Going with the flow

Too many people are fighting a battle they’re doomed to come out losers in—resisting change. Change is becoming like breathing—it’s automatic and we don’t even notice we’re doing it. We don’t fight breathing, yet we resist any sign that things are going to change.

There was a time when I hated change. I fought it, hoping things would return to “better” days. Now, I’m more selective in the battles I choose to wage.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m a sucker for nostalgia and “the good ‘ole days” like most people of a certain age. I like history, appreciate what life was like growing up in a small town, and I even drink Moxie. I even have a new book out about it. Yet, I’m trying to adapt, and get better at staying ahead of the curve, or at least not becoming an anachronism. I will also say, I’m not a fan of change for change sake, or always following the latest flavor of the month; just wanted to get that out there.

At a meeting and public comment period I was at the other night, people got up and offered comments about a proposal to upgrade services at the local community library. The librarian and economic development director had recognized an area of concern in the community and are taking steps to address it. I’ve been involved in some of the meetings to provide a workforce development perspective.

As I listened to the speakers come to the microphone addressing those in attendance and the town council, insisting that offering enhanced career services at a community hub like a library was foolhardy, I was amazed at how out of touch these people were. To say that “schools and guidance counselors” should be providing career services made me wonder what planet the speakers were from. Some of them seemed like they had graduated prior to my high school graduation in 1980. Career guidance was minimal at best then—I have it from good sources that it’s no better now.

The exponential changes affecting the world of work, the economic shifts that have been occurring since the late 1990s, and the loss of more and more traditional businesses probably frightens people. Many of the speakers seemed to be coming from a place of fear. When people are frightened, they seek out easy answers, and sometimes, they pick demagogues to follow. There is certainly plenty of demagoguery going on, both at the state level, and in DC. Sadly, this kind of simplification of the complex does nothing to address the changes that are upon us and will continue to press us from all sides.

The other morning, I checked my Twitter feed like I always do in the morning to get my 5 minute news infusion and found an interesting Maine company that had just begun following me. I was impressed that they had a website, were on Twitter, and had a Facebook page.

Farming has been around since the beginning of time. As needs have changed and economic models have shifted, farmers, especially smaller, family-owned farms have had to adapt, or end up on the scrap heap, out of business.

Exeter Agri-Energy (EAE) is an example of what can happen when you cleave to the best elements of the traditional, while also recognizing that things change and adaptation is necessary for any species to survive and it’s not much different for businesses, especially traditional businesses connected to farming and agriculture. EAE is subsidiary of Stonyvale Farm, a 5th generation family farm in Exeter, Maine. Back in 1999, family members were forward-looking and made a deliberate decision to expand the farm and upgrade technology. Today, the farm has about 1,000 milking cows, and the quality of milk that the herd produces is excellent. Stonyvale Farm ships its milk to Dairy Farmers of America (DFA), and from there it arrives in the kitchens of New England families as wholesome Hood and Garelick Farms dairy products.

Additionally, by finding a way to create value-added options from waste and other byproducts  of farming, they are finding a way to remain viable, while also keeping valuable pasture land in production. This is the kind of win-win that doesn’t happen when you fight change. It comes from recognizing the value of the traditional, and adapting to the times you are living in.

I’m anxious to learn more about businesses like EAE. They represent the future of Maine. They also provide hope and possibilities to establish strong local economies built upon sustainability and being around for the long haul.