Many years ago when I lived in the counter cultural world, a group of people noticed that we have had – as a species – special relationships with our watershed homelands. Weather, plants, foods, etc., characterize that specific ‘place’. In France they call it pays. You may have heard it referred to as terroir.
Colonial powers did not recognize the organizing principle of watershed when they came to this continent. In the mid-70-‘s, bioregionalists called that to everyone’s attention. Within a short time, bioregional watershed organizations began to spring up around the United States, Canada, Mexico and Europe. Destiny Kinal is a co-founder of Reinhabitory Institute, a not for profit based on bioregional principles working in three parts of our country, New York and Pennsylvania –Penn York Valley south of Ithaca– and northern California. Reinhabitory Institute deals with products and services that interest us, specifically in what characterizes our watershed – where we live, where we operate and where we do business. Destiny is also the author of the award-winning Textile Trilogy. She may be reached at 738 Douglas Drive, Waverly NY 14892, by phone at (510) 701-8909 or by email at DestinyKin22@gmail.com. Her websites are www.Reinhabitory-Insititute.org, www.SitioTiempoPress.com, and www.DestinyKinal.com. She is also available on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn.
What has been the evolution of your business?
The older I get the more I realize how important my countercultural experience was back in the 1960’s. It began with a core group of people on a variety of farms doing bio-regional work. Bio-regional work is establishing a relationship with your own watershed through education, restoration and training. We focus our education mainly on kids. This core group later dispersed all over the country to continue doing the work in their new locations that we had begun in California.
I have always been against the use of chemicals. In the late 70’s up to the mid 80’s, I wanted to know if the corporate world in food and beverage was as wedded to the use of chemicals as I suspected. I got a job in the corporate world in multinational food and beverages, health and beauty aids. They smoked me out pretty quickly. However, when you are a consultant in that corporate world, you get to say the dangerous things that someone in the corporate world can’t say AND they hire you to say.
Also in that time, something happened that was so important in my life. The mass market was still very much THE thing in marketing in the late 70’s. I was part of a small group that was able to point out to the large consumer goods corporations there was a new market arising (let’s call it the post 50’s early 60’s market). These were people who were really paying close attention to ingredients and the integrity of products. We were able to persuade the big corporation through DATA, that in fact this was a coming market; that it was extremely important for them to position themselves there and create new products for these new consumers.
The results were astonishing. From the early to mid 80’s, all of the categories on the supermarket shelves transformed: unit pricing, ingredients and the integrity of those ingredients. nutritional product on the back of the packaging, and new products that stood up to scrutiny and gave benefits that were mostly real (not empty claims). At the same time, the chemicals industry hung on to their corporate giant clients with tooth and nail.
Then we started Project Grow both in the west and the east. Project Grow grew out of the Reinhabitory Institute. The East did so well, we spun them off into their own 501c3. In the west we have focused on fibers. We began to grow Indigo on our plantation. We teach kids in both locations how to grow the 3 sisters. They are mounds of soil. Corn grows up the middle, beans grow up the side of the corn, squash grows in between – shading the roots and holding the water.
What else have you been doing?
In the late 90’s, we started a publishing arm to the Reinhabitory Institute. We have this little collective publishing house, sitio tiempo press. We noticed at the point when some of us had books we wanted to publish that it was very difficult to get the attention of the big presses. It’s the luck of the draw if you get an agent, if a big publisher finds your market worthy. We didn’t like what happened to authors in that gigantic corporate publishing world. Authors had nothing to say about what their covers looked like, about the positioning of their book. That seemed wrong. Since that time, a number of small independent publishers have risen up to make a success out of independent publishing. When we started, it made you wince to think about self-publishing. Now it is a very respectable way to go. But we are not self-publishers; we are a small independent press. Both Judith Thomas, my business partner, and I are book artists. I spent years in advertising. We hold to a high aesthetic standard when it comes to the books we publish. And, everything we publish has to do with bioregionalism.
Is that where the trilogy came from?
