What is a Slow Road and why does it matter?

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I am very excited to announce a new vision and collaboration for Slow Road beginning this Fall of 2014. In tandem we are launching the “Slow Roads & Story of Place blog” to tell you about the stories of the people and places that we discover on the roads less traveled.

There is a tremendous amount to explore in our region and Slow Road will continue to capture the spirit of place as we advocate for sustainable locally rooted tourism.

WATCH our trailer below to learn more:

<p><a href=”http://vimeo.com/104036255″>Slow Road Trailer 2014</a> from <a href=”http://vimeo.com/slowroad”>Slow Road</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

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Slow Road

It has been far too long since I have written but I assure you that has not meant my efforts towards honoring local integrity and working towards community improvement have subsided in the least bit.

The main reason I am making this post today however, is because I want to share with you that I am launching and hosting a brand new project that I am incredibly excited about. I am currently working along side a production company here in Rochester to produce a local travel series that will put a lens on the often overlooked people and places from our region. I can tell you from my own personal experience that there are incredible things happening in and around our community that often don’t see the light of day enough for us to even pay attention.

Today I spent the day filming in and around Medina, NY to take time to explore and discover the many incredible initiatives that are happening there. It is a myth that innovation cannot come from outside of a major metropolitan area and quite the contrary after today’s filming in Medina I would actual assert that the village is demonstrating greater innovation in their urban planning then we are here in Rochester, NY.

Medina’s investement and creativity in adaptive reuse of beautiful (and often dilapidated) infrastructure is something that will be making major news with or without my project’s attention, just remember you heard that here first!

It was an incredible day of exploration and conversation which will not only make you want to visit this amazing small village of Medina but will also challenge your perception of what is happening here in Upstate New York.

We are surrounded by amazing people and places and it is time we start paying attention, my project will do just that and will give the incredible people (and their personalities) an opportunity to be known and heard.

I anticipate that the first screening of this series will begin in early Summer of this year (2013).

Sometimes it takes a slow road for us to take notice of  the beauty that is around us, I’m thankful I explored one today and that it is reinvigorating a desire and passion to explore, pursue, and honor the people and places of our greater community.

Stay tuned, this is something you do not want to pass by!

 

The Roads Less Traveled Part II

I’ve had another great opportunity to take the roads across Upstate New York in search of the desire to experience something new. Today the greatest experiences have been the ability to  see the incredible beauty of the farms and orchards that are such a part of this region in New York State. Shortly after leaving my workplace at Joe Bean Coffee Roasters today, I headed north along Route 250 and towards the Sea Way Trail which hugs the coast of Lake Ontario. It was an impromptu decision to fill some unplanned time and to engage in what is quickly becoming my favorite thing to do in my free time. I am constantly amazed at just how quickly the scenery changes with a short drive out of town, often I find the ability to experience something “less than familiar” as purely refreshing.

Today I wanted to pay attention to the motivations and the things I wanted to experience. Whenever we set out to explore something new from somewhere we always hope for a positive experience, but what exactly are we looking for?  In examining these thoughts I began to really ask the question what is it that makes “place” for us? Why is it that we feel the motivations to travel towards a particular area or destination? In my opinion it becomes about having the desire to find somewhere that engages us enough that it becomes memorable.

What was it that was memorable for today? So much of what brought me fulfillment was the natural beauty of the road and landscape before me. A winding road that took me through apple orchards and old farm homesteads and the ability to glimpse the whitecaps on Lake Ontario that were created by a blustery and unusually warm and sunny late winter day. It dawned on me how much the natural landscape dictated the way that the road formed, something that is so clearly lacking when we take a major highway or expressway. We are use to roads cutting through and away from everything in a manner that bypasses the environment around us. Today’s trip became more about the road carrying you into places, at times I felt the road was almost designed to give me a tour of the many orchards and farms I passed through. Not surprisingly the Sea Way Trail has been dedicated as one of America’s Byway’s by the U.S. Department of Transportation. The Sea Way trail is,” recognized for its unique landscape, scenic freshwater coastline, and historical significance.” That intimate connection with the natural environment was refreshing as I set out along my way.

