and grasses) so that the farmer can choose what is best suited to the land rather than continuing to grow traditional crops that deplete the soil. 

• • • Research is conducted on the cost-effective use of herbicides. In the future this will include the use of integrated pest management strategies. 

• • • Experiments in processes that add value to crops such as uses for agricultural by-products for cattle and fish feed, fuels and fertilizer are carried out. 

• • • Under the livestock program, cattle act as "recyclers" of the crop residues; all manure is composted.

• • • Programs, consultations, and educational extension meetings are carried out statewide. 

Two examples illustrate these methods: the growing of crambe as an alternative crop and the introduction of aquaculture for value-added potential and recycling, closed loop production. 


Over 50% of the crops in North Dakota are wheat and barley. In recent years, the Center has been influential in persuading some farmers to experiment with crambe, a cousin of the mustard family. It was first introduced by Carrington in 1990 as an alternative oilseed crop for use both as an oil (lubricants, plastic coating, hair conditioner, and a chocolate additive) and as a meal (for cattle). As many as 60,000 acres have been planted.

Its assets are many: it is pest-resistant, high-yielding, environmentally desirable as a nontoxic lubricant, and suitable for rotations and less fertile land. It requires fewer purchased inputs and has low production costs. It has the additional advantage of saving taxpayers money by reducing subsidies which currently represent 30% - 40% of the region's income. In certain cases the yields have been more profitable than wheat.


To develop a new economic alternative as well as a new value-added agricultural product, Carrington recently opened a Northern Aquaculture Center in conjunction with the North American Fish Farmers Cooperative using a grant of $250,000 from the Rural Development Administration. This fish farming venture is set up as a processing/marketing cooperative as well as a research facility to study the feasibility of closed-loop indoor aquaculture. Consistent with its whole-system philosophy, Carrington is researching the use of alternative crops and manufacturing byproducts for fish feeds, thus increasing demand and price for the traditional and alternative crops grown in the state. The effect of these feeds on water quality and the cost of production will be among the factors monitored. 

Elements for Success 

The defining elements of the Carrington Center are the focus on sustainability, participatory processes, and a whole-system approach that expands its role into a forward-looking, interdisciplinary facility. As a governmental institution it is unusually experimental — in its words, "taking from test tube to landscape and everything in between." As in many successful enterprises, leadership is key, and John Gardner is a passionate advocate of sustainability above and beyond the reach of the Center. He has adopted many other environmentally-beneficial practices on the state farm and modeled social sustainability by transforming an historic house into a thriving cultural center. 

According to Dr. Gardner, "The concept [of sustainability] has not been a hard sell." Much of the environmental interest in these approaches has come from the large contingent of state residents who have longstanding wildlife and environmental interests. Many are concerned about water quality and the health of their families. Practitioners of organic farming who work with the Center are already practicing sustainable agriculture. Others have recently adopted more sustainable practices for the social and economic benefits.

Admirers of the Center cite one of its main accomplishments as the process of partnership with farmers and participatory research which weaves applied science into community education and visioning. It has been effective in working with farmers on long-term, whole farm approaches that reduce costs and identify opportunities to add value to farm products. It has also helped smaller producers find niche markets and partner with processing plants and marketing services for alternative crops. 

The Center has also facilitated collaborations. It has opened communications between and engaged the university, government and private sectors in collaborative undertakings. By creating an informal network that can address problems, it provides a more coordinated framework for problem-solving. It has also worked with the Northern Plains Sustainable Agriculture Society, a grassroots educational organization that promotes ecologically- and socially-sound food production that currently covers roughly 22,000 acres in organic production.

Additionally, the Carrington Center has influenced the work at other research stations as well as that of its staff. In its experiments with alternative pest control, for example, where chemicals are seen as a last resort, it attracted interest from other centers, resulting in the adoption of biological pest control. Indirectly, it has influenced the sustainability of the family farms by offering a greater diversity of crops that are best suited to the specific aspects of the land and that will offer a good return on investment. 


There is more work to be done in certain areas. For example, in the past, market research has been limited for alternative crops and little emphasis put on their development. New crops are often developed before potential uses or markets are defined. This can influence the receptivity of farmers to being in the vanguard of those who are willing to make the switch to lesser-known varieties. Traditional family farm values and generations who have always grown the same crops also play a role.

Unpredictable changes in processing facilities and market partners have presented other difficulties. In the case of crambe, the processing company's operations were halted when the parent company wanted to be in the more lucrative parts of food production. Finally, public policies that determine the economic distribution of wealth among input producers and the processing and marketing sectors also present difficulties.

Carrington's leadership in research and education has already helped to meet these challenges and needs of farmers in North Dakota. As additional potential profits are obtained from farming sustainably and as assistance in developing markets for new crops and by-products becomes available, more farmers are likely to make the transition.

Rural Action

Athens, Ohio

Contact: Carol Kuhre, Executive Director; One Mound Street; Athens, OH 4570; Tel: (614) 593-7490; Fax: (614) 593-3228; E-mail:

Scope: Multi-county in Southeast Ohio Inception Date: 1982

Participants: Residents, non-profit organizations, businesses, universities, local and regional government agencies

Project Type: Comprehensive community development, economic development, leadership development/training

Methods Used: Area-wide collaboration with other organizations; broadbased citizen participation in developing and implementing projects; extensive training and education programs; anticipatory, long-term, and integrative planning; investment in social capital; local generation and circulation of dollars

Lessons Learned: The key to giving residents hope through their participation in a sustainable community is to provide well-designed training and projects that have measurable results. For this Rural Action places special emphasis on project development, training, benchmarking and collaborative undertakings.

"Southeast Ohio contains a wealth of human and natural resources that, when put to good use, can promote the co-existence of the environment, the economy, and the society as a whole."

Rural Renewal Strategy


Rural Action was formed in 1982 to educate and train citizens on issues of economic and environmental justice. In 1990 it redirected its focus and adopted a broadbased, pro-active strategy to promote economic and social development, revitalize communities, and protect the environment. 

The focus of its work is in the Appalachian region of Southeast Ohio. There the boom and bust cycles resulting from reliance on extraction-based economies has led to poverty, unemployment, poor social and physical infrastructure, illiteracy, ill health, and family instability.

Rural Action works with over 25 grassroots organizations, 10 issue-oriented committees, regional agency representatives, and scores of individual citizens to improve the environmental, economic and social fabric of the 20 counties served by Rural Action. In 1994 the small staff was augmented by 31 VISTA volunteers, most recruited locally, and six AmeriCorps volunteers. The latter work through Rural Action's HealthCorps to improve health education and access. The annual budget of $150,000 (excluding VISTA salaries) consists of grants, donations (cash and in kind), revenues from events, membership dues and capital and major donor drives.

The Rural Action strategy

Innovative planning and broad participation and collaboration among many sectors of the community are key to Rural Action's Rural Renewal strategy. The process includes four components: organizational development, a civic democracy initiative, a sustainable communities program, and a projects development initiative.

By implementing these objectives, Rural Action is building its own internal capacity as well as human capital resources in order to train and assist community members throughout Appalachia. It uses a well-crafted developmental process to create, plan and implement projects. Every project must meet sustainability criteria before it is selected and given a project director. Volunteers, leadership development and training, and many other types of assistance are made available to each project.

Integrated initiatives

Ten issue committees, made up of Rural Action members, help plan and implement a variety of programs. They address diverse yet interrelated issues - sustainable agriculture, environmental conservation,, restoration and management, heritage and cultural preservation, and projects designed to meet specific human needs such as affordable housing, health, and access to credit.

The programs include:

• • • a ten-year project to clean up and restore streams in two watersheds severely polluted by acid mine runoff. The RestoreCorps, made up of youth, students and juvenile offenders, works on tree planting, stream cleanup and bank stabilization projects.

• • • a Pesticide Reform project which has successfully encouraged the adoption of Ohio's first safe pesticide management policy in a local school district;

• • • a ReUse Industries project to help reduce waste and create jobs;

• • • an Oral History project and an historical mural created by 300 elementary school children in one town which has spawned similar projects in other towns and promoted the conservation of historical and cultural resources;

• • • an affordable housing program, an Emergency Prescription Fund, and the rural transportation project that provides free or low-cost van transportation to meet many needs of low income residents. These are augmented by the development of a wellness center in Trimble and the work of HealthCorps volunteers.

Areas identified for project development work over the next few years include:

• • • affordable housing and self-help housing, including home loans and construction skills training;

• • • agricultural production, processing and marketing, including the promotion of more effective farming and grazing methods and the development of local and regional markets;

• • • energy efficiency, including business audits and a biomass fuel project;

• • • improvement of rural health services;

• • • mobilization of volunteers to meet human and environmental needs, matching trained volunteers to the needs of area individuals, groups and agencies.

Grassroots Leadership, Planning and Networking

Inclusive planning and decision-making within each community balanced by individual initiative and collaboration represent distinctive qualities of Rural Action's strategy. Its team of fieldworkers provide the foundation for all the projects. They assist citizens in each community to identify their own issues and assets and help them plan and implement projects. They provide leadership training, mediation and entrepreneurial services. This grassroots community involvement is key to Rural Action's success.

Rural Action's effectiveness is also boosted through collaboration with 100 other organizations within Ohio as well as with the Central Appalachian Network in five states. VISTA and AmeriCorps volunteers leverage the impact of each project, by providing training and help in housing, health care, environmental clean-up and in other areas.

There is extensive networking among the Rural Action Network organizations as well as among the membership. In 1994 communication was enhanced through access to the Internet by the South East Ohio Regional Free-Nets (SEORF). The establishment of public use terminals in libraries and civic centers will improve public access to this valuable source of information, but issues of cost and illiteracy must still be addressed.

The scope of Rural Action's activities is limited primarily by lack of financial resources. Its funding comes from diverse sources, but the lack of foundations in the multi-county area creates a disadvantage. Within a limited budget, staff also find it difficult to do the necessary travelling to meet with potential funders and to network in the greater community to increase the visibility of its work.

Sustainable Communities Initiative program

Rural Action is meeting the needs of many of its low-income residents in the areas of health, education, housing and access to employment and training. In its new five-year Sustainable Communities Initiative Program it will seek to further increase social capital while restoring the environment. This is a collaborative program with the Mountain Association for Community Economic Development in Kentucky. Each organization will use basic elements but adapt them to the unique areas in which they are working. Rural Action will focus its efforts in the communities of the Sunday and Monday Creek Watersheds. There they will emphasize the development of social capital, which Carol Kuhre describes as the "prime determinant of a community's ability to develop sustainably."

Through its leadership training and mentoring programs it is increasing the skills of those it serves. Locally-organized Sustainable Development Councils will guide these community-based development initiatives. Community-building is promoted through the arts, celebrations and collaboration as well as the involvement of youth in many of the service programs.

Improvement in the environment is occurring through watershed restoration, land trusts, waste reduction and reuse, a biomass fuels project, sustainable agriculture and forestry projects, and the development of safe pest management policies.

Economic needs are being addressed through the formation of a food cooperative, incubator projects such as the Rural Action Supply that sells office supplies and uses local contractors to build the wellness center, and a credit union to serve low-income residents, increase local economic development and promote entrepreneurship. Rural Action, Ohio University and the US Forest Service are also working together in five economically-distressed communities.

Collectively, these locally generated, integrated projects are improving the lives of the residents in communities throughout southeastern Ohio and providing the foundation for a more sustainable future.

Families First!

Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

Contact: Linda Larason; Families First!; P.O. Box 675; Oklahoma City, OK 73101; Tel.: (405) 525-4854; Fax: (405) 525-4853

Scope: Oklahoma City metropolitan area

Inception Date: 1995

Participants: Neighborhood residents, service providers

Project Type: Process-oriented planning, comprehensive community development

Methods Used: Grassroots community development 

Lessons Learned: For a new project to be successful, it is important to constantly go back and assess what worked, what didn't work and why.

Families First! (FF!) is an effort in the Oklahoma City metropolitan area to improve the lives of residents by increasing the capacity for individual, family and neighborhood self-sufficiency. The project is attempting to do this by helping to build bridges between neighbors, blocks and neighborhoods and by linking neighborhoods to resources and policymakers.

Families First! is organizing around the dual premise that everybody has innate abilities and assets that can be developed, and that families are the infrastructure of their communities and need to be strengthened. Families First! defines families as people connected by caring; families can be small groups or entire neighborhoods. "We know that the best prevention [for communities] is finding people's positive assets and developing those assets," says Linda Larason, the acting coordinator of FF! There are four parts to the framework of Families First!:

• • • Clusters are made up of multiple neighborhoods and have populations of 12,000 to 15,000 people. The three county area including Oklahoma City has been divided into 22 Clusters. Volunteer leadership and a paid coordinator will be recruited from within each Cluster. 

• • • Capacity-Building. FF! will partner with cluster residents to do their own assessments, analysis, presentations, prioritizing, planning and action steps that will enable residents to affect the future of their neighborhoods.

• • • The Resource Team is comprised of persons with linkages to governmental and non-profit human service delivery systems. Their purpose is to help the cluster gain entry and access to the system of services in the larger community in the areas of health, education, housing, criminal justice, economic development and the arts.

• • • Community Partners are corporations, small businesses, universities/colleges, church coalitions, and/or hospitals/health care providers that serve as voluntary resources for the cluster. Oklahoma City's four major hospitals are serving as anchor community partners for the initial clusters.

Families First! is a project of the Community Council of Central Oklahoma and is one of 12 initiatives to emerge from Central Oklahoma 2020, a broad-based region-wide planning effort. Families First! is modeled on The Atlanta Project, founded in 1991 by former President Jimmy Carter. The Atlanta Project has coordinators working in each of its 20 clusters, has registered over 100,000 volunteers and has formed partnerships between clusters and 20 major corporations and 18 colleges and universities.

Working with the Community

Near Northwest Neighbors, the first cluster, was established around the Paseo neighborhood of Oklahoma City in June 1995. The core group, composed of 15 community leaders from the five initial neighborhoods, organized a cultural festival which took place at a local middle school on August 1. Although there was a heavy rainstorm, two hundred fifty people came to the festival. They followed the festival with community-wide planning events on August 3 and 5, but the turnout at these events was lower than they had hoped. At their community meetings they identified some key areas to work on including economic development and neighborhood safety.

They are now working to expand both the number and diversity of people involved in their efforts. According to Linda Larason, acting coordinator of Families First!, they are trying "to reach outside of the already identified leadership in areas and reach out to untapped leaders." 

One early achievement of the Near Northwest Neighbors was the creation of the Rolling Thunder Bike program. This program for disadvantaged kids is managed by community leaders but run completely by the youth participants. The program meets in Paseo at the home of a local resident. Kids learn bike safety and repair and also develop respect for each other, according to Deb Johnson of World Neighbors. They also receive free bike helmets for participating in the program. 

