On Not Selling Out

I stopped Lee Smith last Monday evening at dinner, just as she was carrying her empty plate to the kitchen. I thanked her for coming to Floyd to speak back some months ago.

She remembered Floyd with fond memories, and said she had a cabin in a town even smaller than Floyd–Todd, North Carolina–where the kind and rate of growth were also issues. I said I thought in our county there were enough people with their finger in the dike so it wouldn’t go the way of Pigeon Forge right away.

She knew just what I was talking about, and mentioned she would have a piece coming out in the New York Times (yesterday’s edition) that addressed culture, progress and authenticity. Below, a short excerpt:

Who are all these people? What happened to turn this town around?

The citizens stepped up and took charge, that’s what. In this, they were guided by the charismatic Becky Anderson, who started HandMade in America, a fiercely regional nonprofit organization dedicated to revitalizing and establishing a sustainable economy around the culture of western North Carolina – an innovative “creative economy” emphasizing heritage and cultural tourism.

Since the mid-1990s, HandMade has been helping communities learn how to sell themselves without selling out.”

There you go: how do we sell without selling out?

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Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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