As I continued down the road I shortly arrived  in the serene small town of Pultneyville and was captivated by the nautical nature of the town, it was set as close to the shores on Lake Ontario as any town I have seen in New York and boats were scattered throughout the marina. Everything about the town made you think about the history of its settlement, old Edwardian and Victorian homes it was amazing to think of the first people who would of settled there back in 1806. This town even served as a trading port during the War of 1812.

Though today I didn’t set out with a final destination the end of my journey took place in the beautiful town of Sodus Point. Here the ability to experience the lake shore was incredible. My first stop was a visit to the grounds of the Sodus Point Lighthouse, a historic lighthouse which was first built in 1824 and later replaced because of deterioration in 1874, the lighthouse stood out beautifully against the cliffs of Chimney Bluffs State Park in the background.

The highlight of my journey came when I arrived at the lake shore itself and decided to brave the wind out along the sea wall. Huge formations of snow and ice blanketed everything and the wind produced waves that were capable of spraying some icy cold water in my direction. When I arrived at the end of the pier and took in the 360 degree view of the water surrounding me I knew I had found what I had been searching for all along, the opportunity to experience something so engaging that I knew today would be memorable.

View from the Sodus Point seawall

Upon returning to the shore I stood on the beach as the sand whipped around my feet creating an incredible sight as sand trails formed across the entire beach front, and I stood in the midst of it with the winds gusting and the sun shining. These natural surprises created an environment where I suddenly found myself connected to the idea of truly experiencing “place.” All the conditions and characteristics of the area were causing me to form a connection with where I was, it was almost as if Sodus Point was there to speak it’s identity and I had the opportunity to listen to and recognize that.

Sand Trails on Sodus Point Beach

The ability to experience something that is exciting and beautiful enough that it becomes memorable should be the ultimate goal when visiting somewhere new. Not every destination in life is memorable nor does every place bring us the excitement for it to become so.

In my last post I encouraged you to slow down and to take the “roads less traveled,” as added instruction I want to also encourage you to look for those places that have the capability of becoming memorable to you. Look for the natural beauty, heritage, and people who have the ability to transcend the ordinary and become something exceptional. When you open yourself to experiencing the unknown, the unknown has the ability to become known in such a way that it can become familiar, and before you know it you’ll be wanting to return to the destination that had the ability to make that conversion for you in the first place.

What is it that makes “place” for you? What is the last trip you took that was truly memorable? I welcome your comments as always!

The Roads Less Traveled

“Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us or we find it not.”- Ralph Waldo Emerson

I’ve recently been thinking about what it is that’s beautiful that I look for when traveling. Just yesterday in an effort to break the winter blues I jumped in my car and drove into the back roads of Upstate and Western New York. I have recently realized that so much of what brings me excitement and draws the spirit of adventure from within me, is found in my desire to go look for what is not commonly sought after. I have started to recognize that one of the greatest challenges of living life is that often we travel through it at such a blindly fast pace that we miss the very essence and character of what’s around us.

We travel our lives on a highway always thinking about how many miles are left until we arrive at Point B after departing from Point A. It is my belief that something tragic happens in this process, we forget the very concept of what it is to be on the journey itself, we lend ourselves to the disposition that all is predictable because we’ve seen it before. Our “journies” become so planned and predetermined that there’s no need to anticipate any added value, perhaps simply the unexpected nature of being delayed or stuck in traffic.

Recently I have found a real desire to really know and understand my environment and surroundings. When I’ve set out to travel I’ve made it a real purpose to explore and find the roads less traveled, to pay attention to the smallest details of how the area around me has been formed and organized over time and to find those local people, businesses, and places that uniquely represent the communities in which they reside.  It’s the reminders of the communities that existed in these small towns and places that brings me great fulfillment. Sometimes it’s the simplest details, an old church that’s stood through the years, an old homestead, an old farm and the wide-open spaces that accompany them. Sometimes it’s just the fact that I’m forced to slow down as I travel through these small towns, in a way these places demand that you do, and it seems so appropriate that a place that has existed for so long deserves the tribute of at least lending my close attention.

My favoritve photo from the trip

My travels reflected

I have begun to realize just how much these roads less traveled are a greater form of expression and how these small  towns reflect community. They are cohesive and collective and their unification speaks loudly in the fragmented and busy world around them.