This program is entirely funded by the community, with much of the money having been raised at the community festival. "One of the benefits of this program, is that the youth are seeing a positive adult influence," says Johnson. 

Using community development techniques from developing nations

Families First! is working in partnership with World Neighbors, an Oklahoma City-based organization that works on grassroots community development overseas. In Oklahoma, the partnership is designing a participatory community development project using many of the same techniques that have been used in other countries. A major part of the participatory project design is teaching problem analysis—helping people look closely at symptoms and root causes of problems. FF!, along with World Neighbors personnel and local community development professionals are developing a comprehensive Capacity-Building Training Manual for use in the clusters. Trainers, to be selected by FF!, will work in teams of one skilled facilitator and one cluster resident.

Deb Johnson, the development communication coordinator for World Neighbors who is working with FF! explains the benefits of grassroots community development: "Once the community members become organized and know what they want and need they can tap into resources from all over the place. We have started to pull these five neighborhoods into a community. We don't really have community feelings; people shut their doors. We are starting to break down those barriers, getting people out talking to people they hadn't met before."


Families First! has received a Presbyterian Health Foundation grant of $50,000 to fully fund the work with World Neighbors in the first cluster. FF! has a grant pending with the Center for Substance Abuse Prevention of the Department of Health and Human Services for $300,000 per year for three years. If received, the grant will focus on youth development within the Families First! target area. 

The rest of the financial support for FF! will be coming from corporations. FF! is seeking three year funding commitments from corporations and they are getting that from most of the companies that are contributing. They are close to reaching their goal for 1995 for corporate contributions. This will make it easier for FF! to fundraise from other sources in the future because they will only have to ask each corporation for money every three years.

Connecting people to human resources

Linda Larason explains one way that FF! will be working to bring human services closer to the neighborhoods: "In the area where we are working right now there is a lot of substance abuse. Three treatment programs are spread all over town but aren't accessible. We would like to see accomplished a 'one stop shop' for services, a family resource center in local neighborhoods. Then they wouldn't have to negotiate the maze of services."

Once Clusters are organized, the role of Families First! in relation to organized Clusters will be to serve as a bridge between human service agencies and the Clusters and to help the Clusters access the Community Partners and Resource Team.

Learning how to work with the community

One of the greatest challenges for Families First! has been how to interact with the neighborhood groups that are part of the program. "We're trying to steer them and provide guidance without taking over the project," says Linda Larason. She feels that Families First! did not explain clearly enough to people in the first cluster what their mission is and what grassroots community development is all about. She explained that they had a day-long community planning session after the cultural festival, but that the turnout was much lower than hoped for. The staff of Families First! were afraid that this might happen but they didn't want to seem like they were steering the community groups. "We learned that sometimes we should share our experiences with them and not steer entirely away from providing direction. That is a real fine line to walk and will always be a fine line to walk because we don't want them to look at us for direction." 

Families First! doesn't want participating groups to think of themselves as Families First! groups but to have their own identity and their own name. "We bent over backwards initially to avoid looking like we were imposing an agenda on the neighborhoods and in doing so did not articulate well the Families First! philosophy and purpose." says Linda Larason. "That was confusing to people. It made it more difficult to explain. We will not do that again. We do have a purpose and we do have a philosophy. We will state that up front and they can decide whether they want to participate."

Linda Larason says that one of the key elements to the success thus far of Families First! is that the idea came out of Central Oklahoma 2020, a regional visioning process, "I think the fact that it came out of the community planning process that involved a broad cross section of people from social service providers and government people to community volunteers to business leaders, that it evolved from that group of people gave it legitimacy even though it was a brand new idea." 

Applegate Partnership

Applegate, Oregon

Contact: Jack Shipley; Applegate Partnership; CPO Box 3277; Applegate, OR 97530; Tel.: (503) 846-6917; Fax: (503) 846-6917

Kevin Priester; Rogue Institute for Ecology and Economy; P.O. Box 3213; Ashland, OR 97520; Tel: (503) 482-6031; Fax: (503) 482-8581

Scope: Regional, rural

Inception Date: 1992

Participants: Residents, industries, local, state and national natural resource agencies, environmental organizations, and ranching and farming community

Project Type: Natural resource conservation/management, economic development, citizen-led initiative

Methods Used: Consensus meetings, newsletters, projects

Lessons Learned: Building a sense of community is extremely important. Identifying fundamental points of agreement can foster dialogue, cooperation and community. Giving participants equal footing to discuss problems keeps people at the negotiating table.

Summary of Project

The Applegate Partnership provides a community-based, grassroots approach to working with the ecological and economic issues that affect all members of the Applegate River watershed region. Its overarching goal is to promote ecosystem health and diversity and a strong, sustainable economy. 

The Applegate River watershed encompasses an area of 500,000 acres in Jackson and Josephine counties in southern Oregon, and Siskiyou County in California. Sixty-nine percent of the land is publicly owned, and thirty-one percent is held in private ownership. There are about 7,000 households in the area, with 12,000 residents. There are towns but no incorporated communities in the area. The regions major industry is forestry and forestry products.

The Applegate Partnerships mission statement clearly defines its participants, its ecological and economic mission and its methods for carrying it out: 

The Applegate Partnership is a community-based project involving industry, conservation groups, natural resource agencies and residents cooperating to encourage and facilitate the use of natural resource principles that promote ecosystem health and diversity. 

Through community involvement and education, this partnership supports management of all land within the [Applegate] watershed in a manner that sustains natural resources and that will, in turn, contribute to the economic and community well-being within the Applegate Valley.


The Applegate Partnership was founded in October 1992 when a group of environmentalists, timber industry representatives, federal agency land managers, farmers, ranchers, and community representatives gathered to talk about common views they shared about how the forests of the area should be managed. They shared a mutual desire to formulate a local solution that could address both the ecological and economic issues over which they had been fighting: Until that time, environmental activists and the forest products community had been involved for two decades in a continuing conflict over management of the region's public forest lands. Managing for healthy forests was something every one could agree on. Forest health brought the Partnership members together because they all wanted healthy, resilient forest ecosystems. 

The Applegate Partnership

The Applegate Partnership is run by a board of directors and alternates that include representatives of the North Applegate Watershed Protection Association, the Rogue Institute for Ecology and Economy, the Applegate Watershed Conservancy, the Southern Oregon Timber Industry Association, one timber company, an independent logger and farmer, Southern Oregon State College, the Farm Bureau, and Thompson Creek Residents for Ecological Education (TREE). Representatives of the Bureau of Land Management and the United States Forest Service were members of the board but became inactive as board members after objections that their participation violated the Federal Advisory Committee Act.

The Applegate Partnership began meeting four times a month on Wednesdays. These meetings continue, two Wednesday evenings and two Wednesday mornings each month. 

The organization is not hierarchical and has no permanent paid staff. It does not intend to exist beyond several more years. There are no acting officers and no chairperson. Conveners of the meetings, who rotate every meeting, help facilitate the meetings. From the beginning, the idea of the organization was to provide a setting in which people, who usually fought with one another, could work together. They found that members generally agree on about eighty percent of the land use issues. And in working together they have learned to regard each other as decent people, not enemies.

Model for AMAs

The idea of the Partnership was greeted with great enthusiasm by those concerned with the battles between environmentalists and producers in timber regions. In developing President Clinton's Forest Plan, the Department of the Interior cited the Applegate Partnerships process as a model for other forest-based communities. Under the Forest Plan, ten Adaptive Management Areas (AMAs) have been established in the west as sites for experimentation with the kind of substantive community participation in forest management planning that the Partnership exemplifies. 

The Partnership experienced an adjustment in its participation when one of the regional environmental groups withdrew because of the Partnerships links to the AMAs. Some environmental groups see the AMAs as fronts for increased timber harvest. Following this, representatives of the federal agencies were ordered not to take part in the meetings because of the Federal Advisory Committee Act which requires that the agencies control any such meetings. 

The Partnership, however, continued to meet regularly and overcame the setbacks. The federal government appointed an inter-agency liaison to attend the meetings. The environmental group that withdrew still continues to work with the Partnership on projects. And the Partnership has increased its base of local support by dealing with a number of important local issues. 

Funding the Partnership

An important part of the Applegate Partnerships activity is the Applegate Watershed Council. The board members of the Applegate Partnership along with other interested community members are members of the council. State lottery money is disbursed through the Watershed Councils in Oregon to be used for restoration activities in watershed areas. The Applegate Watershed Council has received almost $500,000 in lottery money for various restoration projects. The money also funds the Applegate Partnership newsletter, Applegator, published six times a year. And it pays for people to supervise some of the projects.

The Partnership is applying for non-profit status. Since it formed, funds received have been funnelled through organizations represented in the Partnership that have non-profit status. The Partnership now is in the process of applying for project-specific funds from federal, state and private sources.

Applegate Partnership Projects

The Partnership has a number of on-going projects that build on local cooperation to provide for environmental, economic and social needs. A number of the projects are funded for the next two or three years. Projects include:

• • • providing for irrigation ditch projects such as headgates that improve agricultural capability and fisheries habitat restoration; 

• • • improving access roads to reduce soil erosion; and

• • • providing free fencing for anyone who needs it to protect riparian habitat. 

In the spring of 1995, the Partnership provided 60,000 trees that were planted on 140 individual properties. Several people were paid for part time work to supervise the project. Five-hundred volunteers did the planting. That project will continue in the spring and fall for the next two years. 

Other opportunities for the timber industry, environmental groups, agencies and universities to work together have resulted in cooperative stream surveys, and watershed planning and integration using Geographic Information System mapping. In Summer 1996, the Partnership plans to employ 40 high school students at about 7$ to 8$ an hour to do projects in conjunction with a watershed-wide fuels reduction / fire management plan in which the Partnership, the BLM, the U.S. Forest Service, State Forestry, and private land holders are participating. 

The Applegate Partnership also participates in a group called the Lead Partnership, a coalition of ten watershed groups similar to the Partnership. They meet monthly to discuss issues in common and, with the help of the Irvine Foundation, are organizing a summit (to be held October 6-7, 1995) to bring together national environmental and timber organizations to talk about how the communities of place can work with the communities of interest.

Commitment Key to Success

According to members, several key elements have led to the Applegate Partnership success. One is that the group meets four times every month to ensure that as many people as possible have a chance to participate and make their concerns and ideas a part of the solution. In fact, anyone attending any meeting is encouraged to participate in the entire process. People with strong positions on any given issue are often asked to chair a subcommittee to develop solutions. Another is the refusal to establish a normal hierarchical organization so all participants have equal status, an important consideration in maintaining relationships between people with strongly opposing views. And finally, as one member says, "The Partnership is not for the faint of heart. Luckily we have had a group of people who are just too stubborn to give up. It's an extremely committed group."

Green Harvest Program

McKeesport, Pennsylvania

Contact: Barbara Nicholas, Resource Development & Information Systems Manager; Greater Pittsburgh Community Foodbank; P.O. Box 127; McKeesport, PA 15134-0127; Tel.: (412) 672-4949; Fax: (412) 672-4740; E-mail:

Scope: Local/regional, urban/rural

Inception Date: 1991

Participants: Residents, farmers, volunteers

Project Type: Urban gardens, community supported agriculture, food production, job training

Methods Used: Education, training, demonstration, volunteer donations

Lessons Learned: A diversity of potential urban / rural linkages exist that benefit interests in both areas; skill-building is critical to helping low-income people move away from dependence on assistance.

Summary of Project 

The Green Harvest sustainable food system project was developed by the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank in 1991 to generate nutritious produce for low income people while facilitating agricultural sustainability, economic development, and urban beautification in communities it serves. The program encourages self-sufficiency within local communities by teaching gardening skills, providing Food Bank member agencies with easier access to locally produced fruits and vegetables, and promoting the local economy with small business development. The Food Bank also attempts to link Green Harvests efforts with those of other projects designed to address the root causes of hunger and poverty. 

The project uniquely combines environmental concerns, community economic development, and direct service to low-income people in the following ways: 

• • • As a sustainable agriculture program and environmen-tal enterprise that has resulted in new jobs (especially in low-income urban communities);

• • • By promoting accessible, well-planned garden space and retaining the community focus in urban/public housing areas; and

• • • By providing a multitude of opportunities for citizen and youth involvement in sustainable agriculture and environmental issues.

The Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank, a non-profit food distribution warehouse, distributes over one million pounds of food and grocery products monthly to over 370 soup kitchens, shelters, food pantries, and low income day care and senior citizen's feeding programs in Southwestern Pennsylvania. It has been in operation since 1980. Its 1995 budget is $2.3 million, of which about $1.2 million is derived from donations and grants, $700 thousand from "regular shared maintenance" fees (of .05, .07 or .10 cents per pound to cover the cost of sorting and packaging donated food), and $72,000 from its wholesale program.

Revenues to support the Green Harvest program come from CSA shareholder fees (see Longview Food Bank Farm, below), sales to farmstands, seed and produce sales, and foundation support that includes funding from an anonymous local foundation, the Center for Rural Pennsylvania, and Share Our Strength. Community Development Block Grant funding helped secure needed equipment for the farm. Total project revenues for 1995 are estimated at $196,800. 

Program Components

The Green Harvest project has six inter-related components: Gleaning, Community Gardens, Longview Food Bank Farm, the Farmstand Project, Market Gardens, and links to City Parks Farmers Markets. The components link to one another and to the Food Bank in a variety of ways, as described in the following: 

• • • Gleaning, a strategy for eliminating food waste on farms, organizes volunteers to pick surplus fruits and vegetables from local fields and orchards. When a farmer has edible crops that might otherwise go to waste, s/he calls the food bank and volunteer "gleaners" are sent to harvest the food for the benefit of the Food Bank's member agencies. The volunteers, which number in the hundreds, come from colleges, churches, member agencies, and businesses. Farmers who donate their produce to charity can benefit from tax credits. Since 1991, over 148,000 pounds of fruits and vegetables have been gleaned for the use of the Food Bank. In 1994, over 50,000 pounds of food were harvested during a total of 12 gleaning efforts. The estimates for 1995s gleaned harvest is 60,000 pounds. 

• • • Community Gardens, organized to empower residents of low-income urban or public housing communities to learn to grow and share their own vegetables, are located throughout the Pittsburgh area. In the era when air pollution from industry was high, low-income housing was built on hill tops—places where no one else wanted to live. Consequently, the low income areas of Pittsburgh, which are for the most part isolated and difficult to reach, have inadequate sources of high quality food. What is available is expensive and generally inferior. To address the need of these communities for high quality and reasonably priced food, the Food Bank offers seeds, equipment, and technical support for community gardeners in the first year of assistance. Involvement by the Food Bank is designed to lessen each year until the gardens operators become self-reliant and are able to maintain the garden on their own. The gardens beautify vacant urban land, bring residents together to improve their communities and learn new skills, and provide thousands of pounds of food to residents and local pantries. Since 1991, community gardens have been established in 11 separate urban communities. In 1995, the Food Bank is working with five community gardens, and a summer youth program that will engage 50 youth in neighborhood beautification, organic gardening and recycling projects, with related field trips throughout the summer.