Yes. This has become my life work in the last third of my life. My mother asked me before she died if I would take her genealogical research into her mother’s line. That is not how genealogical research is usually done. Usually through the male because that’s how records are kept.
When we moved to the Twin Tiers about 30 years ago from NYC, I tried to keep up my marketing consulting business for a few years. However, it was not very successful. I realized that I had reached the point where I needed to begin to write creatively. I got my MFA (Masters of Fine Arts) from Bennington. They asked me to stop working on this series of novels that were evolving from my genealogical research. I learned to write better. As soon as I finished my MFA, I started on the textile trilogy. That was over 20 years ago.
The third book was the first one I worked on. Oil and Water takes place in the early oil frontiers (Bolivar, Oil City, Titusville). My great grandmother and grandfather had lived there. Then I wondered if I could go back a couple of generations. I went to the place where my great great grandmother first set foot on this continent, Bucks County PA, and learned they had raised silk there. That lit up all my lights and I began to research silk., giving me the fabulous metaphor of metamorphosis to build my female protagonist, the leader or maitresse de la soie of her Huguenot family’s venture on this continent.
I began to research in the US and continued it in the Cevennes Mountains in France where the French Huguenots produced silk. At the same time I discovered linen. I am part of a Flax-to-Linen working group, to see if we can restore the flax-to-linen culture that was an important fiber for householders as well as wool, hemp, and where it could be grown cotton. I have heard it estimated that we have been raising linen as a people for over 30,000 years! At the same time I worked on silk, I researched linen.
Then I went to work writing. It takes me about a decade to write a book. I learned I am in the same company as Toni Morrison who takes that long for each of her books. It is not an easy task to get characters to come alive on the page. For me, writing a book is a process of discovery. Others have an outline that shows the beginning, middle and end. I don’t really know where the book is going to go. The real novel gets written in the process of revision.
I have just finished my second book, Linen Shroud. It takes place around the middle of the 19th Century and the Civil War. The Montour Sisters, Queen Esther and Queen Catherine, were interesting people to me and I incorporated their families into the story line from when Sullivan came through the valley, burned everything and cut down all their crops, driving them up to Canada. I moved them on a couple generations from there, to Queen Esther’s descendants in the 19th century. Part of the story talks about the huge cultural differences that separate the two Peoples, French Huguenot silkmakers and the Montour Metis. It is super interesting to see how they meet. And the differences in their ways of life and values as they move toward becoming a single family. Why? Largely because the western native People are mostly matrilineal while Europeans are largely patrilineal, making huge differences between genders, yes that magnifies as we look at attitudes toward the earth, roles of men and women, rights and duties of each gender, war.
Are there any misconceptions about you or your businesses?
People seem to have expectations of me because my name is Destiny. My parents gave that to me 73 years ago and I have lived with it pretty well. Some people think I am pretentious or a ‘poser’ or something like that. It is hurtful when people seem to not like me or reject me for no apparent reason. I try to be as natural as I can – not get above myself in any way because that is how I like to live my life. I don’t think I am perceived by most people as pretentious.
As far as my businesses go – sure. When I was a young woman and decided to be an existentialist, not have any regrets, make my decisions and live by them, that’s easy to say when you are in your 20’s and 30’s. At 70 you do have some regrets. As an entrepreneur – we had a down vest company. In Aspen CO when I was in my early 30’s, I liquidated the family silver, oriental rugs. An undercapitalized business is going to have a hard time of it.
What are your greatest achievements?
In business that moment of transformation when I look down the supermarket aisles and realize I really made a contribution to that.
What have been your greatest stumbling blocks?
I have an ability to analyze a lot of data at once and project trends. You can’t be out in front of a trend too far or people think you are insane.
If you could have a Do Over, is there anything you would want to change?
I like my life the way it has turned out. So “no”.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
I hope I am alive. I will be 78. By then I hope to have the third novel in the textile trilogy completed. I hope to be living in CA near my family and grandchildren but spending my summers here where I grew up. This is where I feel most like myself.