As I traveled through towns such as Rush, Mumford, Caledonia, LeRoy, Batavia, Williamsville, Lockport, and Olcott ,I began to feel more connected to the communities around me. These sometimes forgotten places had to power to remind me that character and community are worth finding no matter how far the distance traveled.

Now I carry the beauty of these places forward, and I am realizing that in doing so, the destination is becoming less important.

“The Food Less Traveled”-The South Wedge Farmers’ Market

I had the recent privilege of attending the South Wedge Farmers’ Market for the first time this season and found the market to be a wonderful place of dialogue and community. This market is a wonderful example of the organized efforts of the South Wedge Planning Committee (SWPC), and reflects the commitment of the organization to build community throughout the neighborhood. [The market meets every Thursday from 4-7 pm at 100 Alexander St. (Boulder Coffee Parking Lot.)]

The market is officially run by the SWPC which serves one of the oldest neighborhoods in the city of Rochester. I am proud to call this my new neighborhood and just moved here this past May (more on that in another post perhaps).

The South Wedge Farmers’ Market has been an inspiration to many other markets in the area because of  its strong focus on community, commitment to local produce, and neighborhood identity. The market is now entering it’s 4th year anniversary.

The market has a very strong focus on very local produce and goods, and boasts the fact that everything at the market comes from no more than 100 miles away. The official motto of the marketplace is “the food less traveled.”

My attraction to this market comes in the utilization of the market as a “third place” as stated in my previous blog post “Farmers Markets as Place-making.” The greatest attribute of this market is that conversation is the main activity. This is stated in no way to undermine the fact that the produce and goods are as fresh and local as you can imagine, but instead speaks to the ability the market has to educate and create dialougue around healthy food, healthy people and community well-being.

"Conversation is the Main Activity"

As stated on the SWPC website, the South Wedge Farmers’ Market “educates and encourages healthy eating for long term health.” The educational experience with this market is like nothing else I have experienced in the area up to this point. The day I attended the market, Jill Stackpole of Bloomfield Honey was speaking on how to be a beekeeper and demonstrating how we get our honey.

Bloomfield Honey Observation Hive and Hive Smoker

Everything about this market was engaging, whether I was learning about organic baking methods from Small World Bakery, learning about Bloomfield honey and beekeeping, or learning about incredible wine varietals from Jerod and his family-run Leonard Oaks Estate Winery.

I had an incredible conversation with Chris Hartman from the Good Food Collective, who is also the founder and manager of the South Wedge Farmers’ Market, about the desire to move “good food” into the communities of Rochester. I will devote my next article to discussing this topic and his efforts.

Leonard Oaks Estate Winery Wine Tastings

This market had the ability to engage and educate, and as I looked around I genuinely felt that people were not only getting to experience this market as a “third place” and a place of community, but also getting to learn about the food and the incredible people and processes that had brought healthy and local food to them.

As this market continues to flourish, my hope is that the model demonstrated through SWPC will continue to spread into neighborhoods associations and planning committees across Rochester area neighborhoods. These markets need to be seen as a way to bring cultural vibrancy and community well-being to the people of our city.

On the Web:

The South Wedge Planning Committee (SWPC)

The South Wedge Farmers Market

Facebook Page for The South Wedge Farmers Market

Small World Bakery

Leonard Oaks Estate Winery


Making the Asphalt Come Alive

In my continued engagement of our local farmers’ markets, I have began to realize just how much life these markets have the ability to bring to our different urban neighborhoods across the city of Rochester.

One such market has given me a very real picture of how much transformation these markets are capable of creating.

The Monroe Avenue Farmers’ Market is set in one of the busiest sections of downtown Rochester with very high traffic flow and an abundance of asphalt in the region.

A sea of asphalt around the market

Here, at the Blessed Sacrament Church, new life is being fed into this community by transforming a  parking lot into a public space. This parking lot assumes new character and new life during the hours of 4-7 pm every Wednesday, throughout the summer.

As the first vendors began setting up on this past Wednesday, I was struck with the idea that these markets really do, “make the asphalt come alive.” It’s not often that we can take something as utilitarian as a parking lot and add vibrancy, beauty, and community to it, but that’s exactly what has been occurring every week at this market.