• • • Longview Food Bank Farm is a certified organic farm located in Armstrong County, 35 miles north of Pittsburgh. The project currently uses 20 acres of the 125 acre family-owned farm. In 1994, the Food Bank assumed responsibility for operating the farm with the help of its owners and the families who are members of the related Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program (see below). The Food Bank employs a farm supervisor who coordinates the growth of several acres of produce that are planted and harvested by volunteer groups, including many young people, and distributed to member agencies free of charge. A second parcel of land is dedicated to the CSA program, which grows produce for "shareholders" in the Greater Pittsburgh area who pay to have weekly packages of organic produce delivered to their neighborhoods during the growing/harvesting season. The farm also houses a demonstration garden and serves as host to high school, college, community garden, and farmstand workshops. The revenue generated by the CSA supports a portion of Green Harvests operating expenses. In 1994 $25,215 was generated from 81 CSA share fees. In 1995, 100 share fees are expected to produce $32,500 in revenues. Since 1991, the farm has produced more than 89,000 pounds of organic vegetables for the Food Bank. In 1994, the yield was 35,000 pounds. The goal for 1995 is an increase to 52,000 pounds.

• • • The Farmstand Project, makes fresh, Pennsylvania-grown produce accessible to low income communities through the development and operation of a community-run farmstand. It also provides small-scale business training and employment opportunities for community residents. The project, in a method similar to the Community Garden Project, aims to empower residents through technical assistance and training to eventually maintain the seasonal profit-generating produce stands themselves. Farmstands are run by managers who are residents of the communities. They accept cash, food stamps, and WIC Farmers Market coupons, and are supplied with produce from Longview Food Bank Farm and several other local grower/suppliers. Managers and staff are responsible for decision-making at their stands, including produce selection and sales/marketing techniques. Profits generated by Farmstands are used to sustain the project in future seasons. Host agencies in the communities act as program sponsors. Sites for Farmstands are chosen based on evidence of community support and location within needy communities. In 1994, farmstands were established in six separate inner-city communities. In 1995, six will be in operation, with six being assisted by the Farm Bank. This year also ushered in an expanded educational training program for Farm Stand staff that spans six one-day sessions. Topics covered included: advertising/community support, marketing, bookkeeping, sales and price-setting, produce and nutrition, and organic farming. As part of the training program, the Green Harvest Project developed a comprehensive manual to assist participants in the program. Included in the content are program requirements, a garden calendar, garden design and planning guidelines, growing methods, and information on soil, compost, mulches, seeds, insects, weeds, and diseases.

• • • Market Gardens link community gardens with Farmstands. Under this arrangement, community gardeners will be able to grow produce to supply a portion of the vegetables for sale at their own community Farmstands. In 1995, a third year community garden will link with a first year farmstand location. Also, with funding from the Center for Rural Pennsylvania, the assistance of Slippery Rock University interns, a search for a large gardening plot within the city limits will be conducted. The goal is to employ homeless and low income people as farmstand suppliers. Other markets for the produce may be developed as well.

• • • City Parks Farmers Markets are another way area farmers assist in feeding the hungry. The Green Harvest Coordinator, at the beginning of the season, links Farmers Markets and Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank member agencies so that at the end of market day, unsold produce is not wasted but picked up by an agency closest to the market. This strategy is expected to harvest approximately 25,000 pounds of food in 1995.

Skill-Building to Break Free From Dependence

The Green Harvest Project/Food Bank has not encountered challenges or barriers that it has not been able to resolve, either by reassessing expectations or by developing strategies to address them. The project is helping to fill the void created by the sharp decline in government commodity foods for the hungry. USDA allocations have been cut by approximately 75% in the last two years. As local agencies requesting donated food continues to grow the services of the Food Bank become increasingly important. In turning this challenge into a benefit, the Food Bank has come to realize that the production of wholesome, locally grown foods is a more self-sustaining and effective plan to meet the needs of the hungry. In addition, growing, selling, and harvesting food locally makes effective use of local land resources, stimulates the local economy, and exposes many people to the benefits of sustainable agriculture and social issues, such as hunger. And, realizing that it is no longer enough to provide increasing quantities of food to meet the needs of the poor and hungry, the project is addressing the root causes of hunger by giving people skills to break free from dependence on private food assistance.

Woonasquatucket River Greenway Project

Providence, Rhode Island

Contact: Jane B. Sherman, Project Director; The Providence Plan; 740 Hospital Trust Building; 15 Westminster Street; Providence, RI 02903; 

Tel.: (401) 455-8880; Fax: (401) 331-6840

Scope: Providence neighborhoods along the Woonasquatucket River

Inception Date: 1993

Participants: Community groups, statewide conservation organizations, educational institutions, city, state and federal agencies and residents from communities along the Woonasquatucket River

Project Type: Greenways, public education, restoration/cleanup

Methods Used: Environmental education, river clean-ups, community-wide events 

Lessons Learned: Take one step at a time. It is important to maintain strong lines of communication among the people and organizations working on the project

The Woonasquatucket River Greenway Project in Rhode Island is an attempt to use the clean-up and revitalization of a river corridor as a catalyst for change in the economically depressed communities near the river. The Project is working to develop a greenway along the Woonasquatucket River along with opportunities for recreation, education, conservation, and community and economic development. 

The Woonasquatucket runs through some of Providence's poorest neighborhoods and represents a potential recreational resource for these communities which are sorely lacking in recreational outlets for their children. Olneyville, the neighborhood that most of the river corridor passes through, is one of the neighborhoods in Providence designated as a federal Enterprise Community (EC) area and will receive economic development grants from the program. Only half of local residents have graduated from high school and over 36% of children live in poverty. While there is evidence of people occasionally walking along sections of the river, there is little active use of the river by community members, and there is no formal programming of events or activities in the river corridor. Two of the three publicly owned greenspaces along the river are closed and undeveloped. 

The focus of the project will be the development of a 4.4-mile greenway and bicycle/pedestrian path stretching from the Johnston/Providence border to Waterplace Park in downtown Providence. Within a ten-minute walk of the proposed Greenway, there are only 2.1 acres of park space per 1000 residents, no soccer fields and four basketball courts. The project will provide visible and physical access to the now hidden river. 

The goals of the Woonasquatucket River Greenway Project are as follows:

• • • increase the recreational and green space available to local residents;

• • • promote business development and reduce crime;

• • • promote river conservation and environmental action;

• • • increase awareness of local history and river ecology.

The Greenway Project is an effort of The Providence Plan, a not for profit corporation and joint venture of the City of Providence and the State of Rhode Island, created "to address the fundamental causes of urban decline, to create hope and new opportunity for the people of Providence, and to revitalize the city's neighborhoods." The Providence Plan is funded one-third by the City, one-third by the State and one-third from other sources.

Rediscovering a hidden community resource

Jane Sherman, Director of the Greenway Project, calls the river "a trashed and hidden natural resource. People aren't even aware that the river is in their neighborhoods." The Greenway Project is attempting to change this by educating local residents about the river.

In February 1994, The Providence Plan and two other local organizations implemented an educational outreach program at six elementary and three middle schools in the Olneyville, Manton and Hartford neighborhoods. Armed with a large tri-panel map of the river and its neighborhoods, along with teacher resource packets filled with river facts, history and classroom ideas, outreach volunteers opened their sessions by asking, "Did you know that there is a river in your neighborhood? Who can tell me its name?" They shared some of the river's history, led discussions about water pollution and talked about creative ideas for what could happen along the river. Several teachers followed up by developing related classroom projects—murals, display boards, a "living map" of the river and an activity workbook—which were displayed at the Olneyville Library and the Woonasquatucket River Greenway Festival. During the summer of 1995, the Greenway Project worked with five community centers and the Olneyville Public Library to set up youth environmental groups that did their own mini-clean-ups in their communities as well as lead testing of paint and soil.

The Greenway Project recently hired a bilingual community outreach coordinator to work with the residents of the neighborhoods along the river. In addition to awareness and planning activities, she will continue the environmental awareness programs which are partially funded by an Environmental Justice Grant awarded to The Providence Plan by the EPA.

River Festivals are annual events that have been created to draw attention to the river. On June 17, 1995, over 750 people attended the Second Annual Woonasquatucket River Greenway Festival. An area business provided at least 500 free canoe rides for local residents, many of whom had never seen a canoe before. The first Woonasquatucket River Greenway Festival was held in Olneyville square on June 11, 1994 and attracted over 250 people. 

River clean-ups

The water in the Woonasquatucket is relatively clean for an urban river—carp and ducks live in it. However, there has been a tremendous amount of trash dumped in the river, including tires, shopping carts and entire automobiles. The Greenway Project has begun organizing river clean-ups to reverse this problem. In May 1994, the Woonasquatucket Neighborhood Cleanup involved over 50 participants from the area. Volunteers picked up litter and debris from various sites along the Woonasquatucket River. On August 9, 1995 there was a neighborhood cleanup with 118 children from 14 - 17 years old from local community centers and the statewide anti-litter program sponsored by the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management. 

Collaborations with other groups and agencies

In January, 1994, the National Park Service announced the adoption of the Woonasquatucket River Greenway Project as part of its Rivers and Trails Conservation Assistance Program. In November, 1994, the Lila Wallace-Reader's Digest Fund announced its Urban Parks Initiative, and awarded a total of $859,632 in grants over four years to the Trust for Public Land and The Providence Plan for developing greenspace along the Woonasquatucket River. Of the total, $419,432 will be disbursed to The Providence Plan for its community involvement efforts in the planning, design and implementation of the project. The Trust for Public Land (TPL), a national nonprofit conservation group and a partner in the Greenway Project, will receive the balance to work on land acquisition and easements. TPL will use most of the funds for environmental assessments of "brownfields," site assessments, legal fees and other aspects of land transactions. They will use $20,000 to create a revolving loan fund for small businesses near the river corridor.

The Providence Departments of Parks and Planning and Development have been active participants in the Woonasquatucket River Coalition and have contributed staff time and expertise to this project. The Rhode Island Department of Administration, Division of Planning, has awarded funds to The Providence Plan for parcel based GIS (geographic information system) mapping of the Woonasquatucket River Greenway Corridor. Funds for preliminary engineering studies of the corridor for a bike and pedestrian path have been allocated by the Department of Transportation through the Congestion Mitigation Air Quality Program. 

"We have benefited from the strong support and participation of non-profit organizations and institutions including universities in Rhode Island, the Rhode Island Audubon Society, Save the Bay, and many local community organizations," says Jane Sherman. "Professor Harold Ward from Brown brought in his class to do studies along the river. University of Rhode Island graduate students conducted neighborhood surveys on housing, recreation and other indicators of neighborhood needs. A Johnson and Wales professor is looking at access points along the river. A representative from the Rhode Island Audubon Society gave a nature walk in an abandoned park along the river. It's a real collaborative effort."

Community participation key to project's success

According to Jane Sherman, one of the greatest current challenges for the Project is to solicit citizen opinion, and then go out and find mechanisms for developing and maintaining the project. "It is the people whose daily lives are and will be affected by the river and its environment who must have a strong voice in what, when, where and how the overall project will develop," stresses Sherman.

There were about 17 meetings in the community during 1995 with attendance ranging from 3 to 30 people. Sherman feels that it is sometimes difficult to draw participants to these meetings because residents are already involved in efforts to improve their community and their own quality of life. "You find in many of these neighborhoods that people have many meetings to attend."

Sherman says that after raising awareness of the river, the Greenway Project is entering a new phase "where we'll be going to the community and talking to them about the role of the river and what they would like to see along it. So rather than ask the community to come to us, it is very important for us to talk to the community where they are. We want to talk to them about how they would like to use the river as a resource in their neighborhoods."

A key element in the early success of the Woonasquatucket River Greenway Project has been the effectiveness of efforts to raise awareness of the river in local communities. According to Jane Sherman there has been a noticeable change in awareness of the Woonasquatucket River. Before the Project began, most area residents didn't even know the name of the river and referred to it using the name of a local supermarket that was near the river. On August 15, 1995, Sherman attended an Olneyville Celebrates Olneyville meeting which included a game of historical and geographic questions about Olneyville. She said that when there was a question asking for the river's name, "There was a chorus of kids answering the name of the river — Woonasquatucket."

Sea Islands Preservation Project

St. Helena Island, South Carolina

Contact: Emory Campbell, Executive Director; Joseph McDomick, Dir., Land Use & Environment Program; Sarah Bobrow, Economic Development Planner; Penn Center; P.O. Box 126; Martin Luther King Jr. Drive; St. Helena Island, SC 29920; Tel: (803) 838-2432; Fax: (803) 838-3139

Scope: Coastal islands of South Carolina

Inception Date: 1992

Participants: Local residents; public officials; local and national nonprofits

Project Type: Economic development, cultural/historic preservation, leadership development/training

Methods Used: Comprehensive planning, training and education, legal assistance

Lessons Learned: Importance of training local leaders; time demands of fund raising on a small staff.

The Sea Islands

The Sea Islands of South Carolina and Georgia are located between the coastal estuaries of the mainland and the Atlantic Ocean. Before the Civil War most of these islands belonged to large plantation owners. In 1861, when Union forces established a headquarters in the coastal town of Beaufort, SC, these properties were abandoned by the owners and in 1862, by an order of President Lincoln, set aside for the soon-to-be-freed slaves. For over a century these natives and their descendants maintained a way of life closely linked to the land, sea and community. Traditional livelihoods that revolved around agriculture, fishing and oystering depended upon basket weaving, fishing net knitting, boat building, and blacksmithing skills. Their language, Gullah, a blending of English and West African languages, is still spoken by some of the residents. 

Recently, however, these communities have come under increasing pressure from resort development, which is polluting the environment and threatening the loss of their land, culture and way of life. Forty percent of South Carolina's coastal shellfish beds are now closed due to pollution from runoff from new roads, parking lots, golf courses, and lawns. Access to sources of sea grass used in traditional basketweaving has been cut off by private coastal development, forcing weavers to buy grass from Georgia and Florida. Property taxes and land values have escalated. 

Although the Sea Islands belong to some of the wealthiest counties in the State, the native population has not shared in this prosperity. Unemployment rates are high and low-skill jobs in the nearby resorts provide low wages, no benefits, and little opportunity for advancement. 

New directions

The Sea Islands Preservation Project was started in 1992 to educate and train local community leaders and landowners in strategies that will preserve their land and the culture and environment of their communities while developing economic activities that are in harmony with the natural environment and traditional way of life. Its main focus is on St. Helena Island, just off Beaufort, SC although its lessons can be applied to many of the other islands equally threatened by extensive resort development. A combination of citizen education and leadership training, sustainable economic development, and land-use planning serves to achieve its preservation goals. Partnerships with regional and national groups enhance its activities and provide much needed legal and financial advice and support.

