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A rural listening tour by young people on the move

A decade and more ago, timber corporations left Grays Harbor—but the people who had given their lives to the timber industry stayed. They stayed in towns where there were no jobs, little housing, few public amenities. They have weathered many storms and taken care of each other for years.

Four years ago, they embarked on their own effort to revive the county. Harbor Roots is a Community Supported Agriculture program that was started by and for those left behind. Their goal, outlined on their website (www.harborroots.com) is to create a new story for Grays Harbor. They are reclaiming their right to produce fresh food, to foster sustainable use of the land, and to build an economy that benefits all, not just the few at the top.

And Harbor Roots has already produced more than food. Some of the people from Harbor Roots have started another organization, called Firelands Together. Their goal is ambitious: to build working people’s power to fight for a Green New Deal that can help restore rural economies for generations to come. Here is how they describe their situation:

“Throughout rural and small–town Washington, so many of us feel stuck between putting out the fires of daily crisis and the fires creeping over the hills each summer, coating our lungs with smoke. Firelands Together is for all of us who feel like we spend our days putting out fires—whether it’s how to make rent, or who’s going to watch our kids, or how we’re going to pay for groceries or how to make that paycheck stretch to next month. We deserve better than that. Firelands Together is dedicated to building a stable, healthy, thriving future for our region.”

Consequently, Firelands Together has started a Cost of Living survey and listening tour to hear from families in several counties across the state.

Why “Firelands”?

On their Facebook page, organizers of Firelands Together allude to the double meaning within the name “fire lands”: first, they are focusing on areas of WA affected by the recurring wildfires that are starting earlier and getting stronger each year. Second, within that geography, Firelands Together wants to connect with people who find themselves in a perpetual state of putting out fires in their daily lives, like how to pay rent or to find and pay for health care. In their words, through this listening tour, Firelands organizers want “ to hear from people what makes it the hardest to make ends meet, who they think is responsible for our struggles, and what solutions would make the most difference for them and their community.”

The information in this article comes from the Harbor Roots and Firelands Together websites, and the Firelands Facebook page. You can contact Harbor Roots at harborrootsfarm@gmail.com.

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