We are back at Jordan's Croft. I wasn't able to find everyone I wanted to see. However I was able to have quality time with more people than I expected to see.
I came home with a full heart. Full of connections, full of news from dear friends, long lost family and acquaintances thought long dead. I also felt sorrow for those who struggled, with a dash of hope.
Life is hard in Ashtabula. There are so many people, places and things that can distract and derail the unwary. A single bad decision can put a person into the depths of poverty, never to regain their footing.
While Main Street was a ghost town, complete with weeds growing in the streets, the Harbor is still trying to grow. Bridge Street has a Sunday Farmer's Market. Yes, it was tiny, four vendors – Maple syrup and sugar, artisan bread, two tables with farm fresh vegetables. But I saw people walking away laden with goods.
In my mind the Farmer's Market is a great step forward for the Harbor.
Why? Because only small-scale, value added products like bread, maple syrup and vegetables – will turn that economy around. Micro-businesses enmeshed in each other; trading money and services will help people survive, maybe in thrive in time.
There has to be money coming into the county that stays in the county. Grocery stores take more money out than they put in. All that food money comes in but there are only a handful of employees. Unless the owner of the store lives in town, the bulk of the money goes elsewhere.
In a small-scale economy the farmer grows food, takes food to market, person buys food. The farmer reinvests that money the next year (maybe to hire help) to grow more food. The person gets fresh food and better health in return. The farmer is the basis for all economies. Everybody has to eat. When the farmer prospers, the county prospers.
Ashtabula will never be an industrial center again. Never, ever - not even if they hold their breath until they turn blue. The lake is all they have to offer in tourism – the Harbor is it. Seasonal work, seasonal money – making enough in the summer to survive over the winter.
I hated living like that; it sucked in 1980's, it sucks now.
But for the citizen of Ashtabula – that's all there is.