The Sea Island Preservation Project is a program of the Penn Center, an historic institution, which was founded in 1862 on St. Helena Island by northern abolitionists to teach self-sufficiency. Today, the Penn Center continues this educational focus and, in addition to the Sea Island Preservation Project, has a museum, a conference facility, educational enrichment programs for children, and an early childhood "at-risk" family initiative. Its programs are funded through foundation and government grants.

The Penn School for Preservation

The Project's first priority was to set up a facility to train community leaders and public officials who could then begin the process of building a community vision and formulating a strategic plan for St. Helena Island. The Penn School for Preservation was started in 1993 in collaboration with the South Carolina Coastal Conservation League and the Neighborhood Legal Assistance Program. 

Meeting on weekends for six months, the first class of 37 community leaders and public officials from St. Helena Island and other coastal communities studied planning, zoning, growth management, community economic development, the environment, and other issues. Applying what they had learned, participants then broke up into committees to explore several economic development projects. 

The 1995 class, composed of both graduates of the previous year and new participants, built on this process, drafting specific strategies and holding public forums to broaden the constituency of those committed to a sustainable future for St. Helena Island. Their goal was to create a master plan that would include a economic feasibility study for the development of the Corner Community, the "traditional commercial heart of St. Helena Island"; a set of regulations to preserve the character of this area and revitalize its economy; and land-use goals for the whole island. Between sessions community leaders had the opportunity to attend numerous regional and national conferences on community development issues. 

Home-Grown planning proposal 

The studies done by participants in the Penn School for Preservation formed the basis for both a Master Plan for St. Helena and an application for a U.S. Department of Agriculture Enterprise Community grant, submitted in 1994. Although this grant was not funded, the planning itself initiated numerous comprehensive strategies for human and economic development.

Establishment of an economic development strategy

One of the first steps was to set up the South Carolina Coastal Community Development Corporation (SCCCDC) that would be the lead organization for building and implementing economic development strategies, for providing local residents with needed business and leadership skills, and for applying for financing from a variety of sources. 

Based on the Enterprise Community application, the SCCCDC applied for a U.S.D.A. set-aside of $1 million in May 1995 to build a farmers market and food center in the Corner Community that will include a large commercial kitchen to process and then market locally grown produce and seafood. Modeled after the Spokane Business Incubator and Business Center Project in Washington State, it will also house a business center, giving local residents access to computers, fax machines, and on-line computer linkage to food industry databases. 

Product development and marketing strategies

One of the main objectives of the Sea Islands Preservation Project is to develop economic enterprises based on traditional folk arts and crafts, the production of Sea Islands and African specialty foods and agricultural products, fish and seafood, and value-added forest products. Access to loans, technical assistance, and development of local farmers markets and national niche markets for specialty goods are all major components of this goal. To develop local crafts a Folk Art School is planned that will teach traditional arts and crafts, using locally available natural resources such as wood and sea grass. The school will also offer instruction in business techniques and include a marketing component for school graduates. It will be open to non-residents in the summer. 

Legal assistance for land ownership 

Because land has traditionally been handed down to subsequent generations without documentation, the lack of clear titles to property have made land vulnerable to purchase by developers and complicated the access to bank loans for home ownership. Workshops are held to help island residents hold on to family land, giving assistance with wills and deed transfers. Participants are taught how to avoid "partition sales", a strategy used by developers to gain control over a tract of property owned by numerous heirs whose shares are not carefully defined. Individual counseling sessions and assistance help landowners clear title to their property to insure it will remain under their control. Plans are in place to seek funding for home construction. 

Land Use Planning

With the help of graduates of the Penn School the Project researched and analyzed many issues relating to land-use planning and zoning in preparation for the zoning revision required by the state every five years. It has also explored other options to zoning revision such as purchase of "development rights" and conservation easements. It has sought partnerships with national non-profits to help research and fund these efforts. Other studies on property tax and agricultural-use tax issues are also part of the Sea Islands Preservation Project.

Historic building preservation

In order to preserve valuable assets and restore the Corner Community's traditional function as the commercial and cultural center of the community, extensive research has been carried out into a variety of historic designation possibilities, purchasing options of some of the historic buildings, and funding opportunities to accomplish these objectives. 

Sustainable Forestry

To prevent a 328-acre forest on St. Helena from being clear-cut, project staff hired a forester to timber the property in a sustainable manner, selectively cutting trees so that timber would still be available for the future. In the process, the community made a greater profit than had the forest been clear-cut. 


In three years The Sea Islands Preservation Project has shown the community of St. Helena Island what is possible with commitment, expertise and innovative coalition-building. By providing the training and structure needed to create a vision and define objectives, the Project demonstrates that communities can develop successful strategies that have human, economic, and environmental dimensions while preserving traditional lifestyles and values. As with many new undertakings, attention must now be paid to building an infrastructure that can implement these activities, strengthen the capacity to meet complex funding requirements, and keep the momentum going for years to come. However, the groundwork has been laid for a community-based comprehensive approach to economic development that builds on the rich traditions of the past to ensure a sustainable future.

The Lakota Fund

Kyle, South Dakota

Contact: Elsie Meeks, Executive Director; P.O. Box 340; Kyle, SD 57752; Tel.: (605) 455-2500 

Scope: Pine Ridge Reservation

Inception Date: 1987

Participants: Oglala Lakota Tribal members, banks, foundations

Project Type: Alternative lending/investment, community economic development

Methods Used: Peer group microenterprise lending, small business loans, business incubator 

Lessons Learned: It is important to hold to your mission but remain flexible in your strategy. 

The Lakota Fund is a community development organization that fosters the social and economic development of Oglala Lakota tribal members on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. The Fund's main tools are business loans, sectoral intervention and technical assistance applied in a culturally appropriate manner. More recent projects include construction of a small business incubator and affordable housing loan packaging.

Since 1987, the Lakota Fund has made over 220 small and micro-loans amounting to $800,000. Loans are available through two programs: the Circle Banking Project, one of the first micro-enterprise loan funds established in the United States, provides opportunities for both borrowing and saving to people who otherwise lack access to credit and bank accounts. The Small Business Loan Program is the next step in providing access to credit, lending up to $25,000 to individuals who operate small, formal businesses or to start-ups with a feasible business plan.

Circle Banking

Circle Banking uses a peer lending model. Four to six members of a community join together and participate in five training sessions before becoming a certified circle. The members decide who first will receive an initial loan of not more than $400; collateral is not required, but the circle members become co-debtors. Additional loans, ranging from $100 to $1,000, are conditional on successful repayment of the first loan and on regular attendance by circle members. Loan payments and savings deposits are made bi-weekly at circle meetings with a staff member.

Lakota Fund Director Elsie Meeks notes that much of the program is about education. "If I were to identify the one most valuable aspect of Circle Banking, I would have to say that learning to deal with and solve problems is more important than even the loans." Although circle lending generates only one tenth of the volume of individual loans, the program reaches the poorest in the community with the least financial experience. Meeks describes how an initial loan of $250 several years ago gave a mother of five children who was a recovering alcoholic a chance to become independent, start her own custom beading business and begin steps toward getting off welfare. She was able to remain sober, became Chairperson of her circle, does not miss meetings or payments on successive loans, has seen her sales rise each year, and sets an example for other circle members throughout the community.

Support for small businesses

To receive a Small Business Loan for a start-up, an entrepreneur must take a six week training course that screens out people unwilling to invest the time and effort to create a successful business. The course assists people to learn from each other while learning the fundamentals of business success. Lakota Fund staff provide the training, review applications, monitor reporting and debt collection. The Fund also provides technical assistance for business plans and for ongoing operations.

The Lakota Fund began in 1987 as a project of the First Nations Development Institute, based in Virginia. For fourteen years, First Nations has worked with tribes and Native people to "change the economic environment of reservations to one that builds on local resources, is sustainable, recognizes Native knowledge and culture, and supports development from within." Meeks notes that becoming independent from First Nations in 1991 was a milestone in the development of the Lakota Fund because "then we took the responsibility for our success or failure."

When the Lakota Fund began, staff had run their own businesses but lacked experience in lending and organizational development. The "long learning curve" was one of the barriers they had to overcome. Besides First Nations, their most important resources were the other new micro-enterprise loan funds grappling with similar issues. The National Association of Community Development Loan Funds and the Association for Enterprise Opportunities facilitated networking. The Ms. Institute's Collaborative Fund for Women's Economic Development and Economic Development Training Institute also provided assistance.

Now an independent organization, the Lakota Fund is staffed by four tribal members. The nine-member Board of Directors is also composed of tribal members who reside on the reservation, with one slot left open for a professional from outside (this slot is currently filled by a tribal member from a neighboring reservation). Having community members who are committed to the area as the staff and board has been a key element of the Fund's success and survival.

The Lakota Fund's budget in 1994 was $328,442. The organization generated $36,500 in interest income from loans and investments. The rest came from foundations, corporations, individuals and religious organizations willing to invest in the fund for a 0-4% rate of return. 

The Fund's loan loss rate is about 10 percent and delinquencies range from 15-25 percent, sometimes as high as 35 percent. These rates, however, must be judged in their extremely high risk context. The Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, the home of over 20,000 Oglala Lakota, ranked as the poorest county in the United States in both the 1980 and 1990 Census. Unemployment on the reservation hovers between 75 and 85 percent; the main source of income to the reservation is federal programs for education, health and tribal government, ranching and farming. Most of this income is spent outside in border towns because of the lack of a business sector on the reservation.

The Lakota Trade Center

One of the main barriers to setting up businesses on the reservation has been the lack of available commercial space. In May 1995, the Lakota Fund broke ground for the construction of the Lakota Trade Center, a 13,000 sq. Ft. building that will house the Fund and provide commercial space for seven retail or service businesses. These ventures will remain in the center for three to five years, until they can construct and operate out of their own space. The $1.25 million construction project is being funded by a $1 million grant from the Economic Development Administration, $180,000 from the Bush Foundation, and $80,000 from NorWest Bank/South Dakota. Rental income will cover operating expenses. 

One of the tenants in the new facility will be an arts and crafts marketing cooperative. Because many of the Circle Banking Project members are arts and crafts producers, the Lakota Fund began to offer informal marketing assistance. This program will now become a formal entity with its own board of directors. NorWest Bank has approached the Fund about opening a branch office in the new Lakota Trade Center. The Fund had considered developing a credit union but may choose the bank branch rather than taking on another new project.

The former director of the Lakota Fund, Gerald Sherman, asserts that "Indian people have shown that they will not accept those things that are culturally or environmentally damaging but will allow new concepts to become culturally appropriate." He believes that the peer lending method used by Circle Banking is more successful than previous methods tried in Pine Ridge because it modifies the traditional tiyospaye, or living group, in a way that is acceptable, and because the method allows people to use the money on their own terms. For example, one woman who uses her loans to buy materials for quilting makes two quilts at a time, selling one and keeping one to give away since "the traditional measure of wealth was not how much you could accumulate but how much you had to give." She uses part of her earnings to make loan payments and the rest to buy more supplies.

New focus areas

The Lakota Fund remains flexible in developing new programs and focus areas in order to fulfill its mission. Recently, the Fund has begun to work on affordable housing development, also a huge need on the reservation, by packaging housing loans for the Farmers' Home Mortgage Association under a contract with the Housing Assistance Council to build expertise in this area on the reservation. The Fund is beginning to discuss packaging a low-income housing project. Later, after careful planning and research, the Fund may go on to capitalize a housing loan fund.

Highlander Research and Education Center Environmental Economic Program (EEP) 

New Market, Tennessee

Contact: Susan Williams; Coordinator; Environmental Economic Program; Highlander Research and Education Center; 1959 Highlander Way; New Market, TN 37820; Tel: (615) 933-3443; Fax: (615) 933-3424

Scope of organization: Rural areas in the Appalachian region and the deep South 

Inception Date: 1932

Participants: Individuals, nonprofit organizations, Latino, African American and Native American communities

Project Type: Leadership development/training, community development, coalition building

Methods Used: Residential education, adult leadership training, workshops, resource and financial support 

Lessons Learned: Solutions come from the people. Effectiveness of convening individuals from diverse backgrounds and interests. 

"People were in pretty bad shape. But at Highlander we learned how to handle our daily problems, to do by organizing, by showing our power and our strength. . . The most important thing the people ever learned from Highlander was how we could help ourselves." 

—Henry Thomas

Unearthing Seeds of Fire: The Idea of Highlander


Located on a farm in the Smoky Mountains in East Tennessee the Highlander Research and Education Center, formerly the Highlander Center, began in 1932. For over half a century it has helped individuals to empower themselves through an effective process of learning and discovery that evolved under the tutelage and dedication of one of its founders, the late Myles Horton, and many others. Its participatory learning approach has proven to be a very effective means for persons from all different backgrounds to begin to think in new ways and to apply the information to local issues that they choose to address. 

Over the decades Highlander has been known principally for its work on social change and education in the areas of labor, civil rights and Appalachian issues. In 1981 a PBS documentary featuring the work of Highlander was presented by Bill Moyers. In 1982, the Center was nominated for a Nobel Peace prize in recognition of its work on behalf of human rights. 

Highlander works mainly with community groups in Appalachia and the deep South, servicing the areas not usually served by mainstream programs: the coal hollows of eastern Kentucky, the coastal regions of South Carolina, and Native American and growing Hispanic communities in the southern region. This is an area that continues to lead the nation in poverty: the South has over half the nation's persistently poor rural counties and the highest percentage of the nation's working poor. Because of the difficult working conditions and environmental degradation in these communities, Highlander has been developing programs that integrate both economic and environmental strategies. 

Highlander's board and staff reflect the diverse cultures it serves. Half the Board are people of color and its staff reflects racial and gender diversity. Highlander's support is primarily from individual donations and grants from foundations and churches. It also receives revenues from the sales of its publications and rental of its facilities.

Facilitating Change

Highlander conducts residential workshops, provides ongoing technical assistance, helps organizations network, and carries out field work in communities. It has an extensive resource center in New Market which is available to individuals and groups. Through its participatory research program it documents local cultures. Through its youth and internship programs it helps to develop future leaders. 

In the 1990s it has begun to link issues and constituencies in a broader context. It describes its programs as multi-issue, multi-cultural and inter-generational. These include:

• • • An Environmental Economic Education Program

• • • A Community Environmental Health Program

• • • Southern Appalachian Leadership Training Program

• • • Culture and Diversity Initiative

• • • Global Education Project

• • • A Residential Education Program

Environmental Economic Program (EEP)

In 1989 a new initiative was created to link economic and environmental issues and programs. Formerly segmented programs were coordinated under a single program. The goal of this program is to bring together individuals from diverse communities to analyze their problems, share ideas, learn from each other's experiences, and to develop action plans that can be implemented in their own communities.

