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"Currency in Community" by Beth Weick, as published in North Country News, February 2012

Just the other evening an intern - who is also a student - was posing his homework questions to the rest of us over dinner. I ambled into the room at a critical moment:

"Beth, what do you think are the root causes of the world's problems?"

Money and men were my off-the-cuff response. We all laughed for the joke, or perhaps for the truth it suggested. "Men" being alliterative; my meaning being "humanity" lest anyone feel unfairly slighted. The answer, of course, is not nearly that simplistic. Setting aside the topic of humanity, let's briefly consider that of money.

Money, a statement of value. Yet money so effectively affects our judgment of value. Twists it, undermines it, and counters a traditional value system rooted in place, landscape, resources, and community.

Rather than judging worth –value - by the time it took to make an object, or the neighbor's par excellence skill with a particular tool; or the resources you had to pull from your own land for the creation of a good; or the necessity that an object can claim in our daily life…rather than any of these reasonable, tangible, based-in-reality systems of value, we have chosen to use paper currency as a value-determining middle-man. Not only that, but paper currency is now an international value, resulting in total detachment from a community-based scale of value. We have evolved into a system that determines value largely devoid of the people, places, and resource-base from which objects and services originate.

Is this really how we want to continue? With money flowing out of our communities for objects created in exploitation of distant people and resources, subsidized by governmental agreements and sanctioned by international political status quos?

Not me, for one.

Here at D Acres, we are emphasizing a resource-based, skills-based economy, one grounded in place, reflective of our regional identity, and responding to community needs. Resiliency, flexibility, and sustainability are tenets of a local system, rather than power, exploitation, bureaucracy, and unrestricted development. We want an economy grounded in the reality that surrounds us. We want to maintain money – value - within our communities. Wealth based in resources & skills is wealth that is tangible, necessary, and empowering.

And so we are envisioning a new system, one that reflects our identity, our landscape, our resources, and our community needs.

Sounds like grand philosophy, I suppose. What does it mean?

We are initiating a community exchange system that is based on the goods and services that we each offer. It is a mutual credit system that encourages trading of goods and services between individuals Administered online, participants will be each other's oversight and accountability. While we recognize the challenges, we are also excited about the possibilities.

Join us as we imagine a new way! Community-wide planning begins Saturday, February 25 at 12:00noon, here at D Acres. Come to learn more, contribute your perspective, and be a part of this inspiring community initiative. The future starts now.

Bethann Weick lives and works at D Acres Permaculture Farm & SustainAbility Center, a non-profit education organization. She first came to the farm in April 2008 and now focuses her work on gardening, animal husbandry, and writing. Check out her recent articles published in Small Farmer's Journal and Permaculture Activist. Learn more about the programs at D Acres by visiting www.dacres.org.

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