Last weekend I did something totally for myself. (But for you, I will provide relevant informational links below! I will also include random, only loosely related photos, because I can’t stand how dense the text is and I bet you wouldn’t read to the end where the juicy stuff is!)
I attended the Small Farm Summit 2012 at Hofstra University (that’s Hofstra, not Adelphi University, which campus I drove around in error and confusion and dismay followed by self-recrimination and self-flagellation, until I realized I was only about ten minutes from Hofstra anyway – thank you GPS – and settled back to enjoy driving through how the other half – the folks who work and study at private universities — lives. Wow, that is definitely not the cement block public university horror architecture I am so intimately familiar with in my other life as a lecturer. They’ve got rolling landscapes, trees, stately brick buildings, lush landscaping…but I am meandering around the way things aren’t; let me get back to business).
The Summit was so inspiring – especially for someone like me, who is looking at her son entering kindergarten with some trepidation, not because he is not ready or I am not ready — we are ready. It’s because I’m afraid of what he’s going to eat! School lunches are notoriously unhealthy, and food “choices” are kind of laughable, unless you think that your divine right to tater tots and a bagel every day constitutes freedom of choice for the consumer. Or a five-year-old. Oh yeah, and now that he’s leaving our beloved Greenhouse, nobody’s going to be reheating lovingly homemade foods for H.R.H. Leandro, Prince of My Heart at lunchtime. How am I going make sure he gets healthy hot meals in the dead of winter? Yikes.
To be fair, I have yet to truly investigate the situation — we’ll have to wait until the end of my semester for that. But I want to be armed and ready for action, should the need arise. And really, I just want to be involved with food. It’s not just about my kid. It’s about all of us.
Since I didn’t even take pictures at the event (part of the self-flagellation on my circuitous route to the conference was realizing I forgot my camera) and I can’t seem to pull even a logo off the Small Farm Summit website, I am just going to reference some of the inspiring folks who spoke and provide links to the amazing things they do!
Former NBA player and son of sharecroppers, Will Allen and Growing Power are greening Milwaukee with intense urban farming that serves to feed people better, improve soil, reduce the waste stream and teach folks farming skills. Wow.
The Green Bronx Machine is a high school project by teacher administrator Stephen Ritz, who is a dynamo who took forgotten, abandoned and given-up-on students and, through garden projects, is creating high school graduates with marketable skills earning living wages. See pretty much the same hilarious and moving lecture I did here: TEDx
Chef Ann Cooper The Renegade Lunch Lady has transformed the way many public school districts feed kids: no processed foods, no defrosted foods – just locally sourced, fresh ingredients and simple, kid-friendly good stuff. See how it can be done with the free tools at Lunch Box.
For more on greening school food and all things organic (and really really tasty) especially on Long Island, visit Bhavani Jaroff at iEat Green LLC
Jan Poppendieck’s book Free For All: Fixing School Food in America (one of many she has written) traces the whys of subsidized school lunches from their inception as a way to use up surplus!!! In her talk she helped make sense of how we got here and where we are going (and it is not necessarily to hell in a handbasket…)
Brooklyn Food Coalition‘s Beatriz Beckford helps schools and families learn to eat better from the grassroots (this is a terrible pun, I know, but sometimes I lack impulse control). They have a conference coming up…click on the link for more information!
Leonore Russell is an educator at Crossroads Farm in Malverne, part of the Nassau County Land Trust. A former Waldorf teacher, she presented a lovely workshop on getting kids into the garden. We’ve been cuddling up with Peter Rabbit books ever since and I have to say, Leandro is very jazzed about doing the watering of the beds by himself.
And Susan Simon, a social worker at the Hicksville School District, gave a terrific little presentation about how she got raised beds into her district. I got so many ideas about incorporating gardening into the curriculum from her!!!
I was so exhilarated by the end of my day at the Summit (I had to go home at 2 pm because of other obligations, but the goings-on went on!) that I could barely stand it; I was and am all ready to take on the world…but I must admit to terrible pangs of some unpleasant emotion that accompany my desire to move forward. I can’t quite describe it in a word (mid-life crisis being just too damn pedestrian to want to apply to myself), but it’s that wondering why I didn’t prepare better for the grown-up I was going to be? Why did it take me so long to figure out where I really wanted to be immersed? And the ever-present questions of balancing good sense and responsibility with the desire to launch: can one do both? And…
HOW DO I FIND THE TIME??????????
So, the next day I planted some more vegetables with my dad in our new raised beds — OMG the beets are bursting through! — and resolved to dedicate my summer to gardening a lot and seeing what comes up.
BTW – shout-out to Restoration Farm our CSA, and TWBarritt, a blogging and farming buddy who was ably manning the table and whose blog Culinary Types, is a personal favorite. And to Donna Sinetar who I only saw through a conference hall window, but who presented on chickens after I had to leave!