"And Now It's Our Turn"

Rural Enterprise - by Ken Taylor

Editorial in the MFA Digest, March, 1987 (Vol 1, Issue 1)

(excerpts)

 

The news that we received the $247,500 Northwest Area Foundation grant is very exciting to us. We will be able to get our Rural Enterprise Program going for real…

 

The concept of developing model food enterprises—business ventures which contribute not only economically to the people involved, but informationally and experientially as well—has been a key part of the strategy for the founding “mothers and fathers” of MFA. The theory is simple. Once the decision has been made that the development of a sustainable food system is a priority for our state, then all we have to figure out is how to accomplish that goal. This involves new methods of production and distribution and new systems of ownership. Implementation of this theory, we have discovered, is far from simple.


Setting aside for the moment the problems associated with convincing people that our current food system needs to be changed (or, for that matter that it can be changed) the difficulties of setting up these new businesses can be overwhelming…. At one time it all seemed to be a matter of money. <Discusses Jubilee Fund, creation of loan fund, etc…>

 

It was from this experience that the Enterprise Committee learned the basic lesson of community development: you have to start with the definition of the community. Who wants this program to happen, anyway, and who are the people willing to take risks with their time and their money…?

 

It was from this early experience that MFA was born as a membership organization (defining the community) and the Jubilee Fund created as the mechanism for members to assemble collectively the financing needed to initiate the actual enterprise development work.

 

Today we find ourselves in a different place… we have grown to 300 members. The Jubilee Fund has over $25,000 on deposit from members and contributors. We have learned some hard lessons about enterprise development…

 

Our success will depend upon how well our community can work together, what kinds of risks we are willing to take… The funding community has demonstrated its interest and support for the program. Now it’s our turn.