How We Engaged the Community in Our Homestead


| 3/16/2015 10:45:00 AM


Tags: homesteading, Deer Isle Hostel, Maine, community outreach, Anneli Carter-Sundqvist,

When I first came to Maine in 2008, much of my time was spent connecting our local community to the Hostel and our homestead. We opened at a time when there weren't at all that many young people on the island, and very few that had started their own businesses. The engagement and support we received turned out to be transformative, and made it what it is today. I've always envisioned the Hostel as a result of many people's influence and just as homesteading is a vibrant, dynamic and life affirming lifestyle with many different life forms all playing a role for the outcome, the Hostel is in a sense also it's own being, created each day by those staying with us.

party

In the early days, engaging the community was a way to make sure that everyone was on board with what we were doing. To settle and reside in a small community comes with responsibilities – others were here before us, we should be attentive to and adhere to local conducts and make an effort to integrate, without giving up who we are. A business, even a small one like ours, will impact the community and especially in our case, the quiet neighborhood dirt road and its residents. We use this road as an artery to our business, with increased traffic and guests that sometimes wander across our neighbors' land, in search for the shoreline. These neighbors, if we're lucky, are people that we will share many decades with and it was, and still is, very important to have their trust and confidence that what they notice from our business is un-invasive, and positive.

At that time, not many people knew what Dennis was up to back here – a guy living alone in the woods with piles of lumber and stones stacked around the yard who said he was going to open a hostel. A Hostel? Isn't that what they have in Europe, where people on bicycles stay?

campfire

One of the ways I reached out to the community that first year was open invitations to stop by and take a look at what we did. I made posters by hand, with crayons and by cutting and pasting images from printed material we had. Even though we had suggested days each week for visits, anyone could come pretty much at anytime and we showed them the buildings and the grounds. And many came – our neighbors showed up and returned with their relatives, the relatives came back with their friends. People we only barely knew started to come by on a regular basis, some summer people made it an annual tradition to check in on us and our progress and tourists stopped for photos and garden tours. Many of our most loyal and generous supporters came from a generation that had indeed traveled in Europe back in the '70s before there were many hostels in America and for them, we evoke memories, nostalgia and an experience they wanted others to have too. And our mission, to spread the gospel about sustainable living and positive environmental impact, was without doubt recognized as something good. This stream of visitors had its drawbacks – the constant distractions – but at that point it created an upward spiral of incredible engagement, an engagement that was manifested in many ways. We were given every piece of furniture we needed for the Hostel, often wooden, high quality, and even hand made furniture we wouldn't even have known where to look for. All the plates, kitchen ware, bed linens, towels and even paintings were donated to us along with homesteading tools and equipment.




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