The Lorax and Democracy

So much craziness happening, what’s a kid to think? If it’s not homework and grades, maybe they worry about their appearance and material wants. If it’s not enough free time, perhaps it’s too many hours plugged in—to the TV, computer or iPod. Sure, every generation has had it’s share of stresses and challenges, but what if students pay attention and think critically about the bigger picture? From growing inequality and lack of political leadership to environmental collapse and climate change, is there room for hope?

If we overwhelm, we alienate. If we frighten, we paralyze. I argue times are ripe for change, point to the millions already involved in altering the current course and find relevant (usually local) projects to partake. Importantly, I suggest teaching ‘democracy’ as a verb. To that end, check out Rebecca Altman’s piece here on students taking meaningful action on reducing the number of catalogs shipped and film The Lorax that produced results.

 

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Education. What’s it for?

Education. While the word itself may not spark as much passionate debate as religion and politics, everyone has an opinion. Those opinions vary wildly, yet there’s one common theme: we can, and we must do better at educating children. Education is viewed as essential to “progress” and better lives. So, ideas for improvement are put forth. Sides are taken. Debates rage—ratcheted up as test scores arrive. What makes sense? Continue reading

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Another Food Blog – Who has the Time?

2012 is the year I’ll spend less time plugged in and more time outdoors. After too many hours cooped up indoors, I walk outside and my mind says, “what took you so long?” So, I often hesitate recommending visiting yet another website. That said, the trick is to find the sources that save you from spending time on other sites. Is the content engaging, valuable, diverse and concise?

With that in mind, I find myself repeatedly pulled to Mrs. Q’s Fed Up with Lunch blog. True, I hadn’t read it before being asked to post a guest blog, see here, there are plenty of food blogs and I’m biased towards the subjects of food/kids, but Mrs. Q’s blog covers the gamut, and covers it well. She’s a Chicago Public School Teacher that ate school lunch every day last year and blogs about the experience. Mrs. Q’s great at bringing attention to the injustice of the food system, while sharing stories of those sowing the seeds of change. And she’s always concise.

Love & Peas, Tim.

P.S. Here I am recommending more time on the computer: a Chicago Tribune article on our urban agriculturalist Seneca Kern. Seneca, thanks for the signature.

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A Story of Two Farms

harvest day at gray farms in donovan, ilFarm A: 1000 acres of corn and soybeans managed by one part-time farmer (with help from lots of subsidized oil, chemicals and a couple big machines). The harvested crops feed livestock, cars and food processing centers. The farm poisons the water, erodes the soil and pollutes the air. The fraction of their crop that enters our bodies as ‘cheap’ corn-fed meat and junk food makes us sick and raises healthcare costs.  And this farmer gets a check (plus insurance subsidies) every year from taxpayers.
Farm B: 4 acres worth of fruit and vegetables. It requires 4 farmers with knowledge acquired over time. Continue reading

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Farming in Nature’s Image

Humans spent the last 10,000 years struggling to obtain enough calories, often just squeaking out an existence.  Here we are in the 21st century and we grow far more than enough food to provide adequate calories to every man, woman and child on earth. Consider that the population at the advent of farming was 3M (rough estimate) and we’ll hit 7B this year and the feat’s even more remarkable. So, when talking food, why is it that all anyone talks about are the issues surrounding the ‘food system’? Continue reading

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Nature as Mentor…

Fresh Food with a Fresh Paint Job

I love Einstein quotes. Here’s one of my favorites: “We can’t solve problems using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.” It comes to mind when I hear, “We’ve got to get the economy going again.” Yet, if there’s no longer a correlation between the USA’s growing GDP with quality of life (we’re less happy now than forty years ago and easy to see why: we work longer, for less money) and worse, a growing GDP means more of life dies, i.e. forests, fisheries, soil, isn’t it time to rethink our strategy? If our most ‘educated’ people, as business execs, do the most damage, shouldn’t we rethink education? Continue reading

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It’s All Truck Farm Chicago, All the Time…

Truck Farm Chicago’s inaugural tour is nearly four months in (now powered by biodiesel from Loyola University) and we’re giving away cherry tomatos to anyone who asks.

During a Truck Farm visit the other day, a young grandmother asked, “If you don’t sell anything from your little farm, what do you do with it?” So, while her grandkids sampled produce and painted veggies on the truck, I explained our mission: connecting kids to food & wellness, and described our programming (often w/partners), i.e. visiting schools & conducting programming like gardening, wellness education and cooking.

With a few miles under my farming belt, I’m realizing the power of using the topic of food for learning. We’re all connected to it at least three times a day and it’s connected to everything else. From brain power, to healthcare costs and from public policy to social justice and jobs, food is our medium. Fresh, tasty food. And the best part is the number of practical ways to improve our system. It’s not about sacrifice, it’s about abundance. It’s not about higher costs, it’s about food that tastes great and nourishes us (and the soil). And being with youth to talk about these issues is a great place to be. And that’s why Truck Farm continues to roll…

Truck Farm Chicago

P.S. Coming soon: Changing our relationship with nature. Then, the difference between corn/soy farm and a small vegetable farm. Then, the real cost of ‘flaming hots.’

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We live in crazy times. Yet, with chaos comes opportunity.

To unlock the opportunity, remember: “We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.” -Einstein

The Green Sugar Project looks broadly, explores connections and learns through doing. With nature as our guide, we work on What’s Possible. Designing for abundance is an idea whose time has come. But that idea needs legs.

Take a deep breath. Start stretching. And join us on the journey.

All progress depends on the unreasonable man.” -George Bernard Shaw

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‘Farm-on-Wheels’ brings dirt, science, fun, farming and food through Chicago this Summer

Props are good. I like props, so I knew Truck Farm Chicago would work. With a ‘farm-on-wheels’ that lets kids harvest and eat food, it’s easy to engage in conversations about health. I just wasn’t sure the plants would like being on the bumpy road day after day. Well, from the kale to the onions and spinach, to the chard and broccoli, we’re growing food. And yesterday we harvested the first fruit from our strawberry patch. The look on the student’s face after he bit into it was priceless. 🙂

P.S. This link takes you to Jamie Oliver’s blog and an article on an innovative school in Chicago, The Academy for Global Citizenship. And Truck Farm gets to visit next week 🙂

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Truck Farm Chicago is on Tour!!

I have dirt under my fingernails and it feels great. The sun rises higher and our crops grow taller. We visit kids and laugh. Life is good. Check out the latest project- A Green Sugar Press and Seven Generations Ahead collaboration: Truck Farm Chicago.

It’s about engaging kids in conversations on food; how it grows, where it grows and why it matters. From toddlers to teens, our programming runs the gamut, from planting seeds to composting demos, to hands-on history/geography lessons and cooking classes.

Check out more, at our w-i-p website: Truck Farm Chicago

P.S. Including are clips from our visits with NBC, ABC and WGN TV.

P.P.S. Don’t fret, the kale, spinach, strawberries, onions, broccoli, chard, cauliflower, collard greens, radishes and parsley plants have grown far taller than in this picture.

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