Over these same years, we have also gotten to know the North Fork Valley Community. We see an unusual concentration of talented and adventurous people who care deeply about present and future generations, and who are engaged in pioneering quality ways of living and contributing. The local rich landscape and virtual absence of regulation makes for an especially dynamic and diverse hotbed of innovation. Many of these pioneers have important lessons to teach and are eager to teach them, but lack students or the time or knowhow to recruit them. They also often lack the time to sit back and look at the big picture, to integrate their truths and innovations with what is happening elsewhere in the world or even on the other side of the valley. Knowing this, most welcome fresh eyes, strong backs and inquiring brains. Finally, we see in this North Fork Valley a desire to forge a larger identify, something to hold us altogether, something to make us more than the sum of our parts, something that can catalyze our learning and help meet our needs without requiring us to attend too many more meetings.
When we put these two lines of observations together, we see an opportunity. We imagine a community that welcomes young people and supports them in creating a balanced and meaningful lifestyle that contributes to the world. We also see young people who help the community generate new ideas and integrate old ones, get the harvest in, and create new and healthy enterprises. We see a college that is relatively affordable but that also brings jobs and economy to the valley. We see a living, learning laboratory that is also a community and also a campus.
In addition, we see the creation of a form of education that not only encourages sustainable values but that is sustainable in and of itself. Why shouldn't young people be able to work and really contribute to the world as they learn, thereby giving back as they receive and graduating with a trade, a home and a lifestyle rather than a mountain of debt? Why shouldn't a school and community emphasize helping young people to create a sustainable lifestyle and why shouldn't these young people help the community figure out how to care for the old, market the potatoes and start a local money system? And why shouldn't the important lessons learned along the way be counted on a transcript?
Much of this vision of a community-based college is in place already. We can imagine a strong curriculum and already have hands-on experience with much of it. We have experience starting community-based educational programs. We have a strong foundation of working with young people, with education and with sustainability; and we have a successful summer sustainability program to offer as a starting point. We already have a rich and diverse valley with countless organizations already teaching and hosting interns. We have neighbors who model living in harmony with sustainable values and a valley that is full of potential faculty, collaborators and opportunity. We have the commitment.
What we still lack is an umbrella institution to help with accreditation and legalities; a few more places to house students and hold classes; a way of recruiting a critical mass of first-year students; an economically-viable green business or two for new students to help run while they learn the skills to create their own; and the finances and support to clear some of these last hurdles. We trust that these will come. Please contact us if you’d like to help.