8 Great Places You've (Maybe) Never Heard Of, 2014 Edition

Throughout the United States, people are working together to create local food systems, plan for a healthy future and build sustainable communities. Each year the MOTHER EARTH NEWS Great Places series highlights towns and cities that are working to get it right. The 2014 choices are Ashland, Oregon; Beaufort, South Carolina; Bozeman, Montana; Burlington, Vermont; Penns Valley, Pennsylvania; Evanston, Illinois; Lincoln, Nebraska; and Sparta, Tennessee.

October/November 2014

By K.C. Compton

At first glance, the communities we’ve selected as our 2014 Great Places might not seem to have much in common. Some are large cities, some are suburban and some are so small we had trouble finding census data on them. Some of the areas are surrounded by farmland, and in some you wouldn’t see a farm if you drove around all day. The demographics of these eight places are diverse, as are the places’ economies.

So what do these places have in common? Each is home to groups of individuals coming up with creative, thoughtful solutions to the concerns that all communities face. Some solutions reach back into our nation’s history (the well-organized homesteads and up-to-date Victory Gardens that are springing up all over) and some address challenges humanity has never encountered before (voter initiatives to label genetically modified foods).

Throughout the country, neighbors are realizing that connecting on things we want to have happen, rather than feuding over events of the past, will pave a positive path forward — one that each of our 2014 Great Places is on.