In each periodic cycle, three to seven community-based organizations are selected which represent a wide range of issues. For practical reasons, most of the selected representatives are from the nearby region. The selection process is competitive and staff members make site visits to assess the organization's capability and commitment to carry out a project. 

The number of participants depends on the availability of funding. Each organization commits to attend five weekend workshops and to develop and implement a project in their community that will contribute to its long-term sustainability. For example, they have examined such issues as the cleanup of abandoned PCB dumps, explored the feasibility of rural recycling programs, and identified opportunities for using organic agriculture to save black-owned family farms.

One indication of the growing effectiveness of this program is the increase in numbers of applications received and the numbers of organizations that are willing to commit the time and resources necessary to participate. For most organizations this is a significant outlay of time and resources, especially those staffed by volunteers. Common limitations include lack of funding and personnel and adequate background in leadership training. Each organization receives a stipend up to $4000 to cover expenses. 

Most of the workshops take place at Highlander but every attempt is made to schedule one or two in one of the participating organization's neighborhood. This has the benefit of increasing understanding of local conditions as well as cultural, racial and ethnic issues. 

Recent participating groups included one in West Virginia located in an area that has suffered from economic and environmental degradation as a result of coal mining. As a result of Highlander's training, this group has been able to galvanize the community to rebuild the sewer system and other parts of the infrastructure. In Atlanta, another group in a low to middle income neighborhood successfully had a nearby site redesignated from a proposed landfill into a neighborhood park. 

Although it is difficult to document or even evaluate some of the outcomes that result from this practical, hands-on process, there seems to be a greater application of integrative thinking in strategic project development and problem-solving. Another change that is occurring is greater long-term thinking. This is important as most of what our society and institutions encourage and reward is short-term approaches that may work for the near term but do not develop the foundation nor invite the widespread participation that can offer more permanence and chance of long-range sustainability. 

In April 1993 Highlander brought together fifteen groups to evaluate the impact of the program. In addition to the training, many have found Highlander's publications to be extremely valuable in developing and implementing their projects. Some of the groups with whom it has worked include Rural Action, the Community Farm Alliance, Jesus People Against Pollution and Americans for a Clean Environment.

Catalyst for Other Initiatives

Some of the groups who have benefitted from Highlander's training have proceeded to form other organizations. One example is the Coalition for Jobs and the Environment which led to the creation of the Clinch Powell Sustainable Development Forum, a regional consortium of community organizations, small businesses and public agencies in southwestern Virginia and upper east Tennessee. With assistance from the Virginia Center on Rural Development, the Forum is working to help communities meet their needs; establish ecologically sensitive businesses, promote sustainable livelihoods, and sustain local resources. Since its inception in 1993 it has created the Highlands Bio-Produce Network; eco-log, an alternative forestry and wood products company; several microenterprises; and the development of a nature tourism plan.

The STP Schools: Education for Environmental Action

Through a related program, the STP leadership workshops, begun in 1989, have brought together over 800 people from 45 states and a number of other countries. The goal of these workshops is to help community leaders become more effective in addressing local environmental problems by linking them with other participants working on related issues. Participants have included factory workers, teenagers and retirees, teachers, miners, Latinos, Native Americans and African Americans. 

With little access to money and information, what these individuals need most is to learn from each others' experiences, about ways they can help each other, and about approaches that work. In each workshop they share ideas and brainstorm practical actions that they can then apply locally. 


While most of the focus is on the poorer areas of Appalachia and the South, increasingly Highlander has found it important to build bridges with grassroots groups working on similar issues in other parts of the country and the world. Although an impact may be local, the cause is frequently way beyond regional and national borders. In this regard, groups facing common challenges are linked in order to learn from each other and contribute to the greater public dialogue. One of the greatest challenges is developing long enough range programs to help build community.

Colonias Program

College Station, Texas

Contact: Dr. Duncan Earle; Associate Director for Research; Center for Housing & Urban Dev.; College of Architecture, MS 3137; Texas A & M University; College Station, TX 77843; Tel: (409) 862-2370; Fax: (409} 862 2375

Scope: Local/county/regional, rural

Inception Date: September 1991

Participants: Residents, federal, state and county government, university faculty and students

Project Type: Community development, economic development, leadership development

Methods Used: Building partnerships; using Community Resource Centers as platforms for partnership, action research, dialog and community identity.

Lessons Learned: Helping means "listening, learning, leading, and leaving"; self-development equals sustainable development; communities get built, become sustainable around common ground; sustainable communities are ones that know where they are, who has power and resources, and where they are going.

Summary of Project 

The Colonias Program, spearheaded by Texas A&M University, is designed to assist residents of low income settlements, or colonias, in improving the quality of their lives. The program is designed to catalyze "community self-development," a process whereby the majority of the residents become involved in activities to strengthen the social infrastructure of the community, which in turn supports meaningful and appropriate development—as determined in partnership with the residents—of the community's physical and economic infrastructure. The program seeks to do this by providing a venue for communication, education and the delivery of social and health services. 

The Colonias Program is run by the Center for Housing and Urban Development, College of Architecture, Texas A & M University. The primary financial support for the Colonias Program ($911,000 -$958,000 per year) comes from the Texas Legislature. The Colonias Program leverages the Legislatures funding by soliciting and receiving additional funding, both in-kind and cash, from a variety of sources including county governments, private companies and organizations, and federal agencies ($580,000 was recently granted by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development for the establishment of a Community Outreach Partnership).

The Colonias Program works in partnership with colonia residents, county governments, local, state and federal agencies, non-profit organizations, and several other member institutions of the Texas A&M University system (including the Texas Engineering Experiment Station, Texas Agricultural Experiment Station and Texas Transportation Institute). 


Colonias, which have sprung up along the U.S. / Mexico border in response to a shortage of low-income housing, have increased dramatically in the last two decades. High birth rates, immigration and migration in response to the border industrial boom, all contribute. Land developer response to a decline in low-income housing has led to the sale of unregulated lots, affordable for the truly poor (ex., $20 down, $40 a month). Purchasers of these lots proceed to build homes, usually shacks of recycled materials, or dilapidated trailers or campers, some of which eventually evolve into substantial, if not always code, houses. The following data sums up the status and inherent challenges of these settlements:

• • • There are 1,436 colonias (1,193 in 1992) in Texas alone;

• • • These settlements are home to an estimated 340,000 residents (280,000 in 1992);

• • • Approximately half of Texas colonia residents do not have adequate water supplies;

• • • 1,190 out of 1,193 Texas colonias surveyed in 1992 have no approved wastewater services;

• • • A large majority of colonias have dirt roads, not even including gravel surfaces, and have no surface drainage systems;

• • • Incidence of health problems is high. Flooding is common in many colonias, making the existence of privies an additional health problem;

• • • Education levels are quite low. School drop-out rates are high;

• • • Median annual income is estimated at $7,000-11,000 per household, depending on location along the border. Typical family size is 5-6 people;

• • • It is common for half of the lots in a colonia to be unoccupied and available for use; the population within colonias in which the Colonias Program is working appears to be continuing to grow at a rapid rate, as much as 7-10% a year.

Reducing Isolation with Community Centers

Colonia residents, the majority of whom are of Mexican or Mexican-American descent, are isolated by geography, by limited transportation, by a limited understanding of the assistance programs available to them, and by their limited ability to read and write English. The Colonias Program is targeted to assist in reducing their isolation from the education, health, and human services programs that could help them help themselves to greater, sustainable economic self-sufficiency and well-being. 

The Colonias Programs core activity is to establish Community Resource Centers (CRCs) within colonia communities. The following are elements of the program:

• • • Community Resource Centers are constructed within colonias, after input from residents about the programs they need. These centers are built on land provided by county governments or not-for-profit entities.

• • • Public and private agencies are recruited to deliver education, health, and human services programs on a part-time, shared-space basis in these centers. Other member institutions of the Texas A&M University System help deliver job training, communications, transportation planning, family programs, youth programs, leadership training and community development training.

• • • Residents participate in the programs of the centers, to develop community organization skills, to interact with service providers, to express residents' preferences and needs, and to interact with the county government that owns and operates the building. These acitvities help them begin to understand "the system" from which they have been previously excluded. Residents can sponsor their own programs and other activities, including weddings, baptisms, queen of the colonia coronations, and Mothers Day, Fathers Day, and "Day of the Child" celebrations. It is neutral space between the private space of the home and the alien space of the city, where people can easily and freely come together and interact. Such meetings can be by design or the result of informal contact while awaiting a service or seeking information.

In addition, the Colonias Program is beginning an effort to develop the means of stimulating sustainable economic development in colonias, for residents. 

Measures of Success

The Colonias Program, which began its current phase of conceptual and programmatic development in September 1992, opened its first Community Resource Center in March 1994 in Cameron Park, population 4,800, located near Brownsville, Texas. Also completed that month was a CRC in El Progresso, near Weslaco, Texas, population 2,500 people. Since then two other CRCs—El Cenizo near Laredo (population 5,000) and Montana Vista, near El Paso (population 7,400)—have been opened; two more are committed, and another three are expected for FY 1996. These nine centers will serve approximately 45,000 previously isolated people per year. 

Key to the success of the Colonias Program is what is referred to as "action research" conducted by University researchers and students. The idea is that by focusing research specifically on issues that impact colonias program success, one can guide, evaluate, and redesign the development process as the implementation of the program proceeds.

Measures that reflect the effectiveness of the CRCs are: 

• • • 110,000 clients served to date (July 1995);

• • • Currently serving 9,500 clients per month, to increase to 12,000 by September 1995;

• • • 120 agencies, public and private will be providing education, health, human services, community development and youth programs each month through the four existing centers;

• • • The number of client contacts in Cameron Park Resource Center increased to 5,600 in July 1995 from an average of 3,000 in prior months.

• • • The number of client contacts in El Cenizo Resource Center increased to over 6,000 in July 1995 from an average of 2,500 in prior months.

Particular emphasis has been placed upon the design of the Community Resource Centers, with the goal of creating attractive, high-quality, and culturally appropriate structures to serve as focal points for the communities. This is a conscious strategy of the Colonias Program, one that is intended to offer a concrete expression of hope for community residents and provide environments in which service providers and residents can feel comfortable. The Community Resource Centers feature classrooms, examining rooms, an auditorium, and other social spaces. Their cost averages about $300,000, which includes a parking lot and, generally, a park area behind the building that includes a play/activity center for children, benches, barbeques and landscaping. In addition to accommodating health and social service providers, each center has a VCR video and book library, a community kitchen, copying services for community events, and a bulletin board for community events and social service announcements. 

After a center is constructed it is turned over to the county in which the colonia resides. The county government commits to operating and maintaining the centers with the help of the colonia residents.

Problem solving for the Future

Barriers encountered in the Colonias Program revolve mostly around bureaucratic delays and the challenges of working in partnership with a diverse group of interests that occasionally have turf, institutional, and other kinds of conflicts. However, such problems are part of every day life for those learning to use a new and unfamiliar system. The Colonias Program sees problem-solving by colonia residents as an essential educational experience that their participation in the CRCs affords. Because of this, the obstacles as well as the resources serve the colonia residents in the end.

All in all, the obstacles pale against the demands. The greatest challenge is the need for more centers.

Grantsville General Plan for a Sustainable Community

Grantsville, Utah

Contact: Eugene E. Carr, AICP; Adjunct Professor, Urban Planning; Center for Public Policy and Administration; University of Utah; 2120 Annex; Salt Lake City, UT 84112; Tel.: (801) 581-6491; Fax: (801) 585-5489; E-mail:; Neal Cline, Toole County Engineering; Tel.: (801) 882-9160

Scope: Local/county, rural township

Inception Date: September 1993 

Participants: University students and faculty advisor, community residents, high school students, farmers, historic committee, Soil Conservation District Commission, 

Project Type: Community planning/growth planning

Methods Used: Research, survey, report

Lessons Learned: An accurate assessment of local conditions is necessary to develop approaches to sustainability.

Summary of Project 

The Grantsville General Plan for a Sustainable Community is a model plan prepared for a small rural community in Utah. The plan was developed during the 1993-94 school year by a team of university students as a class project. The city of Grantsville is now rewriting its Master Plan in response to the student's work and is including many of the elements relating to community sustainability. 

The student effort was performed in consultation with representatives from the local community. Although the report clearly says that this is not equivalent to a professional product, the large team of students spent a considerable amount of time on research and analysis, and the results are highly informative. 

The goals of the project were to:

• • • provide guidance to assist in understanding the current and future capabilities of the community;

• • • provide a guide for Grantsville to become more environmentally sustainable;

• • • facilitate a viable, marketable, profitable and sustainable economy; and

• • • achieve a stable, healthy and enjoyable community through sensitive urban design.

The plan outlines specific actions that Grantsville may take to realize sustainability. They include:

• • • achieving a balance between resources used and resources generated;

• • • assuring that resources are as clean (or cleaner) at the end of use as at the beginning;

• • • assuring that the viability, integrity and diversity of natural systems are restored and maintained;

• • • achieving enhanced local and regional self-reliance;

• • • creating a sense of community and maintaining historic cultures; and

• • • assuring that each generation preserves its legacy for future generations.

Project Methodology

The project was sponsored by the Department of Geography of the University of Utah in Salt Lake City. Twenty-six undergraduate and graduate students prepared the plan as part of a two-semester Community Planning Workshop. The student group included the County Planner for Toole County, who is also responsible for community planning in Grantsville. Another member of the group was a professional engineer who contributed to the geologic sections of the plan. Both of these individuals were working on advanced university degrees.

The student team worked under the direction of an adjunct professor, who is a professional planner and serves as a Community Development Advisor at the University's Center for Public Policy and Administration. Staff members and elected officials of both the city of Grantsville and the surrounding Toole County and members of the Grantsville historic committee and the Grantsville Soil Conservation District Commission provided information and assistance. Local citizens provided information on community characteristics and desires in a telephone survey of 152 heads of households and in questionnaires completed by 55 high school seniors.

Identifying Community Characteristics

The team members conducted extensive research into the characteristics of the community as a basis for developing specific recommendations. Data on the population and demographics of the community, which is located about 30 miles southwest of Salt Lake City, indicates that the city has a population of about 1,100 families, containing approximately 4,720 persons. Data used for a social-cultural analysis covers community activities, crime, housing, social services, and public facilities. A comprehensive environmental analysis includes detailed data and discussions on topics such as: seismic conditions, which present significant hazards; ground water hydrology, which affects the supplies of water available for irrigation during the dry summer months; and land and climate characteristics, particularly soil conditions that affect agricultural productivity. The environmental analysis also discusses wildlife habitats, wetlands, air quality, and alternative agricultural approaches.

