Transition Towns – Sullivan County, NY

Dear Breathing readers: While robust efforts to care for our land, water and traditions exist on all sides of  The Delaware River  Basin,   The Transition Towns model (“a practical vision for creating a post-consumer society–away from carbon dependence, and toward community sustainability”)  is making  news  in both Sullivan County, NY and Wayne County, PA.*   In the following statement,  Maria Grimaldi, one of  Sullivan’s staunchest and longest-serving stewards,   has managed to clarify many of the agricultural  issues we face in the Delaware River Basin  while encouraging us to bring our skills and creativity to the table.  I would only add that a  community armed with  The Precautionary Principle  and  a  Transition Towns model would be well-prepared to stand on its own many and diverse  feet.  Liz


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Dear Sullivan County and Regional Neighbors,

Sullivan County’s Transition Towns’ Agriculture and Food Committee will be meeting with Judy Hall,  some of our local dairy farmers and other key “ag” people.  On the agenda will be courses of action that will help our dairy farmers operate at a profit.  I believe the creation of effective cooperatives, the production of more value-added products and diversification of operations should  be integral to those discussions.  (For instance, a Regional Food Shed is a terrific idea but its success will depend, in part, on our ability to diversify our regional food production.)  The big picture would be to replicate something like Hudson Valley Fresh,   a dairy cooperative that produces its own value added products (butter, yogurt, and cheeses, among others) and markets them regionally.  One of our  Transition members was in Albany this week working on legislative initiatives with both State and Federal representatives which would both generate and support efforts to save our local dairy farms.  They must be treated as  essential pieces of our sustainable community.

Two of our members are working in concert with The Federation for the Homeless to build a Sullivan County Model Community Garden. The Federation has excellent resources, including a certified kitchen and  ties to the local community. Looking forward, the Federation could be the Lead Agency that helps establish more community gardens throughout the County.  We have several Transition Town members with extensive experience building  these kinds of community bases and we look forward to “growing” this project.

Anne Hart  (The Cutting Garden and Domesticities) is ready to put  a model financial permacuture system together.  She and  Nancy Eos are coordinating efforts with  local businesses,  the Sullivan County Chamber and the local banking community.   Nancy is  a medical doctor and  a Permaculture Graduate who also  attended a Financial Permacuture Intensive with Albert Bates in Tennessee last year.  I can’t wait to see the results of this collaboration!

Judy Hall  has already written a NYS Ag & Markets  grant for Specialty Crops and  Cornell Cooperative Extension  has been named Lead Agency for the project.  She’s  also working on a  SARE  (Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education) grant  for which the Catskill Mountainkeeper will take the lead.

Several  of  us  are investigating what other states have done to restore or re-create their local creameries.  There are plenty of good models out there and the local dairy farmers  I’ve spoken with  are interested in the idea.   (Sadly,  this effort will be  too late for a  Bethel farm which closed its doors recently  on three generations of farming.  I understand the land is being scouted by developers.)

Throughout the years,  an all-season food market for local products has been discussed.  Although I believe the idea will encounter  limitations because few of our  local farms  produce  marketable food  year-round and we lack a local  processing plant for meat and other products,  our Transition Towns’ objective is to create a network of sustainable local food sources and distribution.  The farm markets have stepped in to fill some of the breach but still,  too few of our communities have ready-access to locally-produced, affordable  foods.

We’ve got a lot of work ahead of us but I’m encouraged by the numbers of  dedicated and experienced people who are bringing their skills to the  Transition table.  f you have  questions, ideas and skills to offer as we work to create our Sullivan Transition model, please  contact me  (Panther Rock Organic Farm) or  Tim Shera at

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*SEEDS  (Sustainable Energy Education and Development Support) will be showing the film, “In Transition” on Tuesday November 17th.   A few days later,  Sullivan Transition is hosting a “Pre-Thanksgiving Potluck Bash”  at the Sullivan County Cooperative Extension on November 21st beginning at 6:00 PM.

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