From the film Blazing Saddles:
Whatever the truth behind the legend of Grigory Potemkin’s efforts to deceive the empress Catherine the Great with pop up villages and dolled up peasants on her tour along the Dnieper River in the Crimea, the idea of the Potemkin Village is well understood. Whether the ruse involves Russian royalty or Wild West villains however,the intention to create a false impression was a one sided proposition; the beholder wasn’t supposed to be in on the gag.
Heading out to the opening of my favorite local farm’s brand new shop my wife and I stopped at a strip mall to get some materials to complete a dyi project. I was struck by the fake gable endings over the individual stores. It is about as crude an effort of giving a place a village look as I can imagine; so much so that it doesn’t even rise to the level of an out and out deception because there is no possible way that the viewer isn’t aware of the artifice.
This decades old shopping area has been totally refurbished, not just the structures but from the parking lot and the walkways, to the curbs, and the plantings. everything seems brand new. And the place was packed. Perhaps most of what is being sold here falls into the category of world destroying throw away plastic crap, but the market for that is clearly super hot right now.
I can’t help but think of Leon Krier’s presentation on the difference between the real and the artificial and his references to “thin-thetic” materials: “Call me a store”. These things are not what they claim to be.
At the opposite end resides the vernacular: Buildings constructed using local materials in ways that conform to the realities of geography and climate. My friend built his store with lumber milled from the trees he cleared to make room for it. He gave the roof an incline to withstand falling snow and whisk water away from customers. The overhang will provide shade on hot sunny days. The bricks for the walkway came from a nearby chimney. No doubt the roofing material and the wiring were made from “exotic synthetics”, but there is a beauty in the simplicity of the design and the materials. The products sold within are and will be locally produced food: pork, poultry, eggs, fruits, and vegetables with some value added products prepared in the on site kitchen up near the farm house.
It does make accommodation for cars, and there are plans for many more features to be added. How the local food movement will develop moving forward I don’t make any claim to know, but I think that it’s worth supporting. One of the benefits of being a region which has seen nothing but anemic growth in terms of population and the economy since World War II is that we’ve been spared the total devastation of our rural landscapes which other regions have seen; when growth is metastatic, stagnancy is the only good alternative. I hope enough land and enough knowledge has been preserved for this region to remain a viable place once food production becomes more localized out of necessity.Helping to grow the local food movement is another of those endeavors which feels rewarding in the here and now and could turn out to be even more significant in the long run.