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"As children of the '60s, we had always wanted to be helpful to society." (Financing Ozarks Rural Growth and Economy)

My husband and I subscribed to your magazine a few years ago, however, we subscribed to the Countryside Philosophy several years ago. It is quite ironic that our goal of a simplistic lifestyle has been anything but simple. In the early 1980's we purchased 12 acres in rural Rogers County of Oklahoma. The depression in the oil industry took its toll on Oklahoma at that time and we were not able to achieve our goal of simplistic living. Needless to say we had to leave our rural home and travel south for employment. Our years spent living in Dallas were profitable in monetary ways but draining of our spiritual side. The fast pace, materialism, helicopters buzzing, traffic, concrete, sidewalks, etc. were far from our dreams of simplistic lifestyle.

Our goal of getting out of "Dallas" and back home to Oklahoma took almost five years. We have been fortunate in the fact that we have been able to buy eighteen acres in rural Cherokee County. We live in a beautiful area in the foothills of the Ozarks. The region we live in is referred to as the Boston Mountain Range of the Ozark Mountains. Like many other Countrysiders, we have to rely on outside income to pay for our homestead.

We rely on woodheat for the winter and have installed an attic fan which keeps us cool in the evenings. I consider myself a strong environmentalist but have not weaned myself from the need for our lawnmower, tiller and of course the automobile. I may be an environmentalist, but also a realist. Our first garden was a blessing and we were able to can and freeze a tremendous amount of produce. We adhere to sustainable and organic practices and are always researching ways to wean ourselves from the use of any type of chemicals. Our second garden, this year, was overtaken by blight. We have had unseasonable coolness for Oklahoma and a great amount of rain. All we have been able to do is maintain the garden and fight the overtaking of it by Bermuda and Johnson grass.

We have purchased three calves and are letting them graze our pasture and supplementing with grain. Our future goals are to purchase chickens and hogs and also raise them with the sustainable philosophy of diversification. As I stated earlier our goals are simple but this simplicity is costly not only in initial dollars but in time.

In referring again to the Countryside Philosophy, "a concern for family nurture and community cohesion belief that the primary reward of work should be well-being rather than money" is also expressed in our personal philosophy of life. My husband has a job with the government in social services. As children of the 1960's we had always wanted to be helpful to society. At that time government was considered the "establishment", however with maturity we have seen that government can be changed from within. Even though the Reagan years cut the social service agencies to shoestring budgets the people that work in these agencies of government have a strong desire to serve the people.

Recently I had the good fortune to be appointed the Director of FORGE (Financing Ozarks Rural Growth and Economy) FORGE is a non-profit membership organization and community investment program in the Ozark Mountain Region of Arkansas, Missouri and Oklahoma. FORGE membership is open to anyone wishing to use their financial assets to promote local economic development in the production, distribution and consumption of food and fiber products. FORGE has a strong working relationship with the Ozark Small Farm Viability Project (OSFVP) and the Ozark Organic Growers Association (OOGA). Many of our goals and objectives are based on the unified approach of these three organizations.

These three organizations were developed in the late 1980's after it was determined that three major obstacles stand between organic farmers and a viable economy. Obstacles that are attributed to a lack of access to capital, a lack of technical knowledge of growing techniques, and a lack of market structure needed to sell products. FORGE is designed to take care of the first obstacle (lack of access to capital) and the other two programs focus on marketing and technical assistance. FORGE is modeled after the successful ARABLE Association for Regional Agriculture Building the Local Economy) program in Eugene, Oregon. FORGE is a member of the National Association of Community Development Loan Funds. We have a very active and participatory Board of Trustees and a dedicated membership base. FORGE is a 501(c)(3) organization that has the support of several foundations that support the goals of sustainable agriculture projects.

FORGE seeks to encourage the flow of investment capital into the system of local production, distribution and consumption of farm related products through community based lending which will:

* Increase direct and indirect employment in the local food system.

* Improve the economic position and viability of agriculture and agriculture related businesses.

* Enhance the long term sustainability of local agriculture through advocating sound ecological practices of resource management and farmland preservation.

* Encourage mutual and beneficial interdependence between urban and rural individuals, groups and families.

As stated, I am very fortunate to be able to work for such a viable organization that fits to our personal philosophy. In our region, the Ozarks, are many people that practice "life beyond the sidewalks" and I enjoy meeting and working with all of them.

Countryside offers a wealth of information and is a great source of encouragement, humor, knowledge and professes a deep spiritual love for the earth. Countryside is our main resource for developing our homestead. Perhaps this letter is written as a letter of encouragement for those that still have to live in the city. Do not give up the dream and goal of getting out and having a place. We were in our late thirties before we were able to move out to the country. We still owe on our small homestead (11 years) but are able to set goals and see that this will be paid for, that our land will be developed and that next year our garden will be better. (That is of course the Lord willin' and the creek don't rise!!)

For more information

If I can be of any assistance to any readers for more information about FORGE or the other organizations, Ozark Small Farm Viability Project or the Ozark Organic Growers Association or just for encouragement please write me: Sue Floyd, c/o FORGE, Rt 6 Box 134-1, Tahlequah, OK 74464.
COPYRIGHT 1993 Countryside Publications Ltd.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1993 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Floyd, Sue
Publication:Countryside & Small Stock Journal
Date:Jan 1, 1993
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