Additional research provided data and discussions of local public facilities and safety, covering the police and fire departments, health care, provisions for emergency response and evacuation, and natural resource consumption. An analysis of the local economic base identified a work force of 1,965 persons, of which 618 persons or 31% of the residents work in the community. The economic analysis identified agriculture as an important local industry and the Toole Army Depot as an important local employment center. The analysis reported a high level of retail "leakage" as a result of residents traveling to the town of Toole and Salt Lake City for shopping, medical services, and entertainment. A further analysis of transportation and circulation covered the range of street types, travel destinations, modal splits, and traffic hazards.

The students documented the city's history, from the earliest pioneer days as a way stop for wagon trains, including the famous Donner Party, and an early Mormon community up to the present time. Students conducted a visual survey of the community to identify current visual assets and liabilities and an imageability test in which residents recorded their perceptions of the key visual landmarks in the community.

Plan Recommendations

The Grantsville General Plan for a Sustainable Community identifies a series of goals and recommendations for remedial activities to make the community more sustainable. It recommends the adoption of urban growth policies as means of preserving the small, rural character of the town and to preserve the natural environment. These policies focus on encouraging infill development and controlling urban sprawl. Economic recommendations strongly encourage the development of agriculture as the local base industry, utilizing prime farmland within and adjacent to the city limits. The plan urges the community to expand its local retail capacity in order to reduce the levels of retail leakage. The community is encouraged to preserve environmentally sensitive areas and manage local ecosystems in cooperation with other government authorities. The recommended response to local natural hazards includes avoiding development in areas that may be particularly susceptible to earthquake motion, ground liquefication, and flooding.

More detailed recommendations for agricultural development discuss a series of farm and cropland management alternatives based on the construction of new irrigation systems. The plan recommends using approximately 1,400 acres of local agricultural land for growing high value specialty crops for local consumption, including a variety of fruits and vegetables. Aquaculture (raising fish for commercial use) is recommended as an alternative agricultural activity. 

The plan includes specific recommendations for providing more affordable housing, reducing crime, and increasing the availability of community recreational activities and social services as well as considerations related to the development of public facilities and the local culinary water system, improvement of emergency preparedness, and methods for handling solid and hazardous wastes and community recycling and composting.

Recommendations for physical improvements in the community are presented in the plan. The city can enhance its transportation functions by improving signage at community entryways, constructing a new median island on Main Street, the major thoroughfare, renewing tree plantings on neighborhood streets, constructing bicycle and pedestrian trails, and providing additional public transit to adjacent communities. The creation of an historic district in the town center, including the development of appropriate design guidelines, and the preservation and nomination for the national historic register of significant properties is recommended. Specific urban design recommendations include establishing urban growth boundaries, the use of infill development within the town center, and providing design features to reinforce the community's identity.

A separate implementation section includes specific recommendations for revising the city's General Plan and zoning ordinance, developing a Capital Improvements Plan, reconstruction of the local transportation systems, the use of land trusts and transfers of development rights to preserve farmland, the creation of an agricultural cooperative to facilitate the expansion of local farming operations, and specific measures to promote historic preservation. The appendix contains detailed descriptions of local soil characteristics, a description of approaches for insurance mitigation of natural hazards, and an analysis of pollution and energy savings from mass transit. A bibliography provides a list of useful references, as well as a listing of names of useful persons and organizations to contact for information and technical assistance. 

In addition to their report on the general plan, the student team developed a 1" - 500' base map for Grantsville, with a series of overlays identifying public utilities and current land use. This map is available for use in future community planning activities. 

The proposed plan was well-received by the local community. The Grantsville Planning Commission held a series of facilitated follow-up meetings with representatives from different sectors of the community. The city planners are using the information generated in these meetings, along with the original student plan, as a basis for the development of a new city General Plan. The new plan will be presented to the Grantsville Planning Commission and City Council. 

Although the project did not have high levels of community participation, it presents a potential model for university/community partnerships for sustainable community development.

Vermont National Bank's Socially Responsible Banking Fund (SRB Fund)

Brattleboro, Vermont

Contact: David Berge, Director; P.O. Box 804; Brattleboro, VT 05302; Tel.: (802) 258-4090 (800) 772-3863

Scope: Loans in Vermont; depositors across the US Inception Date: 1989 and in 12 countries

Participants: Affordable housing organizations, environmental and conservation projects, educational organizations, family farms, and small and dual bottom line businesses 

Project Type: Alternative lending/investment, community economic development

Methods Used: Loans to the project participants

Lessons Learned: To make unconventional loans work, it is important to spend time on the front end structuring the loan most suited for the borrower.

The Socially Responsible Banking Fund is the first statewide commercial bank program in the nation that allows customers with any type of bank account to specify that their deposits be used only for socially responsible loans. The goals of the SRB Fund are to humanize three sets of relationships: depositors' relationships with their own money, the relationships between the bank and community organizations, and the relationships among depositors, community organizations and borrowers.

As of July 1995, the SRB Fund is managing 9,600 accounts with over $84 million in deposits and $50 million in outstanding loans. Most of these accounts belong to individuals and families living in Vermont, but the SRB Fund has also attracted depositors from 42 states and 12 foreign countries. Municipalities, schools, non-profits, and small businesses have deposits in the SRB Fund. The savings, checking, individual retirement accounts and money market accounts or certificates of deposit pay the same interest as Vermont National Bank's other accounts and are insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. 

The Fund was created in 1989 by Vermont National Bank in response to a request for such a fund by a group of Brattleboro residents. Depositors remain active participants and help direct the bank to organizations and businesses in their communities that are potential customers of the SRB Fund. According to David Berge, Director of the Fund, "We try to get people to understand their relationship with their money. Where they spend and invest is important and has an impact on their community."

Investing in Vermont's communities

The SRB Fund makes loans in five areas: affordable housing, environment/conservation, agriculture, education and small business. Within these areas, priorities include lending to organizations and projects that provide permanently affordable housing, projects committed to the long-term responsible use of land, and businesses that provide innovative models for other environmental companies. Another priority is providing financing for land acquisition, equipment or working capital for projects involving innovative and sustainable models of family farming or agricultural enterprise.

The SRB Fund staff works with the SRB Fund Advisory Board (a group of 12 community representatives) to identify priorities within each of the lending areas and to identify projects that serve the immediate needs of individuals and organizations while providing long-term benefits to Vermont's communities. The Advisory Board reviews applications for loans and meets every six weeks to consider applications in the five areas described above.

Loan officers in all 31 of the bank's branches are authorized to make SRB Fund loans. The SRB Fund provides technical assistance to loan officers making customized SRB Fund loans, pushing as much lending activity as possible out to the branches so that the people arranging the loans are closer to the businesses and organizations that are borrowing the money.

The SRB Fund has had an exceptionally low delinquency rate on its commercial loans. At the time this was written, the delinquency rate for commercial loans was 0.53% for 30 to 59 days and 0.0% for over 90 days. This success can be attributed in part to the Fund's flexibility in creating loans that are attuned to the specific circumstances of each borrower. For example, many small businesses need small loans but conventional banks will only make personal loans—usually with higher interest rates than commercial loans—at this level. The SRB Fund solves this problem by making commercial loans to small borrowers. The SRB Fund will also structure loans to borrowers that have businesses with seasonal fluctuations (such as farming) so the borrower makes the entire year's payments during months with best cash flows.

With the town of Townshend, the SRB Fund created a revolving loan fund, the Pilot Loan Program, to create jobs and strengthen the local economy. Under the Pilot Loan Program, businesses can borrow from $5,000 to $25,000 over five years. The businesses receiving loans can also receive technical assistance from the Townshend Small Business Advisors Pool, a group made up of local professional volunteers who counsel the businesses. A town committee helps identify and screen prospective borrowers, and the SRB Fund reviews applications, makes final lending decisions and services the loans. Dick Jackson is a member of the town committee because "If Townshend doesn't have jobs, the young folks will have to leave town to get work. For too long our best and brightest haven't had job opportunities here in town."

The strength of the partnership is the Pilot Loan Committee's knowledge of the small businesses in Townshend and the SRB Fund's expertise in banking issues. Walter Meyer, another committee member, agrees that "all Vermont towns are in need of new jobs. If we want to create these jobs, we have to do it for ourselves. No one else is going to do it for us."

Keys to success

By keeping ninety-nine percent of its loans and investments within Vermont, the SRB Fund recirculates money within communities and strengthens local and regional economies. Many borrowers come to the SRB Fund because they have trouble getting loans elsewhere. According to Berge, "We'll go out of our way to make a project work. Within the fund we have the ability to set the borrowers' rates based on their project. We may drop the rate, or lengthen the term to help it go. Support comes from the top with the clear message that we offer flexible lending."

A key element in the success of the SRB Fund is the fact that senior management at the bank has been fully committed to the Fund since its inception. The bank made available the necessary resources in terms of both people and funds for marketing and equipment to get the SRB Fund off the ground.

Much of the work of the SRB Fund is done in conjunction with other organizations that often act as intermediaries between the Fund and loan recipients. For example, the SRB Fund Community Advisory Board recommended a priority in the agricultural lending area for organic farms and community-supported agriculture projects. As a result, the Northeast Organic Farming Association (NOFA) conducted a needs assessment that showed organic farmers in Vermont have trouble getting money to buy equipment and for short-term operating funds. Now the SRB Fund will lend money to NOFA, which then provides loans and technical assistance to organic farmers.

Another intermediary the SRB Fund works with is Working Capital, a non-profit program that strengthens micro-businesses and communities by providing group-based support, loans and technical assistance to self-employed persons with limited access to resources. In Vermont, Working Capital has formed a partnership with the SRB Fund to provide the capital for its loans.

One of the successes of the SRB Fund is that it draws money to Vermont National Bank; about 75-80 percent of the money in the fund is new to the bank and not transferred from existing accounts. When asked what has been responsible for the SRB Fund's success, loan officer Arne Hammarlund responded, "First of all, it was something that was needed in Vermont. People are concerned with what is being done with their money, where it is going from the deposit side. It allows businesses, environmental groups, and affordable housing groups to deal with a bank that has some historical knowledge dealing with those kind of organizations and is willing to work with them creatively." The SRB Fund is the only bank in the state filling a crucial need for many organizations and small businesses.

Appalachian Regional Recycling Consortium

Radford, Virginia

Contact: Patricia Therrien; Regional Marketing Manager; Appalachian Regional Recycling Consortium; 1612 Wadsworth Street; Radford, VA 24141; Tel.: (703) 639-9314; Fax: (703) 831-6093

Scope: Regional, rural townships

Inception Date: 1992

Participants: Local governments, industry, entrepreneurs, local recycling coordinators

Project Type: Waste management, recycling/reuse, economic development, public education

Methods Used: Demonstrations, regional processing services, seminars, workshops

Lessons Learned: The overall program benefited by starting up with a service that communities clearly wanted; a regional scale helps rural places gain critical mass.

Summary of Project

The Appalachian Regional Recycling Consortium (ARRC) is a cooperative recycling service created through an inter-agency agreement among the Lenowisco, Cumberland Plateau, Mount Rogers, New River Valley, Fifth, Central Shenadoah, and West Piedmont Planning District Commissions (PDCs). Initially funded by the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC), the ARRC was established in 1992 to serve the twenty-one counties and five cities in the ARC region of Virginia. Since that time the actual service area has been expanded to include the counties of: Allegheny, Bath, Bland, Botetourt, Buchanan, Carroll, Craig, Dickenson, Floyd, Franklin, Giles, Grayson, Highland, Lee, Montgomery, Patrick, Pulaski, Russell, Scott, Smyth, Tazewell, Washington, Wise, and Wythe. The cities served by the program are Covington, Clifton Forge, Radford, Galax, Bristol, and Norton.

The ARRC's primary goal is to assist these rural local governments in addressing the unique challenges they face as they work to reduce their waste stream and comply with Virginia and Federal recycling mandates in an effective and efficient manner. Low population density, increased distance to "markets," the low or negative value of many recovered materials, and the lack of positive experiences with regionalization are the primary challenges.

ARRC's comprehensive services to local government, industries, recycling coordinators, and entrepreneurs include: regional recycling services; industrial technical assistance; recycled product development / business assistance; workshops and seminars; educational information; recycling equipment information; market information; recycled product sourcing; and regulatory and legislative updates. Specific programs used to deliver these services include the: 

• • • Recycling Business Assistance Program (RBAP); 

• • • Recycling Industrial Technical Assistance Program (RITA); 

• • • Regional Equipment Sharing Program / Mobile Tire Shredding Program; and 

• • • Southwest Virginia Waste Exchange. 

These programs interrelate and reflect ARRC's overarching strategy to use an integrated systems approach to combine the vital issues of environmental sustainability, economic development, and the need for mutually beneficial in-region market development to increase recovered materials utilization. ARRCs general services, which benefit the 520,000 residents of the Appalachian region of Virginia, are funded with approximately $150,000 annually. Of this, $60,000 is applied to general operating expenses and $90,000 to one year of Phase I Tire Shredding Project expenses.

In-Region Market Development

Federal and state recycling mandates and the concern for preserving natural resources by maximizing the usable life of products made from them have resulted in an increasing supply of recovered materials ready to be processed or remanufactured into new products. Even though much of the technology already exists, in rural areas the lower volumes of recovered materials, combined with the distance to "traditional" recycling markets and the low or negative dollar value for materials in those markets, make comprehensive recycling programs difficult to justify. This phenomenon has created both the need and an excellent opportunity for new "in-region" business development. ARRCs Recycling Business Assistance Program and Recycling Industrial Assistance Program are designed to meet these challenges. The programs are supported by $63,000 in funding provided by the Environmental Protection Agency Region III, the Appalachian Regional Commission, the Virginia Water Project and $29,000 in matching funds from other sources. 

Recycling Business Assistance Program (RBAP)

The ARRC Recycling Business Assistance Program was established to: 

• • • promote, create and expand markets for the beneficial utilization of recovered materials, 

• • • support the development of innovative recycling technologies, 

• • • stimulate economic development; and 

• • • create employment opportunities. 

Services to entrepreneurs include product feasibility studies, market surveys, recovered material sourcing, incentive and grant information, business plan development assistance, finance package assistance, site location assistance, regulatory information, equipment availability, new and used, leasing information, local government contacts, and state agency contacts. RBAP also provides support to entrepreneurs challenged by considerations unique to innovative, "non-traditional" businesses working with recycling technologies: Financial institutions, for example, are frequently reluctant to become involved with a business that handles "solid waste" due to perceived liability issues. 

To date the RBAP program, conducted by ARRC staff, has assisted over 45 entrepreneurial clients since the programs inception in October 1994. The program currently has 14 active clients. 

Recycling Industrial Technical Assistance (RITA) 

The purpose of RITA Program is to promote the utilization of locally recovered materials by local industries and to provide integrated solid waste management assistance. The program's industrial technical assistance services include: waste audits, pollution prevention information, technical assistance for process modification, and material sourcing. 

