June 14 & 15
Ohio City Farm: Refugee Response
Ohio City farm is the largest urban farm in Cleveland. Six different groups farm on the land, and we had the chance to speak with the farm director for Refugee Response. Refugee Response connects refugees from Burundi, Bhutan, Nigeria, and Burma with farming positions at Ohio City Farm. We were lucky to speak with Veronica, a woman who had been a skilled farmer in Burundi before she came to the US in 2008 to continue to work as a farmer on the all-organic Ohio City farm. The farm operates a farm stand, open Fridays and Saturdays, right there in that wee purple shipping container!
EVEN THROUGH LIGHTNING STORMS IN A MINI TENT, PATAGONIA KEEPS US LOVING LIFE! THANK YOU, PATAGONIA!
City Rising Farm
Caitrin, Jenn (a researcher pursuing her PhD), Elle (the creator of City Rising), Mrs. McGregor (a neighbor of City Rising, master gardener, and grandmother to all), and Lake after helping to weed Mrs. McGregor's stunning garden in preparation for the Hough Garden Tour!
Learning to Tell Time by Corn Height in Northern Indiana
We got to rest our weary heads there, in that beautiful cabin in the woods at Prairie Winds Nature Farm.
Grass is Greener Meats & Produce, Bremen, IN
All of the little ones, from piglets to goslings to kiddos are happy here!
The generosity of the Rowe Family was overwhelming--overwhelmingly delicious! They cooked up stewed chicken, ground beef patty, cured ham steak, and bacon (I mean MEAT CANDY!) on our behalf. The flavor and the care and the love present in heritage breed, free range animals is incomparable.
Lake and I feel like we are tasting food for the first time; simple, whole food that tastes as full as the animal's life.
Thank you, Rowe Family!
Prairie Winds Nature Farm, Lakeville, IN
Girls and their toys....
As you can see, the kids LOVE the tractor--we were lucky to arrive on the second day of Farm Camp! Charlotte uses a Montessori child-centered approach and the tenets of positive discipline to introduce children back into nature. Being on the farm and eating farm-fresh food, the campers come to understand where their food comes from. They also learn in terms of ecosystem relationships, systems, and interconnection: "they come to understand we need the same thing that plants need because that's how we evolved," says Charlotte. In a fast-paced, mediated culture Charlotte describes the many benefits of being in nature, especially peace, quiet, and "being in real time, really looking at what is before you."
When Charlotte and Robert Wolfe first purchased this land it was all corn like much of the surrounding area in northern Indiana. The two ecologists created the Nature in Prairie Winds Nature Farm when they pulled up every stalk of corn and converted 60 acres back to native prairie and wetland. They made the remaining acres into a productive and educational farm replete with horses, heritage breed milking Devon cows (like Jackie Cleary's at Auburn Meadows Farm!), goats, chickens, and vegetable gardens.
SWIMMING HORSES! Two firsts for us: riding bareback AND on the back of a swimming horse! Truly once in a lifetime.
This is Charlotte and Robert's daughter, Robin, an excellent rider, Japanese culture enthusiast, and all around awesome young lady!
On Eating Meat...
Being around people who care for their crucially endangered heritage breed animals so deeply they know their names and personalities--even after they've been transformed into prime cuts--makes us look pretty hard at our own relationships with eating meat.
Back at Villa Maria Farm, the AmeriCorps volunteer Maddy told us about her process of coming to terms with "sending the cattle away" and how developing relationships with the animals then having to let them go has brought her closer to the process of life and death. Looking straight into the eyes of the cattle as she shoves them into the trailer has compelled her to look fearlessly into her own ethics of eating meat. She has interrogated the dominant relationship that humans have over animals that become meat, has examined her own integral role in that process, and come to feel the cyclical and natural nature of eating meat. She only achieved this place of comfort with eating "happy meat"--ethically raised animals--after this long process of self-examination.
As Maddy leans deeper into these ethical questions she becomes more comfortable with death, both hers and the animals'. "Being free from fear of death lets me ask more questions about life."
To the folks at Patagonia, thank you for your warm welcome in Chicago! photo credit to Colin Clinard.
