While “local” has become an overused buzzword in many places over the last two decades, “green livelihoods for local residents” remains a goal that many communities aspire to achieve. In southern Arizona along the border with Mexico, many rural communities have all but dried up for lack of jobs offering livable wages. Supporting start-up food microenterprises remains one of the best ways to jumpstart a lagging local economy, and yet the crews which run such operations often work long hours with few benefits to counterbalance all the “sweat equity” they invest.
In the Canary Islands this last week, Alex La Pierre and I visited a unique strategy to help these new entrepreneurs gave both skills and markets. In the village of San Bartoleme on the island of Lanzarote, we spent time at Cesar Manrique’s Monument to the Campesino, where the famous architect/community planner built a training center showing the foods, crafts and artisanal products that use the local materials of the island. At the rear of the training center is a courtyard with a series of rooms facing on to the central feature where a spiral staircase has been installed into an old stone quarry.
Each of the rooms features practitioners of a different artisan craft and a shop offers their traditional crafts and gifts for sale – from wine, to salsas, to basketry, metalwork, weavings and sculpture. Visitors get a taste of practicing the culinary arts that they see, and tasting the products they themselves make.
What if every impoverished community in America had such a training and exhibition center to kickstart new jobs with livable wages?
-Gary Paul Nabhan