Community Voices - Che Gonzalez

12042013 YC CheGonzalezPhoto by Yvette Chen OC '16Oberlin resident Che Gonzalez is a librarian at the Oberlin Public Library. A few years ago, she started a home-based business for affordable, healthy foods. Gardening since she was a kid, Ms. Gonzalez grows many of her own vegetables at home.

Q: Some people think of “sustainability” as actions that improve the environmental, economic, and social well-being of the community? How would you define “sustainability” for yourself?

A: Sustainability to me is a lifestyle.  I grew up in a community of people who worked and played together.  Families grew and preserved their own food and shared with one another.  My father planted fruit trees and every year, at least three vegetable gardens.  I remember picking blackberries all day long in what we called “the orchard”.   Someone, long ago, planted fruit trees, strawberries, raspberries, and blackberries on this land not far from our house; my mom made blackberry preserves and blackberry pies.  We didn’t have a smokehouse; but there was a family on the next street that raised chickens.  Folks had food in their yards, even in the city limits.  My relatives had concord grapes, cherry, mulberry, apple, and pear trees.  In that lifestyle people were so much kinder to each other – neighbors visited more often.  Yeah, folks sat on their front porches until nightfall – community.

Q: What actions and practices in your recent life do you feel are sustainable?

A: I had a home-based business, and still do, sort of.  I made raw vegan cheesecake out of cashews and coconut oil.  I planted food that was used for the vegan snacks that I sold.  The effort I put into the planting and harvesting was more cost effective when compared to bulk purchases of these items at the food terminal in Cleveland.  And I did not use pesticides in my garden – my produce was organic from heirloom seeds.  Thus, I was able to keep production costs down.

Q: Do you have any specific messages you would like to tell other community members about sustainable living and care for the environment?

A: We can’t leave the world in a mess for our children to clean up. Now is the time to share our experiences and to teach by example.  The process starts with each individual, one person at a time.   Everyone can’t or won’t attend meetings about because they may not understand how the lifestyle can benefit them – all they see are tax increases.

Q: How do you think that reversal can happen?

A: I think educating the public is the most important part. As a result of school programming, many families are educated by their children.  I was didn’t understand what all the “hoopla” was about until I attended an Oberlin Project meeting; then I thought, “Oh, okay this is gonna work for the whole village.”

Q: We’re talking a lot about the word “sustainability.” Are there other words you personally think of when you think of connection with the Earth or being engaged in a vibrant community?

A: It’s returning to Eden, going back to the old ways. I look at the Walton’s on television …the way people lived.  Life seemed so simplistic in the 1930s.   We need to be conscientious of the effects of our actions on other people, socially, physically, and economically. Just simplifying your life.

 

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I am a second year Oberlin College student majoring in environmental studies and piano. I come from San Rafael, California, and have been involved with sustainability at home as well as in Oberlin, especially through local foods and community gardens. I have also had the pleasure of interning with Zion Community Development Corporation for the past few months; I have been helping organize their community forums, editing their newsletters, and working in their community garden, and I am glad to have gotten to know the local community better in the process. I look forward to making more community connections, and hearing about all different kinds of creative ways people are engaged with sustainability locally.



Photographer Info: Yvette Chen is a photographer for the Dashboard Project who is interested in the power of media and images. Originally from Princeton Junction, New Jersey, Yvette is a first year student at Oberlin College planning to study sociology and economics. Other than photography, in her spare time, she enjoys cooking and running through Ohio's rural landscapes.

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Guest March 15, 2017

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Jake Holtzman w/YC
I am a second year Oberlin College student majoring in environmental studies and
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