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Community Resilience, Felton California, and Renee's Garden Seeds

 

Yesterday in working on Loving Garland Green's program and project definitions for 2015, I came across Renee's Garden Seeds in my quest for more information regarding the Three Sisters Garden, a project we will put in place as soon as the nights are consistently 50 degrees F and above.   Renee's company has signed the Safe Seed Pledge developed by the Council for Responsible Genetics.  They do not sell chemically treated or genetically engineered seeds.  I ordered two packets of these seeds from her last night--one for the garden and one for a friend.

I happened to notice that Renee is located in Felton, California (Santa Cruz County).  Hmmmm that name sounded so familiar to me.  Then this morning I remembered why.  Back in 2010 I was doing some research on how well privatization does and does not work for communities, I came across the story of Felton's experience when their water utility was privatized.  I wrote an article on the story.

Privatization of Water Utilities for Felton California and the Ensuing Story of Community Resilience.

Speaking of privatizing water, the citizens of Felton California learned how bad that was for their community: A classic example of how privatization schemes don’t always work for ordinary citizens is exemplified by what happened to the people of Felton California when their water supply was privatized.

In 2002, when Citizen Utilities, the small company that ran the water system for Felton, California was acquired by American Water Works Co. Its subsidiary, California-American Water (Cal-Am), took over Felton’s water utility. American Water was acquired shortly afterward by London-based Thames Water.  Now that's "globalization"--an insane situation that allows people in London to control the water of citizens in California.  What do you think these people in London even know or care about water in California or the people who live in Felton?  

In November 2002, Cal-Am proposed a 74 percent rate increase over three years, subject to approval by the California Public Utilities Commission. Felton residents formed Friends of Locally Owned Water (FLOW), and with legal help from Santa Cruz County, fought the rate increase, which the utilities commission knocked down to 44 percent.

But the threat of escalating costs loomed, so FLOW began working on a plan to buy the water system and turn it over to the nearby San Lorenzo Valley Water District (SLVWD), a public utility. Their efforts were successful, and the ballot initiative won with nearly 75 percent of the vote. SLVWD then proposed to buy the water system for $7.6 million, but Cal-Am/RWE refused to sell. So SLVWD pursued eminent domain to force a buyout.  

Just before the case was to go to jury trial, the company settled with SLVWD. Today, with Felton’s water back in the hands of a public utility, the average resident’s bill has dropped by at least 50 percent. FLOW has calculated that even with the tax increase, most residents are already saving as much as $400 per year.

Promoting Community Resilience with Gardens

Most people don't realize the importance of a community pulling together until after some disastrous event, but there is a lot to be said for developing community resilience before you need it.  

Gardens Grow Economic Roots and Stabilize Communities:  One of the best ways to promote community resilience is by encouraging people to grow at least some of the food they eat.  When people begin to grow gardens, they begin to grow and stabilize their local economy as well.  First of all, gardens begin by stimulating the existing local markets.  People go to the local hardware and garden stores to purchase seeds, soil, plants, garden tools, etc.  But after a time, some of these more enterprising gardeners start thinking outside the fences of their own gardens.  One example in our own community of Garland Texas is Melyssa Childs-Wiley, owner of Fat Lady Foods who makes delicious jams. Melyssa purchases the goods she uses to make her jams (that she doesn't grow herself) from local folks. As for the commercial kitchen to prepare her jams, she uses the services of a nearby commercial kitchen.  Community vegetable gardens such as the Garland Community Garden at 4022 Naaman School Road here in Garland are especially beneficial in speeding up the process of developing community resilience--especially when they are managed in such a way as to demonstrate various gardening techniques to the public.

Many possibilities for a community are offered through gardens.  I especially look forward to seeing many of these possibilities become realities here in Garland in 2015.  We have many projects on our map for implementation this year, and many more to come.  I hope that you will join us this year and volunteer to be a project leader.  It's easy:  no membership fee.  Just show up at 216 East Kingsbridge Drive Garland Texas 75040 and you will immediately be welcomed and put to work.  We meet every Monday from 6:30 PM to 7:30 PM.  Who knows where your first step might lead?  Perhaps in a few years you might establish a seed company here in Garland like Renee's.  Perhaps you might become one of the founding members of a compost cooperative.  It's up to you.

Saturday, January 3, 2015