Making the asphalt come "alive"

On this particular day, a variety of vendors fills the parking lot with sights, smells, and sounds and it appears to me that the market itself redefines where the center of Monroe Avenue is.

Pedestrians, dog-walkers, and passerby’s all take notice of the market and many begin to wander into the market to see what it has to offer.

There is a acoustic folk musician playing while the smells of fresh local flowers, brewed coffee, and grilled hot dogs and “carrot hots” waft across the market. The beautiful displays of produce and plants adds green and an assortment of fresh color to the black asphalt floor of the marketplace.

Today the market is featuring a local artist who has designed hanging chimes and jewelery made out of driftwood and recycled wine bottles and other glass. The sunlight beautifully reflects in the color of the artists work and brings yet another level to the experience and beauty of the marketplace.

Recycled Glass Art

It is the fact that this place becomes such an attraction to those in the area that intrigues me. This place becomes a new center of attraction for both the residents and passerbys on Monroe Ave on this hot summer day. What was simply a neglected parking lot just a few hours ago is now a source of experience and attention.

I can’t help but wonder how many places exist so similar to this place. How many parking lots do we have that sit unused that may have the ability to actually serve a purpose such as this one?

We need to bring life to these places.

Can you think of local areas that could be transformed in a similar manner in your own neighborhood or urban area? How much asphalt could we animate and create life around?

These are some areas I will contemplate as I continue my studies in how our farmers’ markets are creating places of life and community.

On the web: The facebook page for the Monroe Village Farmers Market

Farmers Markets as Place-making

In an effort to continue my studies in the relationship of farmers markets and community, I have decided that I want to focus on the idea of our local farmers’ markets being agents in the creation of “place-making.”

Many of you are probably familiar with the book “The Great Good Place” by Ray Oldenburg, but for those of you that are not familiar, a brief summary is in order. Ray Oldenburg discusses challenges in the lack of community we experience here in the United States, and describes how many of us are searching for “third places,” …communities where we can gather  outside of our first place (home) and second place (work).

In Ray Oldenburg’s book, he identifies these “third places” as our local cafe’s, bookstores, bistros, pubs, and “the like,” but I believe our farmers markets can also be incorporated as “great, good, places.”

It is my belief that our local markets are now emerging as wonderful “third places” where we can not only shop for fresh and local goods, but also participate in culture and dialogue with community. In an effort to demonstrate this idea, I will be studying several local markets across the city here in Rochester, NY

Above: People stroll the farmers market at Washington Square Park in Rochester, NY

Do our local farmers’ markets meet Ray Oldenburg’s qualifications for a third place?

In Chapter 2, The Character of Third Places in “The Great Good Place” Oldenburg describes a third place as having the following 8 attributes (I have paraphrased the definition for each subcategory):

  • On Neutral Ground – Can all feel welcome and comfortable?
  • The Third Place Is a Leveler – Are differences between people eliminated and are all made equal?
  • Conversation Is the Main Activity – Is there engaging dialogue that is sustaining the third place? Is there dynamic association with one another?
  • Accessibility and Accommodation – Can one frequent the third place anytime and find assurance in acquaintance? Does a community life exist there?
  • The Regulars – Are the right people there to make the place feel alive? Do the regulars give the third place its character?
  • A Low Profile – Is the third place typically plain or unimposing? Is it an expected part of life that can be perceived as ordinary or routine?
  • The Mood is Playful – Do joy and acceptance reign over anxiety and alienation? Does the third place engagement and entertainment form association?
  • A Home Away from Home – Does the third place offer a congenial environment? Does it root us in a way that we can find belonging? Does it give us the feeling of being at ease or the “freedom to be?”

It is my belief that these attributes strongly relate to the local markets that I have participated in as a vendor or as a customer. As we look at the various markets across the city of Rochester, I believe these attributes will become clear as these markets maintain similarity as “third places,” and yet the relationships within each of these markets remain dynamically different from one another.

I look forward to introducing you to these markets through both the lens of being a vendor with Joe Bean Coffee Roasters and understanding the viewpoint from the agricultural community, and being a market participant who shops for my food and goods, and meets the providers and farmers who enable these  markets to exist.

If you are interested in purchasing The Great Good Place it is available for purchase by clicking below.

The Great Good Place by Ray Oldenburg

Thank you!