A testimony to the power of just doing stuff

There is nothing more powerful than an idea whose time has come...




Marko Anyfandakis

 

Marko is an eco-social designer and has spent the past years working on agro ecological projects around the globe. He is passionate about regenerative agriculture and building resilient communities.

 

 

 

A good decade ago, I somehow found myself studying anthropology in the UK. I am not very clear as to how or why I made that decision back then but I know that it was the best thing I could have done! Of course anthropology itself was fascinating, but to be honest the juiciest part of my learning happened outside the university walls. 

 

We would spend most of our free time raising awareness, organising events, debates and conferences on a wide range of current political, social and environmental affairs. Through this process, I became deeply concerned about the state of the world and the many injustices I saw and by actively speaking my voice I felt I was contributing towards making this world a better place.

 

This was a time in my life when I felt very alive and engaged with what I was doing but the reality was that while we were busy trying to change the world, we could barely take care of our own kitchen!  And although respect, peace and justice for all were values we would often refer to, the heated discussions and protest marches did not always reflect these values...

 

I became increasingly aware that despite all the best intentions of the people who were engaged with these good causes, there was a lot of ego-driven, self-indulging motives hidden behind the surface of our actions and this led me to the realisation that while caring about what goes on in the world is a very noble concern, a lot can be done right here, right now in our own seemingly insignificant daily interactions.

 

This was a very powerful realisation for me and marked the beginning of a great transition in the way I perceived the world around me and my place within it.

 

Rather than channelling anger against things I didn't like, I began to focus on things that I did like, investing energy in positive solutions I would love to see more of in the world. That led me through a journey into community building, gardening, non-violent communication and many other positive practices that were already happening around me but I was too blind to see.

 

In this time, I discovered the world of Permaculture and the concept of Transition Towns, two movements that are inherently about creating the world we would like to see rather than going against the current reality.

 

With this changed perspective, I embarked on a mission to discover and sharpen my skills in all sorts of ways that I felt would help me come closer to where I wanted to be.

 

Inspired by the multitude of positive examples I encountered, I began to form a vision of what I wanted to see around me. Although still quite vague and abstract, this vision included things like good, locally produced organic food and a thriving community of people around me.

 

It was the beginning of a powerful idea, which gradually started taking form. Little did I know that a small seed of something big had already been planted!

 

I eventually came back to Luxembourg, at a time where there was an interesting movement emerging around CELL, the Centre for Ecological Learning Luxembourg. A diverse group of people full of enthusiasm and a willingness to do stuff was busy organising action groups, community gardens, permaculture groups and taking the first steps in creating a transition movement in Luxembourg.

 

It is around that time that Pit, Sophie and I, all members of CELL, had a vision of creating an agro ecological centre and really putting into practice all the concepts we were so inspired by. This vision emerged from our common concern about the lack of locally produced organic fruits and vegetables and our desire to make a living doing something meaningful, fulfilling and of benefit to all! It felt like a far-fetched vision at the time but we were motivated to at least give it a go. Between us, we felt we had the basic skills necessary to kick-start such an ambitious plan, the rest we knew we would learn on the way. We were increasingly aware that there was no point in waiting for everything to be perfect and ready, but rather we should just get on with it and see what happens!

 

We began by brainstorming ideas about what this agro ecological centre might look like and how it could possibly function and before too long, we already had quite a lot down on paper and the dream started to take form. The plan was to create the first Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) scheme in Luxembourg and produce weekly baskets of organic fruit and veg as well as establish an educational site where we put into practice agro ecological and permaculture principles.

 

In order to see whether there was an interest in such a project, our next step was to send out a questionnaire. The results confirmed to us that there was a real desire and need for such a project. It felt like we were at the right place at the right time!

 

Of course buying or renting enough land to establish an agro ecological centre was not going to be cheap and our initial funds were very limited. We communicated this in the questionnaire and to our surprise, someone very supportive of our idea, made their 1,5 hectare orchard available to us! Things were really beginning to take shape and everything seemed to be conspiring in our favour, it was as if the path was unfolding out in front of our eyes!

 

Since this project aimed to be participatory and community based, it made a lot of sense to create a cooperative that could provide us with the initial funds to get things going. Within a month there were over 60 co-operators and we had gathered the necessary funds!

 

Looking back, it is unbelievable how quickly things happened. A month after acquiring the land, we had already set up the cooperative called TERRA and were busy working away preparing the fields for planting. The excitement of watching our dream come true fuelled our motivation and kept us going through endless days of hard, yet fulfilling work. It was no easy task to get everything done but it sure was a wonderful challenge!

 

The support we got from people that were inspired by what we were doing was invaluable. Right from the start people offered to help us out in all sorts of ways ranging from physical work on the field, to accounting, publicity and everything in between. A new social cohesion was forming around TERRA and a sense of community was well under-way.

 

By early summer, just 3 months after we first set foot on the land, we were ready to distribute our first baskets to the 30 members that had eagerly signed up for fresh local organic fruit and veg! We were now able to secure 3 full-time salaries and the cooperative was financially viable, something that for current business standards is apparently quite exceptional. The power of community and a 'just go for it' attitude proves that it IS possible!

 

Now, one and a half year later, TERRA has increased its weekly baskets to 150, we have had over 100 people attending our workshops, over 100 school children visiting and our monthly open days attract people from all walks of life who come together, discover, learn, share and celebrate different aspects of the agricultural cycle. The helping hands of volunteers eager to learn about growing their own food are on the increase and a real sense of community and local food resilience is now a reality.

 

Our plan is not to keep growing in size, but rather to inspire and support other people to start similar initiatives in their own regions so that eventually we can really have an impact on local food sovereignty.

 

If there is one lesson I learned from this experience it is the following: Actions speak louder than words, and it is amazing to see how much further you can get in inspiring people through doing than it is through talking. By fully believing in what you do and doing it wholeheartedly you inspire others to follow their own paths. And ultimately this is the most constructive positive thing you can do to make this world a slightly better place.And although these actions may seem insignificant or too small to make a real difference, we should not underestimate the rippling effect that they can have.

 

A small seed planted today will be a tree full of fruits in the future.