The basic strategy of RITA is to provide the information and assistance necessary for industries to successfully reduce the volume or toxicity of the waste they produce and / or to include recovered materials as a substitute for part of their manufacturing feedstock. In addition to being environmentally responsible, products with recovered material content are a requirement for many federal and state contracts. Incorporation of recycled materials in manufactured products can help make industries more competitive, both locally and internationally. An increase in sales due to the competitive edge offered by manufacturing recycled content products can lead to job retention and expansion for the region.

Through RITA, over 12 industries have requested services ranging from waste audits to market referrals since the programs inception in October 1994. 

Regional Equipment Sharing/Tire Shredding

Perhaps the great success of ARRC grew out of its very first initiative. When local participating governments were surveyed shortly after ARRCs inception, it was determined that scrap tires were the material with which most localities needed assistance. Providing a regional tire shredding service for southwestern Virginia became the initial major focus of the ARRC. 

A support grant for initial development of the Mobile Tire Shredding Project was provided by the Center on Rural Development (CORD) in 1993. This grant and the technical assistance provided by CORD, made it possible to bring this program to the implementation stage. The program circulates tire shredding equipment to each participating locality on a regular schedule, shreds the tires on-site, assists the localities by providing information on local beneficial utilization projects and works on market development. 

In January 1994, the ARRC finalized a Cooperative Agreement with the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, Waste Division (DEQ). As a "current flow" demonstration project, the financing to implement the Regional Mobile Tire Shredding Program is provided from the Waste Tire Fund. The Regional Tire Shredding Project was originally planned to be implemented in three phases. Funding was received in January 1994 from the DEQ for Phase I (total funding for Phase I is $465,000, 1993 to 1996) and the Mobile Tire Shredding Project began shredding tires in April 1994. Phase I equipment currently shreds approximately 25,000 tires each month and is serving 16 localities at fourteen locations throughout southwestern Virginia. Phase II of the program, slated to begin in early 1996 with DEQ-committed funding of $650,000, will serve an additional twelve localities. Phase III of the program is not expected to be implemented at this time. Phase I and Phase II equipment combined is expected to shred approximately 750,000 tires each year. 

At this time the program has shredded 300,000 tires in the region of which approximately 50% has been used in local projects. Civil engineering strategies such as erosion control berms, sub-grade fill for roadways, and alternative daily cover have beneficially utilized this commodity. Phase II shredding equipment will yield a product that has a current "market" value as high as $30 per ton, whereas Phase I equipment yields a product that does not have a current market value. 

Southwestern Virginia Waste Exchange (WEX)

In the conservation hierarchy of integrated solid waste management, source reduction (reducing the volume or toxicity of waste generated) and reuse are considered "higher priorities" than recycling. A waste exchange system that incorporates the three strategies is one way to expand materials reuse opportunities. Large, multi-state waste exchanges that facilitate the efficient transfer of large volume, continuous supply, or "high value" commercial / industrial by-products and "waste" materials exist across the country. 

To meet the need of local businesses, individuals and recycling coordinators, ARRC is establishing Southwestern Virginia Waste Exchange to provide a mechanism for the effective exchange of smaller quantities of one-time or "lower value" materials on a local scale. Through a $12,000 grant from the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, the ARRC is establishing a locally-focused, transferable electronic waste exchange database. There is no limit to the number of items that may be listed, nor is there a fee to do so. Custom searches and "match searches," between materials available and materials wanted, can be conducted. A newsletter—to augment the database—that lists materials available and wanted, premiered July 1995. 

Challenges encountered in delivering ARRCs programs include: the diverse needs requiring multiple response options; the changing regulatory climate; dwindling funding sources; and, the habituated reluctance of state governments and local inspectors to support alternative beneficial utilization of materials.

The Appalachian Regional Recycling Consortium is positioned to continue assisting Southwestern Virginia by working to combine the environmental realities of waste reduction, pollution prevention, resource conservation and recycling with the economic realities of jobs creation, retention and expansion through sustainable partnerships.

Sustainable Community Roundtable

Olympia, Washington

Contact: Steve Hall, Assistant City Manager; City Of Olympia; P.O. Box 1967; Olympia, WA 98507-1967; Tel.: (360) 753-8447; Fax: (360) 753-8165

Dorothy P. Craig; Sustainable Community Roundtable; 2129 Bethel St., N.E.; Olympia, WA 98506; Tel: (306) 754-7842; Fax: Same; E-mail: 

Scope: City/county/region

Inception Date: 1991

Participants: Community members, businesses, civic and government organizations, Native American Tribal Councils

Project Type: Comprehensive community development, sustainable indicators, public education

Methods Used: Legislative initiatives, public dialogues, educational events, community involvement activities, publications

Lessons Learned: The concept of sustainability can guide planning and policymaking as well as reshape governmental decision-making; participatory planning processes work. Public education and outreach is essential for collaborative ventures. The process needs to be ongoing, with feedback on progress and celebrations of success. 


In 1991, Olympia, the capital of the state of Washington, accepted a challenge from the State Department of Ecology to help define what it would take to become a sustainable city. Located at the southern end of the metropolitan region extending south from Vancouver B.C., Olympia and neighboring cities of Lacey and Turnwater are the hub of a rapidly growing area around south Puget Sound. Population of this 84-square mile North Thurston County urban growth area is increasing at 3.5% per year, and is projected to reach 184,000 by 2015. The area faces the familiar challenges of rapid urbanization: suburban sprawl, the development of prime agricultural land and wildlife habitat, water pollution, and traffic jams. Increased housing costs, competition for jobs, homelessness, and drug abuse are some of the economic and social consequences. 

Instead of addressing each of these problems independently, Olympia is beginning to employ a more holistic approach, thinking of the city as an ecosystem where everything is connected and interdependent. Known for its award-winning initiatives such as its residential, curbside recycling and volunteer Stream 

Team efforts, Olympia was already on the path to sustainability when the city first introduced the concept of sustainability on Earth Day 1991 by mailing a newsletter to all residents and sponsoring an all-day celebratory event. The City initiated a Sustainable Community Roundtable to coordinate a region-wide educational process and embarked on an internal process using sustainability as a theme for policy-making and employee education. 

Thus began an ongoing process of articulating a common vision of sustainability for the region, with an annual assessment of progress and celebration of accomplishments.

Olympia's Sustainable City Initiative

In 1993 the City adopted a Sustainable City Philosophy whose preamble reads:

"The City of Olympia acknowledges its responsibility for leadership in creating a sustainable community - locally, regionally, and globally. A sustainable community is one that persists over generations and is far-seeing enough, flexible enough, and wise enough to maintain its natural, economic, social, and political support systems." 

Since then Olympia has used "sustainable community" as the integrating theme for much of its planning. For example:

• • • Sustainability criteria have been applied to major policy decisions such as the new Comprehensive Plan adopted under the State's Growth Management Act, the recently adopted water supply plan, and stormwater management plans.

• • • Sustainability performance indicators for City policies and programs are being drafted, and the City plans to publish them in an annual "State of the City" report at the beginning of each year's budget process.

• • • The City is preparing an employee education program based on a survey assessing employees' knowledge about and interest in sustainability concepts.

Sustainable Community Roundtable

The Sustainable Community Roundtable, initiated by the City of Olympia in 1991, was incorporated as a nonprofit organization the following year. It uses innovative participatory processes to facilitate the transition to sustainability in South Puget Sound. It works with individuals, governments, businesses, and civic organizations to integrate planning and action around social, environmental and economic issues. In 1993 the Roundtable received an award for citizen participation from the Washington Chapter of the American Planning Association and the Planning Association of Washington.

The Roundtable has convened a series of public forums aimed at demonstrating the interrelationships between social, environmental and economic issues and sponsors the "Nights of the Roundtable," evening presentations on innovative sustainability initiatives around the country and the world. Roundtable members are working with other communities to set up a computer network and to set up a Cascadia Sustainable Communities Network, a coalition of community, business and government organizations, dedicated to increasing regional identity.

In 1995, the Roundtable released its second State of the Community report which reviews Olympia's progress in becoming sustainable. The first edition, published on Earth Day 1993, was one of the first of its kind. The updated report addresses the interrelated issues of human culture: environmental issues, resource consumption, social equity and justice, governance and the economy. It describes a vision of sustainability, identifies trends in using selected indicators, highlights positive steps toward the vision and gives very specific guidelines for what individuals and the community can do. It asks important questions about the potential impact a proposed program or policy might have on elements of sustainability and acts as a screen or matrix for decision-making. 


The report, Steps in the Right Direction, highlights:

• • • Cooperative growth management planning by Thurston County and incorporated cities has resulted in: 1) a regional land use and transportation strategy aimed at developing urban core areas at a density that will support public transportation; 2) protecting wetlands, agricultural and forest lands; and 3) planning in advance for public services and utilities needed for the projected population.

• • • Representatives of 17 diverse interests are collaborating to create a Nisqually River Management Plan that takes into consideration the environmental, economic, cultural, and historical significance of the entire river basin.

• • • To promote waste reduction and recycling, the Port of Olympia, Thurston County, City of Olympia, and Economic Development Council have initiated a collaborative venture called ReDAC (Recycling Development and Action Committee) to encourage new and expanded secondary material manufacturing businesses.

• • • A Green Jobs Program, initiated by the local Energy Outreach Center with support from the City of Olympia and local businesses, aims to save energy and water, reduce housing costs, and create jobs. 

• • • Community Supported Agriculture is expanding with around 1000 participants in 1994.

• • • To help families in need, a downtown Family Support Center provides services from a dozen agencies: job placement, counseling, and health and legal services.


The greatest challenges have centered on funding, creating a viable organization, and finding ways to communicate the concepts and implications of sustainability.

Both the City of Olympia's Sustainable City Initiative and the Sustainable Community Roundtable have worked with minimal budgets. The City program has been developed with existing staff resources and several small grants from state agencies while the Roundtable has been supported by local fundraising and small budget allocations from the City of Olympia and the City of Lacey. Both Olympia and the Roundtable are currently cooperating on a project funded by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to continue refining the Roundtable's regional indicators and to develop parallel indicators to guide City policy and budget decisions. The regional Olympia Air Pollution Control Authority has provided additional funds for a more detailed look at air quality indicators. 

The City publishes information on Sustainable City activities in its monthly newsletter to residents. City staff frequently refer to sustainable city goals in their public involvement and education on land use, transportation planning and resource management. The Roundtable relies primarily on the State of the Community report. Members have made presentations to local organizations and elected officials. As part of the USEPA-funded indicator project, Roundtable members are working with eight community groups and businesses to explore the relevance and use of indicators in their activities. The Roundtable plans to publicize the "Steps in the Right Direction" through a traveling exhibit, community event and possibly a video. 

The efforts of the City of Olympia and the Sustainable Community Roundtable are a prime example of long-term vision, partnership, and integrative thinking. They provide a model for other communities seeking to undertake similar processes.

Community Minigrants Program

West Virginia Counties

Contact: Caroline Carpenter; Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation; 1400 Benedum-Trees Building; Pittsburg, PA 15222; Tel.: (412) 288-0360; Fax: (412) 288-0366

Scope: Statewide

Inception Date: 1991

Participants: Foundation, community groups, residents

Project Type: Comprehensive community development, community economic development

Methods Used: Locally-controlled minigrants, community organizing

Lessons Learned: Process is as important as product. Broad based participation leads to greater commitment.

The Community Minigrants Program is designed to enable residents of West Virginia to implement locally-controlled community development on an increasing scale. The project has spread to 15 geographical areas of West Virginia. Close to 2,000 residents have participated in skill-building workshops and 200-250 community-based projects have been implemented.


Community Minigrants began in 1990 in McDowell County, the poorest county in West Virginia, in the heart of the coalfields. Caroline Carpenter of the Benedum Foundation had received a proposal from a non-incorporated town in McDowell for $500 to convert a trash dump into a playground—the kind of grant that foundations do not make, but that West Virginia communities obviously needed. (Benedum is a Pittsburgh-based foundation that makes grants only in West Virginia and southwestern Pennsylvania.) 

Carpenter had read about peer group microenterprise lending strategies for individuals, and thought, "Why not do this with community based organizations? Set up a structure to let them make their own peer review decisions about use of funds for community development projects, without a formal intermediary." Carpenter contacted the local economic development authority, staffed by Addie Davis who was "born and raised in McDowell County and very community oriented." Carpenter comments, "We probably couldn't have done it with a traditional economic development authority." A pilot program was developed with a $25,000 initial grant providing $5,000 for a series of training workshops and a pool of funds for minigrants of $500-$2,000.

The Community Minigrants process

The minigrant process initiated in McDowell County has been continually refined based on the experiences of the participants. The process involves forming and training community based groups to do local community development projects. The initial organizing and skill building occurs in two phases, after which a group may continue to apply for minigrants of $500-$2,000 to accomplish specific projects.

The project spreads through word of mouth. Local residents contact Benedum when they think their community is ready to participate. The geographical area, the local steering committee, and the specific projects are always self-selected.

The first phase of the community minigrant process involves the development of a core group of up to 40-50 people. This group meets with Benedum and with other West Virginia residents who have participated in the process. Following this introduction, the core group of 40 chooses its own steering committee and a fiscal agent to apply for the Phase I grant. The Foundation trustees after review allocate $3,500 to support 3 workshops on community economic development; the funding covers logistics, food and facilitators.

The second phase begins with five workshops. Training covers specific skills in developing proposals, grant writing, budgeting, conflict resolution and building the organization. Benedum has three stipulations at this point—the only requirements the Foundation imposes:

• • • The same three people from a community-based project must attend at least 4 of the 5 sessions to be eligible for a minigrant.

• • • The group and the project must be community-based.

• • • The project must be achievable in 6 months.

Each community based organization chooses one representative to sit on the grants committee. The committee reviews proposals and conducts site visits to monitor the project. Each community group decides what project it wants to do, based on priorities in that geographic area.

Playgrounds, rag rugs, planting trees

Some groups have focused on youth opportunities, such as fixing up a playground or establishing a summer science camp. One local group set up a conflict resolution program and, over the course of a year, trained all of the 3rd and 4th-graders in the county in conflict resolution.

A group in the TriCounty Partnership area started a project called "The Common Thread," a non-profit business that makes rag rugs. The project began because the group wanted to establish a scholarship fund, and decided to start a business doing something indigenous to the area to raise money. The Common Thread used its minigrant to set up looms in a public space; community members can drop by whenever they are available to put in a few hours of work on the rugs. Carpenter notes that many of the projects allow for similarly broad community participation.

The TriCounty committee, with 270 people participating in the training sessions, has completed 54 minigrant projects. One minigrant purchased curtains for a stage at a local church so a community theater group could produce plays in a very rural area. The three productions were each attended by 300-400 people who had never had access to theater.

