Finding the precise beginning of a story isn’t always easy.
But sometimes it’s simple…. and the genesis of the One Straw Society is as simply traced as a rhubarb leaf back to its root.
It all started with Robin Wheeler standing in Dave Scott’s music store on a cold January night, way back in 1994.
She was talking up to Dave’s chin, which waved far above her on the other side of the counter.
They were discussing the usual topics… getting gardening into the schools, saving the Coast’s organic farmers market, supporting isolated home food producers.
An idea struck Robin, suddenly.
“We need an umbrella group, Dave! Something that covers all of these problems… something that helps people with different skills to support each other. You could run it!”
Dave agreed, but neatly stepped aside from responsibility.
They wrangled over details, getting more and more excited by the possibilities.
When Dave finally shooed Robin out into the frosty night, they were both happy with the seed that had germinated.
If only Dave would run it! Robin thought to herself as she left him to lock up.
Still, as she drove home, details started to solidify.
They’d need to meet regularly… farmers could share ideas and tools… there would have be newsletter… and maybe a library too!
She parked on the side of the road.
Walking up an embankment under the stars, she felt the cold settle into her bones.
If occurred to her that she was actually having a good idea.
But they’d need a name. And still someone to run this group!
If Dave wouldn’t do it, maybe Adr–
The name fell out of the stars and hit Robin in the head.
She tried to clear her head, but it kept nudging at her with gentle certainty.
She thought about it, as she shivered in the dark. .
“One Straw.” One straw, like me? Like feeling small and alone? Like feeling fragile and insignificant?
That would never do.
But Masanobu Fukuoka, author of The One Straw Revolution, saw a grain of straw differently.
He believed in the power of a single straw, and in how …ah, she remembered now… and in how it could start a revolution.
It worked for him… she caught herself thinking.
No. This is too crazy. This cold little straw has other work to do.
But the idea caught hold and spread like wildfire. A few months later, One Straw had 50 members–and still no official leader.
That year they organized the first Zucchini Festival, a simple country fair boasting all things sustainable, with a children’s’ fiddle contest, zucchini toss and plant sales.
They weren’t taken too seriously at this point. After all, they were just a gardening group, right?
With Robin reluctantly in the lead, One Straw arranged a Seedy Saturday for the community, and then another.
Then came workshops, and a digital bulletin board so members could receive quick notice of chickens for sale, rhubarb wanted, and such.
Meetings were sometimes also potlucks, complete with kids and dogs. This helped members keep in touch with each others’ projects, lives, and dreams.
And the years passed…
In retrospect, Robin realized that she no longer felt like that frail, lonely person on the hillside. She realized she had inadvertently created herself a family–and her life’s purpose–that night.
Although other leaders, and official Society status, came in time, Robin remained the visionary behind One Straw until her death from cancer in 2012.
One Straw members still meet for potlucks, trade manure for firewood, chickens for rhubarb, compare notes, and look after each other’s children.
And they go to sleep at night knowing that they’re part of something bigger.
Dare we say it?
Adapted from a story by Robin Wheeler.