Afternoon Musings

I was down in Vermillion last weekend checking on my parsnip crop (not ready yet), cleaning up a few more things in the house and garden in town, and distilling notes from my first two months of local foods organizing in Big Stone County.

I spent several hours on that project–feeling the need to “organize the organizer” and make sense of all the meetings and connections and projects and possibilities with which I’d filled a one-hundred page notebook and see if it would help show me the gaps and the paths for what happens next.

Having heard the northlands were ripe for a winter storm, I loaded the back of my little RWD pickup with sand tubes before layering in more stuff I hadn’t yet moved from the house: my sewing machine that I still haven’t learned how to use, my meat grinder and seedling heat mat, my wheelbarrow and snow shovel.  You know, the basics.

Heading back Monday morning, I didn’t see a trace of snow but what had slid off vehicles coming from a storm-tossed elsewhere–little piles of broken snow-crust in the intersections.

But there was ice forming on the edges of the sloughs, and as we (my dog and I) approached Milbank, we saw a thick, smoky grey bank of air I thought might be a fire but turned out to be a hoarfrost-producing cloud stretching all the way to Big Stone City.

Beware the Pogonip!

This week, in between being gassed out of my house for no reason the furnace repairman could discern, I’ve been talking and thinking about producer meetings and networking.

Networking was the whole purpose of our Healthy Eating Minnesota meeting in the Twin Cities at the beginning of the month, and my head has been swirling with existing connections and those that need to be made.

We started on some “networking maps” there, and I keep wishing I had a massive set of label-ready Tinker Toys to work on a 3D version.

The idea of a network map is to provide a visual representation of all the people working on your project (or projects) and how/if they are connected.  You start by putting your name in the middle of a sheet of (large) paper and then putting in colleagues’ names and connecting those that work together with lines.  You can get creative, and label for institutions, sub-projects, and places.

The places on the map where there are a lot of interconnected people are network hubs.  If you have a few of them, you can see if it makes sense to network those networks.  If you see some people or a group just kind of hanging out on the edge, you can figure out how to tie them in more securely (and hopefully meaningfully) with your project.

You could also create a map with a sticky note for each person–that gives you space to fill in a few notes on the person and where they live and what they’re most passionately involved in.  You can move the sticky notes around then, and revise your map ’til it looks and feels right, then draw in the connecting lines.

Another more seriously art-related event last night was the Big Stone Arts Council’s Annual Meeting at the Birdfeeder in Big Stone City.  I just happened to be in Java Jules airing out from my natural gas fumigation, and got an invitation to the meeting that I think was also partly a way to make sure I will still alive by that evening.

I became a member of the Arts Council, ate some delicious appetizers, saw a hilarious impromptu reading of a Viking soap opera, and was entered into a drawing through which I won an original watercolor painting by Neva Foster.

So despite having had to quite suddenly vacate my home, it was a pretty good day.  And the furnace repairman turned out to be an avid gardener who wished he had some way of marketing or processing the immense amount of overproduction they have every season.  Uh-huh.

Another spool in my Tinker Toy map.

This morning I got hold of my main organizing contact on the South Dakota side about a producer meeting we’re setting up there in Wilmot (that’s December 5th, 6pm at the Community Center–and there will be soup) and how we want to structure the thing.

The main focus of this meeting is SD side organizing, but we won’t turn away Minnesotans (which I guess would be me, so that’s a good thing).  We are trying to get together an actual Big Stone County producer meeting as well, and my hope is that once we can get an idea of each group’s needs, we can focus on networking across the border based on shared interests.

I do feel kind of sheepish that the SD-side producer meeting is going to end up coming first, but that’s just the way it worked out.  Far be it from me to put a damper on community enthusiasm!

This afternoon, after visiting with a Minnesota farmers market guru and my South Dakota EBT systems guru, I gave a brief accounting of just exactly what it is a local foods organizer does to the Senior Citizens Club, who didn’t give me too hard a time.  They gave me an extra doughnut instead!

In the morning, I’ll head to Monte for a home office visit, and this weekend I’ll be picking up my turkey from HumbleRoots Heritage.  It’s hard to believe it’s almost Thanksgiving–that we’re over halfway through November, and I am just getting a full grasp on the wild ride that was October.

It seems like the year is all but gone, and when that happens, it’ll be time to start planning next year’s gardens and ramping up for next year’s markets.  And diving into the real meat of networking connections and infrastructure development.  Holy cow, there’s a lot of work ahead.

Back to my Tinker Toys.

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