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You might have been sensing a theme rising in our small city community lately. It’s a theme that is spreading out across the country, but it has special significance to Lowell. Call it the DIY movement. Or self-sufficiency. Or making things.
There may at first glance not seem a specific link between groups like Mill City Grows, small local businesses like Sweet Lydia’s, and “makerspace” groups which are also becoming the buzz around here, but in effect, it’s about people in a community doing for themselves. Whether that’s sustainable gardening, using Kickstarter to raise enough funds to open your own sweets shop, or sharing incubator or machine space with others, it’s about innovating ways at the grassroots level to do for yourself, alongside a community of people, what cannot be accomplished alone.
It’s a movement that asks, what if we could feed ourselves with safe, locally grown food, even in the city? What if I could learn to machine my own parts? What if I could start a business in such a way that causes the community to have a stake with me?
That it’s happening so much in Lowell is a product of several things converging…first, the energy of new, young, professionals engaging in their community. Also, an emphasis on the new economy and innovative economic ideas by the city and its Planning Department, and the doubling of that by a University which is expanding by building such things as the Nerve Center. Lastly, Lowell’s unique history of industry and innovation creates a narrative that is a good foundation for a new wave of doers.
I’ll even admit to being infected myself. I might not be interested in a community garden space with one of Mill City Grow’s new gardens (after all, I do have a half decent backyard much closer to home) but I’ve been inspired by them to really up the ante this year in producing my own veggies. I’ve started collecting ideas on Pinterest and even am cataloging my own journey with DIY projects to make urban gardening easier and more productive (and woodchuck proof). I’ve always had an interest in planting since I was a kid, but now I mean business. (Well, not literally, since I won’t be selling anything, but I hope to have enough excess to give to family and friends, and even to make regular trips to the MV Food Bank). My goal is not to go pretty, but utilitarian, with sub-irrigated DIY buckets, towers, and some indoor growing (since I have this amazing, largely unused, southern-exposure windowed four-season room in my house going to waste).
Yeah, it’s getting that crazy. There’s just something in the air in Lowell these days. A doing thing. Stay tuned. (And our new show, Threads, will definitely be talking to some of Lowell’s new makers too!)
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