Reflection Time

I had no experience in the food system coming into this class at the beginning of the semester—or so I thought. I was excited to learn about the workings and mechanics and definitions of a foreign concept. And yet what I learned from those who lavished their wisdom upon me… Jill as well as my peers… has elucidated what I thought was foreign and made me feel as I should: 1) I am ground zero for reform and revolution, 2) I am a part of the food system as a consumer And a producer, for I never thought that my experiences in home growing constituted a part of the production body of the food system. I am excited that 20% of the world’s food is produced on urban farms and that I am a tiny, tiny percentage of that. What’s more important to me, though, is that I share and receive knowledge from others about things that interest me, such as urban agriculture.

The most puzzling concern for food activists is also puzzling to educators—which interests me in my future vocation as an educator: how do you motivate people to care? Care about the environment, school, health. The answer is that if it doesn’t interest them, then make it interest them. Not by shoving it down their throats or criticizing, but by showing them enough things that might interest them until something finally clicks and holds their attention or at least initiates them into future food system forays. As an example, the composter situated in the Garden allowed elementary students to prove their strength as they tried to turn the barrel weighted with compost. The students wanted to spin and spin it as I told them about the benefits and procedures of composting, and if that isn’t a hook then I don’t know what is. I hadn’t considered that influence one bit when I conceived and built it. The composter was conceived by bringing together English composition skills in the writing of the letter, food system knowledge from the class, and produced unplanned educational benefits for the public.

Products are unpredictable. But I think if you do good work it produces good products; bad work produces bad products, like karma. In that vein, good work doesn’t come without road bumps. They build character if they’re overcome in good ways and get factored into character-progression rather than regression. The lack of stability and organization in True Greens were the road bumps that I encountered, and they led me to provide secondary assistance to the endeavor while searching out independent work that provided primary assistance to multiple projects. The composter provides a place for True Greens to recycle its soil filled with, say, sunflower seed shells that don’t decompose quickly. Sunflower-seeded soil needs extra time to decompose, for if it doesn’t, then the seeds hinder space in which tender microgreen roots need to flourish. Whereas smaller seed shells decompose and can be reused quickly. The composter also benefits the Garden for refuse disposal and eventual nourishment of the soil.

My way of navigating the road bumps was to take a step back and devise a way that yielded multi-purpose results and kept me from being bored or frustrated by a lack of clear instructions and structure. I think that True Greens being its trial and error building stage initially turned me off. But I found ways to cope on my own and with help from others, while helping others at the same time. True Greens is moving forward with more stability and structure that will help new students more efficiently engage in the endeavor. The instructions that Andres is producing will benefit its sustainability, as generations will have distilled directions to ensure that all parts, including the composter, work properly, run smoothly, and continue in iterations of this course and beyond.

Advice for incoming students: do your thing and make your way; build something with your hands or your mind that you Can call your own but Will Not, because it takes a village. I couldn’t have done what I did without the class and my classmates; remember that humility thing and encourage it in others. Food justice is a collective effort that includes everyone and excludes none.

Thanks for letting me share—thanks for reading and doing good things. Y’all, and this course, will be sorely missed. It’s been an amazing opportunity. And rest assured you’ve made an impact on me. Thanks for that. And G’luck moving forward.

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