Way back in 2003, a group of community-minded citizens of Pittsboro, NC, were putting their heads together to get two new co-operatives off the ground. They had decided it was about time for our agriculturally-rich county to have its own food cooperative, so they started the Chatham Marketplace, a grocery store that focused on local food, local economy, and ownership by the people. At the same time, they were organizing a new local fuel cooperative, Piedmont Biofuels, which would collect used local cooking oil and transform it into clean renewable diesel fuel for folks in a 100 mile radius. It was an exciting time, full of big ideas.
One evening while the tired founders were relaxing in a hot tub and staring at the night sky, someone mentioned that what we really needed was a new non-profit to carry out some programs that would complement the work of the two co-ops and spread the word about sustainability in our area. So, Rachel Burton, Lyle Estill and Tami Schwerin began the paperwork in their spare time and decided to name the organization after the theory of abundance, and referencing the abundance of good food and amazing people in the Piedmont of North Carolina.
Our first project as Abundance:
Just as we were finishing up the non-profit paperwork, Rachel got a call from the Boeing Company (yep, big airplanes) and found out they wanted to donate some money in North Carolina. Meanwhile, we had heard that the Moncure School, an elementary school in rural Chatham County, had no hot water for the kids to wash their hands. The kids hated putting their hands into ice cold water in the winter. So we brought together a local solar start-up, Southern Energy Management, and the Chatham County Schools, put up some solar hot water heaters, and voila, the first project was done! The kids learned about clean renewable energy from the sun, and they had hot water!
From there we began the Children’s Sustainability and Energy Tours of the biofuels plant and surrounding organic farms, so that kids could learn where their food and energy comes from, and the DIY Sustainability Workshop Series for adults to start taking steps into sustainability.
Since then, we’ve successfully initiated dozens of projects and thrown numerous events – several of them now regularly occurring, like The Amazing Pepper Festival, a celebration of local farms, chefs and beverage makers, now in its seventh year.
Sometimes we dream up our own ideas, like our new Small House Contest. Sometimes a community member comes to us for advice, and a new project grows out of that request for help, like our Climate Change Adaptation Conference for farmers. Sometimes someone has a great idea but needs our support make it happen, like many of our DIY Sustainability Workshops, or our Fiscal Sponsorship Program that takes fledgling nonprofits under our wing to help them get off the ground. And sometimes we hear about something people are doing elsewhere that we think would be a great addition to our own community, like starting our own Pecha Kucha Night series, an idea-sharing slide show event started by architects in Japan.
But everything we do is about cultivating and celebrating community resilience. We believe we have everything we need, right here at home, to eat well, harvest energy sustainably, and build the kind of place we grow more in love with every year..