New Horizons

A common criticism of libertarianism is that it’s uncompassionate, because it would leave people who utilize social services like food stamps high and dry.  This drives me crazy. There seems to be this false idea that, without government programs such as food stamps, domestically abused women, children and your grandma would drop dead in the streets of starvation.  Nevermind the fact that food stamps were only *invented* in 1961, and somehow Americans weren’t dropping like flies of starvation before then. In any case, let me provide an example of how a group of Manchester, NH residents are voluntarily banding together to help feed the needy.

New Horizons is a nonprofit organization that runs a soup kitchen, food pantry and homeless shelter in Manchester, the largest city in New Hampshire (I realize that, with a population of ~110,000, it barely qualifies as a city depending on where you’re from, but work with me here, OK?).   Its mission is “to provide food and shelter to the people in need and offer supportive services to achieve self-sufficiency.” Earlier this year, it began constructing a greenhouse with the plan of growing its own fruits and vegetables for its soup kitchen at a lower cost than what it’s currently paying for them.  The greenhouse structure and most of the labor to build it were donated.  It then put out a call in the local paper for a “master gardener” to oversee the planting and harvesting.

Meanwhile, also earlier this year, a group of around 15 people, almost all of whom are Free State Project early movers, formed a Manchester chapter of the Grange. “The National Grange of the Order of Patrons of Husbandry”, as it’s formally called, was founded in 1867.  It’s “a nonprofit, nonpartisan fraternal organization that advocates for rural America and agriculture”. Why would a bunch of liberty activists spend time on such a thing? Well, believe it or not, libertarians do more than collect guns and argue on the Internet. Some of them actually have gardens. A few of them are really, really into gardening and will talk your ear off on the subject if you let them.  The Grange… hang on. I have to admit, every time I hear that word, the ZZ Top song starts playing in my head, so let’s just take a brief intermission and get this out of the way, shall we? La Grange  Thanks. I needed that.  Where was I? … The Grange also promotes itself as having a strong history in grassroots activism, family values and community service, which mesh nicely with FSP participants’ desire to reduce the size and scope of government and replace government programs with private ones.

It was a match made in heaven. New Horizons was building a greenhouse but needed volunteer labor and gardening know-how; the MCG had motivated, civic-minded members looking for a gardening project.

So Emily, an MCG member, volunteered to be the master gardener for New Horizons, and a few days ago held the first training session for prospective volunteers. The first crop has already been planted and is springing forth in a manner that would bring a tear of joy to Popeye’s eye. It’s spinach, of course, and if all goes according to plan will be ready for harvesting as early as December.  Around 25 people attended the volunteer meeting; some are affiliated with New Horizons, some are members of the Grange, and some are just neighbors who want to help out. Together, the group will help to feed 270 people a day. The goal is to grow 18,000 pounds of organic produce within two years!  I signed up for a weekly volunteer shift and hopefully will not be called upon to identify “Fusarium basal rot”, “Botrytis leaf blight” or assorted varieties of worm, none of which I know anything about. I’ll just be watering and picking spinach and (coming soon) onions and ensuring that some homeless people are getting their veggies. 🙂

20131022_baby spinach 20131022_New Horizons greenhouse

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