Carpenter sees that there is an environmental aspect of many Community Minigrants projects simply because they seek to replace the unsustainable mining and resource extraction that has devastated many of these communities both environmentally and economically. Some projects have a more overt environmental focus, such as recycling. One project in Elkins, a county seat, planted trees on Main Street. "Because of the group process, people from throughout the county say they have a sense of pride and ownership of those trees, because they helped get them there," Carpenter notes.

Building skills and moving beyond minigrants

Skill building is essential to the project and is what makes it sustainable, even if Benedum Foundation funding were to end. Carpenter talks about a group in Kimball in McDowell County: the community wanted a new fire engine, costing about $100,000. When told that was not within the scope of the minigrant program, they built a playground. Through the minigrant process, however, "they learned that they could get together and fundraise—then on their own, within six months, they went out and raised the $100,000 for the fire engine."

The skills learned by participants in the McDowell County group (called "McAction") have enabled the group to do many new projects over the years, while participants have also moved on to serve on boards of other organizations within the community and to work with local government agencies. The committee in Randolph County went further, deciding to establish itself as a permanent development organization and incorporating as the Mountain Partners in Community Development.

Carpenter cautions that the process is extremely labor and time intensive. A particularly important aspect is the development of facilitators; initially, some were too directive and "wanted to tell communities what to do." The West Virginia Center for Economic Options now monitors and assists facilitators to help people develop their own skills and organizations.

Creative and effective grantmaking

In 1993, Caroline Carpenter received the Robert W. Scrivner Award for "creative and effective grantmaking" from the National Council on Foundations in recognition of the Community Minigrants Program. Carpenter stresses that beyond the three stipulations from the Foundation, the entire process is controlled by community members, not by the funder's demands. Carpenter notes that the process "is based upon the culture of capacity and builds relationships, norms and trust. It helps people claim their responsibilities and shape their own ideas. The success is created by local community residents and provides them the ability to go forward as they see fit." A Lincoln County Steering Committee member echoes: "Emphasize that it is the community that is in charge. . . . Community people are doing this and we want to do it right."

The Campaign for a Sustainable Milwaukee

Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Contact: Bill Dempsey, Lead Organizer; 1001 E. Keefe Avenue Milwaukee, WI 53212; Tel.: (414) 964-9497 

Scope: Milwaukee metropolitan area

Inception Date: 1993

Participants: Labor, environmental, religious and community organizations, and elected officials from city, county and state governments

Project Type: Process-oriented planning, community economic development, coalition building

Methods Used: Community organizing and policy development

Lessons Learned: People will invest time in an effort if there is a sense that their lives can really change because of it.

The Campaign for a Sustainable Milwaukee is a broad-based community effort to define and implement an alternative economic development plan for the Milwaukee metropolitan area. Unions, community organizations and political leaders are working together to create and retain family-supporting jobs, build healthy communities and restore natural environments. Sustainable Milwaukee's four task forces address major priorities: jobs and training, credit, transportation and the environment, and education.

"Rebuilding Milwaukee from the ground up"

The groups and individuals who joined to form Sustainable Milwaukee have come together to overcome a series of forces that many had been working to overcome individually. These issues include job flight out of the Milwaukee region, deteriorating wages and working conditions in many of the jobs that remain, divestment from Milwaukee by financial institutions, the destruction of Milwaukee's natural environment, and public policies at every level that subsidized the same forces that were destroying the community. 

In October, 1994, Sustainable Milwaukee held a Milwaukee Community Congress, attended by more than 200 community activists, union members and elected officials, to debate and ratify a plan to address these and other problems. Key elements in the plan, Rebuilding Milwaukee from the Ground Up, include campaigns to create good, family-supporting jobs in the Milwaukee area and to improve mass transit within the region.

Supporting community efforts

One example of how Sustainable Milwaukee has made a difference thus far is its involvement with Esperanza Unida, a well-known, community-based economic development organization located on the South Side. Esperanza Unida has been working for many years to meet the needs of low income central city Milwaukee residents. One of the organization's accomplishments has been the creation of training businesses that provide services to central city neighborhoods including asbestos removal, metal fabricating, auto repair, and day care. 

One barrier to employment for people in Esperanza Unida's neighborhoods is that residents have not been able to obtain certified vocational training. There is a technical college in Milwaukee, but central city residents, many of whom speak Spanish as their primary language, were not able to use the resources of the technical school. To change this situation, four of Sustainable Milwaukee's active members who are also board members of the technical college worked with the school and with Esperanza Unida to create a certified technical training site at Esperanza's neighborhood center. The technical college is now providing resources in a central city neighborhood, residents are using these resources, and many low-income residents have received certification and obtained jobs as laborers building roads for the State of Wisconsin. 

Rich Oulahan, executive director of Esperanza Unida, calls Sustainable Milwaukee "the most significant development I've seen in Milwaukee in years. I've never seen so many people working together to focus on the root cause of our social problems." 

Choosing meaningful issues

One key element in the early success of Sustainable Milwaukee is that it has identified specific issues to work on that are meaningful to people and that focus on making Milwaukee more livable for all residents, especially those with low incomes. Sustainable Milwaukee spent months bringing people together to ask them what they wanted and what could they do together to make a difference. As a result, more than 100 people showed up for a recent Sustainable Milwaukee general meeting.

According to Bill Dempsey, the lead organizer of the campaign, "there is a sense among those getting involved that their lives can noticeably change as a result of this effort." Instead of simply criticizing the ineffectiveness of government and business to meet the need of communities, Sustainable Milwaukee decided to define the issues that are important to people and build a campaign to make people's goals a reality.

Living wage campaign

The Living Wage Campaign was chosen as a priority because the Milwaukee area has a higher percentage of jobs—50.8 percent—paying less than $20,000 a year than nearly any other metropolitan area in the country. Sustainable Milwaukee is working to pass a Living Wage Ordinance that would guarantee a $7.70 wage floor with health care benefits for all service workers hired through city contracts. 

The bill to implement the Living Wage Ordinance received a unanimous vote out of the Public Improvements Committee of the Milwaukee City Council in June, and awaits a vote before the full council. Once this bill is passed into law it will be used as a launching pad to convince county, school district and private sector employers to live up to the same standards. 

Central city transit campaign

Transportation is another key issue and opportunity for collaboration. Sustainable Milwaukee is bringing together low income people who could benefit from a good mass transit system with environmentalists who are working to reduce pollution in the region.

The Milwaukee County bus system has experienced falling ridership, rising fares, and decreasing investment in the bus system in the context of a worsening regional economy. There is no rail, subway or light rail system in the county except Amtrak, which only travels between major cities. Many low-income, inner city residents currently do not have access to reliable transportation to the suburbs, where many jobs are located. 

Sustainable Milwaukee intends to show that a good mass transit system is critical for the regional economy, and that the only way to create such a system is through government intervention. Priorities are support for light rail development and full funding of central city buses. Sustainable Milwaukee is also becoming involved with the process of allocating the hundreds of millions of dollars of federal transportation funds allocated to the state of Wisconsin.

Sources of support

The major financial support for Sustainable Milwaukee has been a $150,000 grant from the Joyce Foundation. The Unitarian Universalist Veatch Program was another important supporter. Sustainable Milwaukee decided not to ask member organizations for substantial amounts of money in order to avoid sapping their other efforts, in reality or in appearance. However, many organizations, including elected officials, have given in-kind donations of supplies and staff time to support the campaign.

A key coalition partner has been Progressive Milwaukee, an organization that works to get progressive political candidates elected to office in the Milwaukee metropolitan area. At least 14 elected officials from city, county and state governments who are affiliated with Progressive Milwaukee have participated in Sustainable Milwaukee. The involvement of public officials has given the campaign a sense that its goals can become a reality, because those with the ability to make them happen are involved.

So far, there has been almost no political or other opposition to the Campaign for a Sustainable Milwaukee. The biggest obstacle to moving the plan forward, staff members say, has been the lack of enough staff to work on the campaign.

Lander Valley: 2020

Lander, Wyoming

Contact: Paula McCormick; Executive Director; Lander Area Chamber of Commerce; 160 N. First Street; Lander, WY 82520; Tel: (307) 332-3892; Outside Wyoming: (800) 433-0662; Fax: (307) 332-3893

Scope: Town/county

Inception Date: 1992

Participants: Residents, ranchers/farmers, businesses, civic organizations, nonprofit organizations

Project Type: Commuitywide visioning, comprehensive community planning, public education

Methods Used: Public education, town meetings, newsletter, task forces

Lessons Learned: Importance of anticipatory planning, access to information, economic diversification, and inclusive meetings


Lander is a town of 7500 residents located in Fremont County near the picturesque eastern slope of the Wind River Range of the Rocky Mountains in west central Wyoming. Over the past twenty years, like many western towns, particularly those supported by one industry, it has experienced boom and bust. For years its economy was largely supported by an iron ore mine but all that changed in 1983 when the mine closed: 500 jobs were lost, hundreds of homes went on the market, and half the businesses closed. By 1990 Lander's population had been reduced by almost twenty-five percent. 

Recently, however, this situation began to turn around. From 1990 to 1992 Lander grew by 2.4%. In 1993, a book, The 100 Best Small Towns in America, rated Lander fifth. This report created a sudden interest in Lander from a number of areas. By October 1994 informal statistics indicated that approximately 18% of Lander's population had arrived in the past three years from other towns in Wyoming, from the Midwest, and from California, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas. Many of these new residents had come from towns that were becoming too expensive or crowded. Paula McCormick, the director of the Chamber of Commerce, reported a 600% increase in requests for information about Lander since 1990. 

Population growth and the economy

With this population influx, the economy has begun to grow and diversify. Tourism is increasing, while agriculture and government agencies continue to form the more traditional economic base. Major local employers include a new bronze foundry which employs around 60 people, government agencies such as the Wyoming State Training School and the county courthouse, the Lander Valley Regional Medical Center, and many businesses related to the growing tourism boom. A Main Street Beautification project has redone streets and sidewalks and worked with business owners to improve their storefronts in order to attract visitors. In addition several environmentally-based organizations are headquartered here: the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS), the Wyoming Outdoor Council and the Wyoming Nature Conservancy. 

The new visibility has been a mixed blessing. On the one hand it attracts those seeking to relocate to improve their quality of life. On the other hand it produces a sudden population growth which, without careful planning, threatens to alter the community and change the small town atmosphere, access to recreational areas, and clean environment that attracted people in the first place.

Communities that grow at 2% a year can thrive but those experiencing a rate of 7%, such as that of Jackson, Wyoming, face serious challenges — affordable housing, land use, traffic congestion, air and water quality, and many other issues related to population pressures. Lander Valley: 2020 was formed to prevent this situation from occurring. Spearheaded by the Chamber of Commerce and run by a volunteer Steering Committee and volunteer Task Forces, it is showing that a combination of fortunate demographic trends and the dedicated involvement of some of its citizens can make possible a positive vision for the future. 

The 2020 planning forums

The goal of Lander Valley: 2020 is to develop a vision of what Lander Valley is to be in the next 25 years. The process Lander chose to plan for growth while preserving its valued quality of life began two years ago. Citizens invited the Sonoran Institute to help plan and facilitate a visioning process using a consensus-based approach to organize people and ideas. 

The first Successful Communities Workshop, held in April 1994, was attended by 200 people. Participants were asked to discuss what they liked about living in Lander, what changes the Valley is likely to see in the near future, and how the community could work together to make sure that these changes work for the people of Lander. 

The attendees themselves were demographically representative of Lander: 21% of the participants had lived in Lander for less than five years, 30% were natives or had lived there more than 30 years, and 21% had lived there 10-20 years; 18% were over 60 years of age, 45% between 40-60; and 37% between 20-40; 17% were employed as professionals, 15% as business owners, 9% as ranchers, 5% by the government, and 14% were retired. 

When asked what they valued about living in the Lander Valley, the participants listed its open spaces provided by viable ranching and farming concerns, diverse locally- owned small businesses, a good educational system, high quality health care, clean air and water, and an abundance of wildlife. In response to a question as to what was needed in order to maintain these values in the future, close to 70 ideas were suggested, among which were:

• • • intensive combined city/county land use planning with the participation of more residents;

• • • increased business development, including more restaurants and retail stores;

• • • more greenways, parks, and recreation centers for youths;

• • • protection of farmers/ranchers, for the benefit of the community, land and the economy;

• • • improved air quality and solid waste recycling center;

• • • increased tourism as a viable growth industry; 

• • • increased interest in and appreciation of the Wind River Indian Reservation; and

• • • improved library services and better educational opportunities.

Growth and quality of life

In order to translate this vision into action, ten task forces, representing a cross-section of interests, were formed. A second 2020 workshop was held in October of 1994 to update the progress of the task forces. Lill Erikson, director of the Corporation for the Northern Rockies, a nonprofit organization created to help develop sustainable economies and to protect local values, spoke about other communities that are also dealing with increased growth problems. 

In the spring of 1995 the Lander Valley: 2020 Steering Committee sponsored two events: an informational meeting about the community planning process, called "Groundwork for Growth"; and a second Successful Communities workshop. Approximately 100 community residents attended "Groundwork for Growth" to learn about approaches that other towns and counties were using to accommodate rapid population growth and the importance of consensus. A representative from the Dubois Town Planning Commission spoke about the Upper Wind River Development Permit System, a permitting system that is less restrictive than zoning and basically affects businesses rather than ranchers. A speaker from Jackson commended Lander for looking ahead before growth got out of control, saying that Teton County's population tripled between 1970 and 1990 and that the county, without an updated land use plan, has experienced myriad problems. A representative from the Wyoming Open Lands Project spoke on private, voluntary options for open land protection. A questionnaire handed out at the end of the meeting revealed that a high percent of the participants did feel that some type of land use planning was necessary. 

"How do we improve our quality of life as we grow?" was the topic for discussion in the second Successful Communities Workshop held in May 1995 and facilitated by Luther Propst of the Sonoran Institute. Small discussion groups developed a list of key growth and planning issues and then presented the three most important to the forum. These were categorized and prioritized and then used as a basis upon which short- and long-term action steps were identified. 

Every event planned to date has been widely publicized to encourage participation. Reports on each of the meetings have included demographic information on the attendees. This documentation is not only helpful to illustrate the diversity of participation but also serves to demonstrate to those with other opinions that voices from their areas of interest have been heard. In mid-1995 the first 2020 newsletter was published and disseminated through direct mail. 


The greatest near-term needs are for leadership and funding. Long-term planning is a labor-intensive activity and momentum plays a key role. For a small town, funds are limited and widespread citizen participation critical.

As of mid-1995, three task forces remain: agricultural preservation, natural resources and land use planning. Each one requires a substantial commitment of time.

To date, this effort has moved forward on a modest budget of several thousand dollars. Grantmaking proposals are being submitted to government agencies, but otherwise local residents are the only ones supporting the costs of the meetings, newsletter, mailings and other organizational needs.