Monday, February 9, 2009

Listening, Sharing and Learning

I'm in the midst of a flurry of opportunity to engage wonderful minds, ideas, and visions for the future. Just about a perfect recipe for winter as a vegetable grower. I'm buoyed by the bounty of potential for our communities as we face the very real difficulties brought on by current economic conditions.

I have recently begun a year-long fellowship with the Environmental Leadership Program. At the end of January, we had our first retreat in Harvard, MA where we met the other fellows from the Northeast region. The weekend was filled with time to contemplate the history of and present opportunities in the environmenal movement. It was a hope-filled experience, as we begin to share our collaborative visions for a sustainable future built upon greater diversity within the environmental movement.

While back in SE Mass I was given the opportunity to teach a class to New Bedford youth as part of their I Thrive Green Alive program. We spent the evening listening to some food-inspired songs, including work by Wil Bullock "Time for Change", Greg Brown "Canned Goods", and Dead Prez "Be Healthy" and discussing the different energy resources used in our current food system. One question presented, could we exist without sugar? Absolutely not. I'm not talking oreos and coca-cola, but rather the sugars that are produced through the process of photosynthesis. These sugars are just one part of a critical foundation for life on our planet.

How to help the earth develop soils that are truly capable of growing healthy plants (and therefore optimal levels of photosynthesis and the resulting sugars) was a focus of this past weekend, when I attended a 3-day seminar with Arden Andersen hosted by NOFAMASS. The seminar provided a great opportunity to continue learning about sustainable techniques used to produce high brix/nutrient dense foods. It was exciting to see a number of familiar faces in the room, but also to meet and connect with farmers and food producers throughout the Northeast interested in focusing on the quality of their products. I'll continue to incorporate some of Arden Andersen's messages into our Know Your Vegetables workshops here on the farm as well as the new monthly workshops we'll be hosting in New Bedford starting in March.*

* Tentative Date and Location for the 1st NB workshop will be 4PM, Tuesday March 3rd, at the Lawler Branch Library, 745 Rockdale Ave in New Bedford (hopefully the branch libraries won't be forced to close as a result of pending budget cuts!). We'll have more information available about this project in the coming weeks.

Tomorrow, I'll board a plane for Italy where I'll be joining a symposium "Food, Landscape and Community in Tuscany and New England" hosted by the Spannocchia Foundation. It will surely be another terrific opportunity to listen, share and learn. The willingness to share ideas and information is perhaps one of the greatest assets within the agricultural movement today.

We are bound by limitations of natural capital; though sustainable agriculture is working to build new capital including humus and soil organic matter (see recent Acres USA article about the role of mycorrhizal fungi and glomalin in building soil carbon levels). However, natural capital is only one part of the equation; we also rely on human capital (knowledge, skills, and energy). This capital is potentially limitelss, and its wonderful to experience the growth and development of human capital that results from a sharing of ideas, breaking of bread, and listening to others.

Right now, I'm feeling blessed by the richness of community and the connections with others that I've enjoyed during the first 5 weeks of the new year.

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