Chapters Update: Our Community Spirit Is Strong

As our nationwide network of chapters proves, people invested with community spirit can get a lot done when they have a venue to do it.
By the MOTHER EARTH NEWS editors
May/June 1983
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The MOTHER EARTH NEWS chapters network never would have come together without the community spirit of its readers.
Illustration by Fotolia/fabioberti.it


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Three years ago, when Mother's Chapters National Organization was born, it was our goal to bring together like-minded readers of MOTHER EARTH NEWS — folks whose community spirit would motivate them to work with friends and neighbors on self reliance and do-it-yourself projects and activities. The chapters were and are designed to offer the greatest amount of independence for each individual group, allowing it to pursue the interests most appropriate to its local environment and situation.

Well, judging from the activities of chapters across the continent (some of which are mentioned below), it seems apparent that we've met our goal. And so, as is the case with anything that grows and develops, we felt it was time for some changes ... for the better!

We knew, in the beginning, that forming a network of active chapters would require a good bit of start-up cash. In fact, the cost of postage and stationery alone made our accounting department's collective heads spin (not to mention the expense of phone calls, paper work, organizational preparation, and person-hours required to set into operation an ambitious program such as ours). As a result, we asked for $15 a year in dues from each chapter member. Well, we're now off the ground and climbing higher each day, and so we'd like to announce that we'll be collecting NO MORE NATIONAL DUES! The foundation has been established, and we've reduced our involvement (i.e. cost), so MOTHER EARTH NEWS is passing that saving along to you. (We will still request a one-time-only fee of $20, from each new chapter, in order to process the required forms and send you your start-up package, but there will no longer be any national dues for members.)

The Community Spirit newsletter will continue to be published (in a condensed format) along with its National Barter Board and other features, but the paper will now be sent to each active chapter (rather than to each member) together with extra copies to be passed around at chapter meetings.

The National Chapters Convention will be held July 22-25 this year, with Booker T. Whatley as guest speaker on Saturday, and with a smorgasbord of other activities for the members who attend. Show-Hows, cookouts, and tours are all on the agenda for this busy weekend, which will be open to any national member or member of a qualified chapter.

There are other details involved in the maturation of our organization, of course, but what we've done, basically, is to make it even easier to form a chapter. Write to us for your free chapter coordinator's guidebook, and we'll fill you in on the whole story,

Chapter Doings

Chapter No. 8: Puyallup, Washington. This veteran group is still going strong, with a special and exciting project coming up soon.

On June 3, 4, and 5, Chapter No. 8 will be exhibiting at The Good Earth Expo in Tacoma, Washington! Its presentation will include a how-to on tanning rabbit hides, a demonstration of an alcohol fuel still, a small-scale home foundry setup, and a cordwood construction seminar. The folks are participating in The Good Earth Expo for 1983—billed as "a celebration of self-sufficiency"—because of their popularity at the 1982 event. Monte Barnes, Chapter No. 8's president, explained that with one year's Expo experience behind them, the Puyallup group is really looking forward to this year's program.

And if you're in Tacoma and plan to attend the three-day fest, stop by and ask members of this busy chapter what's new with their four-acre project, which is similar to our own Eco-Village Research Center! We weren't kidding when we said this particular group was going strong! (We hope to have more on the four-acre endeavor in a future Chapters Update.)

Chapter No. 62: Toronto, Ontario, Canada. We're always delighted to receive new members, but we're especially happy to welcome the first Canadian chapter into our now international family. Furthermore, the folks in Chapter No. 62 have really "hit the ground running" with a project that's one of the most ambitious and practical ventures tackled by one of our groups to date. It's called "Farm-Share," and it'll allow its members many of the benefits of a farm/homestead — including such things as home-raised vegetables, meat, eggs, and dairy products — at a very reasonable cost. The members will each own a share of the farm, you see, and as the value of the property increases, so will the value of each share. Does this sound exciting? Well, we've got more details, but first here's some information about how Chapter No. 62 and the Farm-Share idea got started.

Nearly two years ago, Bruce Hampson of Willowdale, Ontario, decided to get involved with other folks who shared his ideas about getting a better hold on the basic necessities of life. The 36-year-old — who's an avid outdoorsman, survivalist, and househusband — formed his "core group" because, as he said, "I want people to see that they can have a more fulfilling life." He hoped to help other folks who were forced by economic circumstances to live in the city but who preferred life in the country.

Bruce and his associates held a good many meetings and engaged in activities that included working at a local food cannery, going on informative tours in their area, seeing movies such as Solar Frontier and Tomorrow's Energy Today, and hearing from speakers on various subjects (including ferroconcrete construction). Then the group saw a slide presentation about our MOTHER EARTH NEWS chapters and, after several months of discussion, voted to join the national organization.

Chapter No. 62 and the Farm-Share project were born at about the same time. Basically, each member will invest in a share of the property (a share will cost $1,000, or $200 down and $50 per month for 18 months). The shareholders will then work together to develop and improve the farm in order to make it into a productive, diversified enterprise. Each one of them will be entitled to a portion of the farm's products.

Chores will be assigned on a rotating basis by the resident farm manager. Members will be able to work on weekends, on holidays, or in their spare time so no one will have to give up his or her job, and will earn points in a system that serves to keep track of who does what, and when. The points will then be credited against the amount of produce, dairy products, etc. that are received by a member. This system is designed not only to keep track of farm activities, but also to minimize the need for cash to change hands.

Profit is not the purpose of this Farm-Share program. The undertaking is intended, rather, to help people return to the basic principles of life, to enable them to have the use of land in a simple, inexpensive manner, and to provide a place where they can "get away from it all" while at the same time learning to produce a large part (if not all!) of their food in a healthful and relaxed environment.

We're proud of our first Canadian chapter and of its bold plans for cooperative self-sufficiency. Three cheers for Chapter No. 62 and the Farm-Share program!

Chapter No. 38: Newtown, Connecticut. This group meets regularly at the home of its president, Viktoria Richter. The members have been involved in various activities, including constructing a root cellar, assembling a Sotz stove, and ordering seeds in bulk for spring planting — now an annual event that takes place each January. A barter book was set up for members' use, the chapter saw demonstrations on rototilling and raising backyard livestock, and the whole group went to visit a methane (from cow manure) gas plant at the Sunny Valley Foundation, a nonprofit organization in New Milford, Connecticut. Chapter No. 38, with only a handful of members as yet, is definitely another group that's doing more with less!

Chapter No. 25: New Orleans, Louisiana. In addition to maintaining a full schedule that includes energy-conservation work, backyard gardening, and recycling, these folks did a segment for their local P.M. Magazine show (the nightly television program featuring people, places, and events of special interest from around the country). And as if that weren't exciting enough, after the filming was done there were asked if they'd be willing to do three more segments, which will possibly be syndicated nationally! The program involved a look at three members' households, and at their approaches to the goal of self-reliant living.

Chapter No. 26: Chicago, Illinois. The members of this Windy City group have been meeting at least once a month, and from the looks of their newsletter they're a busy bunch of people. For starters, they've been involved with candlemaking, building a Heat Grabber, demonstrating food preservation techniques and woolen rug braiding, recycling aluminum (which pays for producing their newsletter!) and working in the chapter's group garden plot. In addition, they've enjoyed a demonstration on how to build two kinds of sprouting systems, listened to lectures on good nutrition and on how to start a food co-op, seen movies such as A Tale of Two Critters and The American Wilderness ... and have even been involved in a hands-on project that found them boiling down maple sap into syrup, producing samples to share!


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