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"If Alexander the Great grew a garden..." by Beth Weick, as published in North Country News, February 2011

Each time the calendar pages roll back and a new month is upon us, we find ourselves in a cyclical flurry of flyering efforts. Hitting the streets, if you will, to reach the masses, spread the word, and, well, simply let folks know what's happening here on the farm over the course of each month.

Just a few weeks ago we were so engaged. Upon asking permission to hang a flyer in one of our less-frequently-visited venues, our man on the mission was told no. The justification being that everyone in the business was already sustainable; the explanation being that everyone had gardens and chickens.

Excellent. Our work appears to be done.

Perhaps. Overlooking the formidable scope of such a statement, it does seem to raise the question: What does "sustainable" mean? Is it just gardens & chickens? I suppose all I can do is offer my own definition. And yes, my conception of sustainability includes gardens, hens, and even roosters that crow even when the sun is hours from rising. But to me, sustainability is also about a regional economy, and diverse & local food production. It is about health, it is about education, it is about local resources and functional art. It is about community relationships of mutual support.

Please understand, this is my own definition and nothing more than that. Tell me, what would yours include?

I think for me, it really comes down to local networks…and within that I would specify food and economics. So here at D Acres, for example, we're in the midst of compiling our fifth edition of the Pemi-Baker Local Goods Guide. Showcasing area farmers, artists, and second-hand retailers, thousands of copies of the Guide are published each year and released to the public on Memorial Day. Distributed throughout the seasons to locals and visitors alike, the Guide connects local producers to local consumers. We are actively looking for new listings to include in the 2011 edition, as well as local businesses to advertise in the Guide: please give us a call if that's you! 603-786-2366 or info@dacres.org.

There are local connections and community systems all around us – "us" being D Acres, yes, but also being the inhabitants of the Pemi-Baker region. Local Foods Plymouth, for example, is an online farmer's market connecting Plymouth-area farmers to all of us who need to eat: www.localfoodsplymouth.org. Or, meet Eddie at Plymouth's Café Monte Alto who recently entered the "local" niche of the beverage market – along with Six Burner Bistro & Mark's Eatery. Having added D Acres herbal tea blend to Café Monte Alto's menu offerings is a heartening commitment to the local foods movement – locally-grown, organic, herbal tea is something you can't get at Dunkin'Donuts or MickeyD's. Swing by the café and show your support - order some D Acres herbal tea today!

Now, this is going to seem tangential, but hold in there. We recently made a new acquaintance here at the farm whose military past pops up from time to time. One exchange in particular fixated on Alexander the Great's successes in strategy and tactics. Trying to understand the mindset of a man who voluntarily chose to cross the Alps with a horde of elephants is a bit much. Despite History 101's fixation on this fact, however, the man's success, apparently, came down to? His Macedonian Cavalry. Naturally.

Well, here at D Acres, here in Dorchester, here in the Pemi-Baker Valley, our community is our Macedonian Cavalry. We may all have a different perception of sustainability, but if we are to progress beyond an unsustainable system to one of cooperation, collaboration, local support, and mutual benefit…if we are to achieve a regional economy, a distinctive regional culture, a vibrant local food system…well, then we must look to our neighbors as our most valuable assets. For it is our neighbors with whom we will learn with and share in new ways of doing things – or perhaps of old ways of doing things; it is our neighbors with whom we will grow, support and maintain a local economy.

So whether you want gardens or chickens, (or elephants); whether you want to buy local tea at the Café, or eggs from a nearby farm, or art from the town around the corner: join us. Join us in a community bounded and bonded by strong handshakes and mutual support. Join us in making the very many definitions of sustainability a reality.

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