When I was a kid, I loved fairy tales. One of my favorite stories was about the making of Stone Soup where a hungry traveler arrived in a village with nothing more than an empty cooking pot. He sits down in the middle of the village lights a fire, fills the pot with water and drops a stone in. As the water begins to steam, villagers come to see what he’s doing. “Why, I’m making stone soup,” the traveler says. He says that stone soup is wonderful, but that he’s missing some of the ingredients. So villagers begin offering what they have to add to the pot and make it better. I liked that, in the end, everyone had something really good because they all contributed what they could.
Our Stone Soup Projects
That story is a lesson I’ve used all my life to create something out of nothing. In 1989 I was one of two head volunteers working with the Bureau of Land Management to create a 148 mile mountain bike trail from Grand Junction, Colorado to Moab, Utah. We had no budget, but the community saw that it was a way of encouraging tourism to the area, so all kinds of people and companies pitched in to make it happen. In 1991, we did it again, creating a scenic byway through a rural area that really needed a boost from visitors. The Stone Soup model worked for starting my 7 year research project on using goats to protect homes in fire prone areas, taking it from an unfunded pilot project with 11 goats, to a $250,000 large scale, 7-year project made up of donated goats, volunteer statisticians and technicians, and a number of paid staff. And Stone Soup was the foundation for an award-winning internship program called Tehabi that helped hundreds of students transition from the university to working for public land management agencies.
My co-editor, Rachel Gilker has her own series of Stone Soup stories, but my favorite comes from her time working for the Peace Corps in Niger. Millet was the primary food source in the village where she lived and it was often in short supply. Rachel suggested they start a cooperative that would buy grain when prices were low after the harvest, and then sell it at higher prices later in the year. The cooperative could also sell in smaller quantities so that women who couldn’t afford to buy in bulk could still afford to cook a meal for their families. The folks in the village agreed, and each donated what he or she could, some giving money, and some giving millet from their fields. Rachel got funding for cement and supplies to build a storage building for their grain. The success of the cooperative led to the village joining a national cooperative with greater buying and selling power. With the profits they bought a grinding machine so the women wouldn’t have to spend hours each day pounding grain for supper. Because they worked together, they made their community a better place.
Stone Soup a la “On Pasture”
With those kinds of successes behind us, it’s no surprise that we’re trying it again with On Pasture. Since the first of the year, Rachel and I have been working almost full time putting together a weekly grazing magazine to meet the needs of readers who have said they want a place they could go to get research and experience translated into grazing practices they could use NOW! Currently our weeks revolve around “New Articles Tuesday.” We start on Wednesday, figuring out which articles and which authors are on deck for the coming week, and we spend Thursdays, Fridays, and Mondays (with some hours here and there on weekends) coordinating, writing, and editing. Tuesday mornings we take a deep breath, turn on our computers and make sure that everything is there just like we wanted it. Then we post articles on Facebook, respond to questions and concerns, and start the process all over again.
When we started this project, we had no funding, but we did have a brilliant team of speakers, writers, farmers and researchers all ready to participate in creating On Pasture. We were all willing to start as volunteers because we knew that we had the support of the grazing community. The first two months have been tiring, but very rewarding as we see responses from people who appreciate what we’re trying to build.
What we’re most excited about is the development of an “On Pasture Community.” It’s people offering to share their expertise with the promise that when there’s money they’ll be paid for their efforts. It’s people taking the time to send a note or comment on an article or suggest something new that they’d like to read about. We appreciate you all and what you’re doing to build On Pasture.
Just by reading this, you’re a member of the On Pasture Community, and we know that you have something to offer for this Stone Soup Project. So here are some ingredients that we need to make a really tasty soup:
Write a comment on the articles you read.
Thanks to those who have already taken the time to add their own valuable insights to articles. We love the links that give readers access to even more information. Thanks too for asking questions of the authors. We love to know how we can give you the information you need. As authors, we also just like to be appreciated, so even just writing “Thanks, this is how I’m going to use this information” can keep us going for another day.
Tell a friend about On Pasture
We love that you’re here reading! It makes us feel successful. Every day we look at the statistics that tell us how many viewers we have and we judge our success a bit on those numbers. If you like what you see here, share it with your friends by emailing them a page, or sharing it on Facebook. You don’t know how much that simple little step means to us.
Thank you for helping us make On Pasture a success. Now – I’ve got to get back to stirring the Stone Soup!