Growing Power Chicago: Iron Street Farm
The first year that the Hough neighborhood was included in the Garden Walk of Cleveland, residents of the area were hesitant to participate. Elle Adams explained to us that outsiders still maintained false assumptions of the area due to the Hough riots of 1966. It has been a long time since the riots and a lot has changed, including the introduction of a new urban farm on Blaine Avenue. Elle went on to say that folks didn’t want to be part of the garden tour in fear that no one would visit Hough on the day of the city walk.
It just so happens the Hough area, which has historically and presently suffered from structural and environmental racism, was the star of the show that year. As Elle slowly raised her hands to illustrate the community’s rise in self-esteem since that day, tears filled her eyes, and it became clear: City Rising Farm’s main crop are people, not plants.
In her words, “Not the flowers, the people--those flowers are the ones that are amazing.” Focusing on education through youth camps, field trips, community members owning plots, cooking days where they harvest and prepare meals in the cobb pizza oven, and plans for an outdoor kitchen, City Rising Farm invites the people of Hough to participate in their own resilience.
Unlike many other urban plots, City Rising Farm has no gates, walls or locks. “A fence tells people they are not welcome.” Elle explained. Instead, the sidewalk is lined with an edible hedge to lure people in and perhaps provide them with a snack!
The success of this educational urban space is located in the neighborhoods desire to have it there. As a result, it is easy to foresee the long-term health of this project. Conversely, other efforts we’ve seen have lacked the human element of communication and collaboration that we found so central at City Rising Farm.
If community ownership is vital to a project’s success and relevance, then how does an outsider help promote access and education in areas of need? Something we have struggled with is how to address structural inequalities, as they relate to the built environment and food, from a place of privilege. The food landscape we have been exposed to thus far seems to be oriented around two camps: making profit from selling produce and value added products, and making access to education and good food available in areas of need. These camps have generally been separate in the people that they serve but perhaps there are ways to join them? What structure would be needed in order to allow these separate spheres to benefit from one another?
Week 3: June 14-20
We feel that Growing Power's economic empowerment approach is crucial to addressing the racial and economic inequalities that plague our current food system. Chicago youth created this honey, and the profits from its sale return to the non-profit to keep the operation economically self-sustaining and able to support its staff members, many of whom are inner city people of color who began working with Growing Power through After School Matters.
Growing Power puts racial justice at the center of its mission. Iron Street Farm supervisor Laurel says, "A crucial part of food justice is talking about race, making it explicit, challenging folks a lot, and learning how to have the conversation where you can be heard." The point is not to "just get along," she says, rather "we have to take deliberate steps to 'get along.' " The above mural is a visual story of the historical nature of structural racism, resistance, and how that interaction unfolds in our food ways today.
Tyrus and Quentin were our guides at the farm (that's Tyrus in the blue shirt). They both became involved with Growing Power through After School Matters, a non-profit organization that provides Chicago public school teens extracurricular activities that allow them to explore their fullest potential. This is where the economic justice aspect comes in: After School Matters provides a stipend to Growing Power teens who may otherwise have difficulty finding a job. That initial entry into Growing Power provides them with skills along every aspect of the food chain from growing to distribution to creating value-added products like honey. Many, like Tyrus, go on to become staff and hope to one day become full-time salaried staff with Growing Power or other areas of the food industry. So, not only are Chicago inner city youth learning more about the benefits of good food, they also gain much more than that by way of critical analysis, job training, and skills that will serve them well as they enter the job market as adults. A core value here is inclusion.
Iron Street Farm has a TON going on: a chicken coop (still empty, sadly, as it's brand new and they're waiting for the birds!), aquaponics, and innoculated shittake mushroom logs (like mushroom expert Rusty Orner first showed us at Quiet Creek Herb Farm in Brookville PA!). They also process 20 tons of compost per week of food scraps collected from nearby schools and grocery stores. Growing Power sells their excellent compost for $80 per yard. Indeed, one of Growing Power's goals is to become economically self-sufficient by selling their goods such as vegetables, mushrooms, milk, compost, and so on, so they may exist in the long term without crutches of government grants.