So Small Town

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Having less plans means more unexpected experiences—and that’s how we like it. Making less means more has expanded into all areas of our lifestyle, including our latest family adventure at a nonprofit in central California.

In October of last year, my husband Brian, our 7-year-old son Townes and I rolled into the Blue Sky Center in our 40-foot GMC bus to pursue a job renovating Airstreams. To our surprise, we discovered we just drove 2,000 miles for a position that didn’t actually exist. We found ourselves in a situation we hadn’t planned for in the small town of New Cuyama, CA. Luckily, we soon discovered a new community via an offer for a different job as desert fellows at the Blue Sky Center, and got to find out what it’s like to live in a food desert despite being surrounded by organic agriculture.

BSC is an oasis of sorts in the high desert, about an hour and 20 minutes north of Ojai, CA over the Las Padres. Formerly part of ARCO Oil, it has been transformed into a hub of creative ideas and people working to make a difference in the lives of rural Americans. Their mission is to help with land and economy regeneration in and around the Cuyama Valley through arts and placemaking. They inspire and partner with other small rural communities, raising awareness about specific areas of need.

Having never lived in such a small town environment, building and launching the camp at Blue Sky Center was a bit of a “MellenCAMP” experience for us. The camp is a truly inspiring place, with five unique huts designed by architect Mattie Shelton, and it opened numerous opportunities to meet and work with some wonderful people. Meeting campers from around the world, #van- life folks, the team from Hipcamp, and creating lifelong friendships with the crew at Blue Sky all made for priceless memories.

We quickly adapted to small town life and learned how to schedule combination adventure-grocery shopping trips together. During our stay, we were also able to participate in coaching a youth rec basketball team, and volunteered every Friday to teach website and graphic design skills at the local high school. After eight months in the high desert of the Cuyama Valley, we heard the road calling and made our way east.

This article was originally published in RANGE Magazine Issue Seven.

Images courtesy of Renae Hetzer.

xx Renae Hetzer