Local currency catches on in North Fork

FRESNO, Calif.

North Fork Shares can be used for everything from food to yard work to dental work. The unusual economic stimulus plan is off to a promising start.

Everyone dreams of making money but a tight-knit group of folks actually pulled it off. They printed legal tender called North Fork Shares.

Education Consultant Dan Rosenberg said, "There's this new money, new buying power that has to be used locally."

North Fork's scenic setting can't hide a troubled economic picture here in the center of California.

People in cars curving through North Fork are likely headed to Fresno or Oakhurst to work or to buy food. Retired Financial Planner Gay Abarbanel explained, "A, it costs money. B, it takes money out of the community."

A full share is worth 12-dollars. Half-a-share is six-bucks. A quarter-share three bucks.

Rosenberg said, "It's good to think of a local currency as a barter currency."

Rah is a carpenter and cancer survivor who wants to stay productive. His reasoning? "I do have 30 years of experience."

Rah is also willing to share his workshop. He said, "I have tools available. I wouldn't be anywhere near where I am today if it hadn't been for people lending me their tools."

/*North Fork*/ could use an economic boost. The community took a devastating hit in 1994 when the lumber mill shut down. Since that time, the 135-acre mill site has been closed and abandoned. 145 jobs were lost. "Timber!" went the local economy.

Abarbanel recalled, "That was the only source of regular revenue for the average person."

Abarbanel needs help tending her beautiful gardens. She explained, "I don't want to look at weeds."

Gay's gardens are fenced in to keep deer and other critters away from the produce she wants to sell.

North Fork Shares have created a new marketplace. Abarbanel said, "I just bought the most incredible bread from one of the other members."

A slice of heaven is how some describe Steve Parks' homemade olive bread. Parks said, "I'll take orders, you know, 4-6-8 loaves. That's really good."

Steve can now make some bread and a little dough at the same time. He said, "It'll help build community."

The group gathers once a month. Over a thousand dollars worth of shares are already circulating. Items and services available can be found on-line at nfshares.com.

Rosenberg said, "You can actually go to the local dentist and use local shares there." Dr. Edmund Fey has agreed to fill the gap between shares and real money.

But locals want businesses to hold off until the shares catch on.

Rosenberg concluded, "Here one day you'll be able to get your car worked on and pay North Fork shares and the guy that owns the auto shop can use his money to buy food or clothing at another shop - that's the dream."

A dream born of humble beginnings. The idea of local currency is not a new one. North Fork shares were inspired by the Berkshare in western Massachusetts. Berkshares are as good as cash in many banks and businesses.

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