For Sister Claire McGowan, the momentum keeps building.
The founder of New Pioneers for a Sustainable Future, McGowan was honored by the Springfield-Washington County Chamber of Commerce as citizen of the year in February.
Just eight months later, her picture and her mission to create a sustainable community appeared in a publication that reaches nearly 500,000 homes.
McGowan would have had a hard time finding a larger audience. Kentucky Living, according to their own website, is the largest circulation publication in the state, reaching 1.2 million readers.
People are responding to the publicity, she said.
“We’ve had six or eight people call, because they read the article, wanting to buy a rain barrel,” she said. “We sold out all of the rain barrels we had in stock. One guy drove all the way up from Bowling Green to buy three of them. People have said they will buy them in the spring (during the next rain barrel production).”
Other groups are reaching out to McGowan for her expertise.
“Then I was called by someone from the Lebanon Rotary who asked if I would come and talk to them about what we’re doing,” she said. “Somebody from Frenchburg called and wanted to know if I would come down there to talk about recycling.”
It’s exciting for McGowan, as she hopes to help other communities develop a plan for a more sustainable future.
“From the beginning, my dream has been that we would do something here significant enough that other counties in Kentucky and maybe beyond, would replicate it,” she said. “One county changing isn’t going to do anything significant for the planet.”
McGowan said the farmer’s market enjoyed more success this summer in July than last year.
“I think more people are talking about buying some meat locally, or getting a bottle of wine from here once in a while,” she said.
She said that $43.8 million goes out of the county for food each year. She has hopes that local food providers can tap into that number.
“I mean who would dream that a little county of 12,000 people would spend $43.8 million on food?” she said. “If we could capture five percent of that for the local market, that’s $2.2 million a year more in our local economy, which would make a significant difference.”
She said New Pioneers did receive a $10,000 grant from the tobacco agricultural development fund to help boost the local food program.
Part of that money will help send people to the Local Food Institute educational program in North Carolina. Another part of the grant will be used to develop a website to help consumers of local food find what they are looking for.
“One piece (of the grant) is to do a much better web page that will include a story about each of the local producers, pictures of where they grow and what they grow, and better interface so that somebody that’s looking for a leg of lamb can go on a website and easily find, ‘Oh there’s three people who grow lamb in the county. This is how I get in touch with them, but this is their story,’” she said.
The momentum keeps building for McGowan. With 1.2 million pairs of eyes reading the story of New Pioneers, it could get better.
“That’s a quarter of Kentucky’s population who might read that article,” she said. “If that happens, and if other communities are sparked to say, ‘Well, why don’t we try something here.’ That will be the best of all worlds. That’s the most exciting part of it,” she said.