Gainesville launches home-grown currency
July/August 1997

On June 22 at the Florida School of Massage, Gainesville's three-year preparation for having our own homegrown currency came to fruition. Gainesville HOURS, a new alternative currency, began to circulate among ten members who signed on at the first open membership meeting. Gainesville HOURS is based on a highly successful local currency system that is currently flourishing in Ithaca, NY and 40 other communities around the country.

The idea for the Gainesville Barter Network began in 1994 when Shanti Vani read an article in the Boycott Quarterly titled, "Heck, Make Your Own Money!" It described Ithaca Money, a system developed by Paul Glover in Ithaca, New York in 1991. Charles Willett also read about Ithaca HOURS and both people independently orderer a starter kit from Glover.

Charles Willett gave his starter kit to Jim Notestein, who then spoke with Jane and Rick Nesbit, the owners of Southern Press, about printing local money. At the Sustainable Alachua County conference on June 7th, Notestein found out from Gaylon Currie that there was already a design for Gainesville money. On June 10th, the print order was submitted to Southern Press. Rick Nesbit says of the project, "It seems to me like this is a great way to help ourselves. It's the opposite of attracting outside business. We're glad to be in on the beginning of this community project. I'd like to see it grow."

Local Currency News, publication of the E. F. Schumacher Society, reported in June that 62,000 Ithaca HOURS have been put into circulation among 2,000 participants. These include 300 businesses, 35 community organizations, a number of political candidates, the Chamber of Commerce, a hospital, the Department of Social Services and a local credit union.

Gainesville HOURS are slightly taller and narrower than U.S. government money. They are made from a fairly heavy recycled paper, which is smooth to the touch. The beige speckled paper is printed in green ink with trees drawn by local artist Eleanor Blair, a single live oak on the front and a row of Florida trees on the back. The words in calligraphy, "Gainesville HOURS" are printed on both front and back, the handiwork of Stewart Thomas, who also designed a heart shaped grapevine wreath, which is stamped by hand on each HOUR in gold ink. Stewart designed the HOURS in a marvelously creative, Gainesvillian sort of way. Each one has a three digit serial number hand written in gold ink and the initials in light blue of the person who first received the HOUR. The gold and light blue handiwork are essentially to make each one individual and to prevent reproduction.

Darren Burgess, a massage therapist who works at the Florida School of Massage, is active in developing the local currency here. He has been online with Paul Glover and other activists in different stages of currency development and is on the steering committee for Gainesville HOURS. Another steering committee member is Rob Brinkman, a carpenter of various skills who calls himself a solar energy enthusiast. Brinkman lives in southeast Gainesville with Reggie Adams, who organizes monthly potlucks for the Gainesville Vegan Society. Brinkman and Adams have been active in the development of the Gainesville HOURS project since January.

The five member steering committee meets once a month and makes recommendations to the general membership, who vote at the monthly meetings on policy decisions that need to be made. Their policy is a draft policy, open to improvement and changes that make sense to the membership.

Lemongrass Market is the first storefront business to join the Gainesville HOURS network. Lemongrass owner Jose Caraballo, who has been making tempeh in Gainesville for fifteen years, opened the natural foods co-op buying club in February 1996. Carabillo said, "I want to be involved because this will improve the people's links with each other in the community. When we have a more direct connection with each other and can exchange goods and services, there is a better understanding or knowledge of what we can do. Barter strengthens community ties. It helps small businesses, which are disappearing rapidly as a result of large corporations moving into the area." Lemongrass Market will accept HOURS for home delivery of co op orders of $50 or more. Carabillo hopes to make deliveries to regular customers on a weekly, bi weekly or monthly schedule.

Memberships are for a lifetime and cost a one-time fee in U.S. money between $5 and $20. Upon joining, new members are issued Gainesville HOURS as follows: Individuals pay $5 and receive 2 HOURS, families and home-based businesses pay $10 and receive 4 HOURS, non-profit organizations pay $15 and receive 6 HOURS and businesses pay $20 and receive 8 HOURS.

The Gainesville Barter Network will hold a dessert potluck at 6:30 and open membership meeting at 7:00 at the Civic Media Center on Sunday, July 27. We are hopeful that Debby Nation who, was one of the first business people to receive Ithaca Hours in New York, will come from St. Augustine to share their experiences and encouragement with us.

For more information, call Shanti Vani (352)376-1606 or Darren Burgess at (352)375-2650.

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