Thursday, February 19, 2009

54. In the late 70s I was running a food coop in Providence, called Kneecap Natural Foods. We had over 600 members at one point. The coop lasted about 7 years in all (I left after about 5). Around '79 we got some grants to build a solar greenhouse in Fox Point, on some land donated by Brown University. We had CETA kids & Brown student volunteers pitching in. It was a huge project (for us). The greenhouse was designed with the latest solar technology - & we built it in the shape of a "vesica", to some mystical dimensions out of John Michell's books. It took a full year to build, because after the CETA grant finished (which was a 1-summer program) it was all spare-time volunteer labor.

Two weeks after the grand opening (filmed for local TV news - lots of people there), we got a letter from Brown University. The greenhouse would have to be taken down, as they were selling the property to a developer. We put up a fuss - they eventually gave the food coop some money for our trouble. But one of the biggest regrets of my life is that I didn't put up a bigger fuss. We could have rallied the community, taken them to court... The truth was, I had already moved on. I was very busy with young family, 2 low-paying but very hectic jobs (VISTA volunteer, produce supplier for other coops)... I didn't have the strength to fight them.

That was the first "community solar greenhouse" built in Rhode Island. It lasted two weeks. (There's a little picture of the greenhouse, with me standing next to it, in the corner of the collage on the Spuyten Duyvil edition (2000) of Stubborn Grew.)

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