Cooking Matters

cookingmatters1Would you like to learn how to prepare delicious, affordable, healthy meals? The Community Action Agency of St. Louis County is partnering with Operation Food Search to host a free Cooking Matters class series in April and May. Benefit from expert training and also receive free groceries and gifts! Click here to vote for the time slots that will fit with your schedule.

Farewell Series Part 2 of 4: Care of Earth through Food System

While most of us know our industrial food system is deeply flawed, and the biotech industry isn’t helping, it may be helpful to examine why. Largely, is is simply a matter of distance, in terms of both geography and mindfulness.

The industrial food system currently uses about 7 calories of energy to get 1 calorie of food (however nutrient deprived or chemically laden) on a plate, and is hence extractive instead of holistic. The principles of biotech and industrial food are based upon profit and forcing technological dependence; not ecology or well-being. Our best chance of changing these systems, especially for and by those living with meager financial capital, is to empower ourselves by learning to grow and prepare our own food and buying as locally and seasonably as is within our means. As part of that process, we begin to know a piece of land, however small. When we care about one piece, we naturally grow concern for what borders it- land water, and so on. And when we recognize the connections of all things, we learn to care for all as though it is our own. Because it is ours, and we are its. Land use becomes within our scope. And our charge.

We cannot count on institutions and corporations to take charge for our or the earth’s well-being. As we take charge of any means of production, in this case our food, we greatly reduce our dependence on fossil fuels, tech, and large companies we don’t regulate, therefore coming closer to that which we depend on. When we control the means of production, or at least have heavy influence on it, we care more about it, and ourselves.

When what we consume comes from our back yard, or at least our neighborhood, we’re going to care much, much more about the land that produces it, and by what methods. The image of a farm worker in the following image demonstrates a method by which much of our food is produced, but will not be a welcome one when it is within our sights.


This is the current’normal’ way. Brought to you by Big Ag, biotech, and respirators. 


Another way. Right in the back yard. Brought to you by Jake.

Let’s change the ‘norm’ by creating and supporting more neighborhood resources like Seeds of Hope Farm.

Thanks for reading. Next week: Care of People through increased (real) communication.

Transition, Thanks, and Farewell

Seeds of Hope Farm Co-Op Members,

The season has truly turned and its changes are upon us. As the leaves fall and the year’s growth settles into place, I too must recognize my own need for transition, and will be leaving my position as manager of Seeds of Hope Farm. Five full growing seasons ago I took this position at project inception, having no idea where it would lead, how much it would help me grow personally, or the richness that would develop from the relationships it has formed; in and outside of me. While there is far too much worthwhile experience and too many lessons to recount and express, a few reflections are in order to share with followers of this farm. It wasn’t until after writing these reflections I noticed that they parallel the three base tenants of permaculture: Care of Earth, Care of People, and Share of Surplus (or setting limits) Over the next couple weeks I will be posting some of these, along with wheree I’m headed, and hope that you will follow along, helping this farm to build more community in two neighborhoods where it is so desperately needed. For today, I list where such a foundation for any such endeavor must start, continue, and end: Gratitude.

As I age I feel more sure in many ways. But when it comes to sharing the gratitude that working toward a more just foodshed has brought to me, I’m not even sure where to start. Or even less so, where to end. So I’ll start in February, 2012: Thanks to Brett, for telling me to apply. To my friends and family, somehow not only tolerated but supported me through my work-crazed beginnings; To Community Action, its staff, board, and supporters, for creating and continuing this program that literally, from a converted little churchyard and a little piece of a park, feeds many. To each of the apprentices I’ve worked with. What I’ve learned from each of you I doubt I can ever repay. From each of you I have learned to be a teacher, a confidant, a leader, a maker and owner of mistakes, and a friend. I thank Jehad, Whitney, Evan, Cody, Jake, Sara, and now Rae, for their help, devotion, and efforts despite sometimes being over 100 degrees or 12 hours into a day. I send thanks to our sponsors over the years, who have shared so that others may have that which they too deserve. I thank our low-income members for having faith we would provide what we had promised, and for taking ownership of their food and placing value where they have. I thank Karen Davis and Miranda Duschack who gave me a clue and helped steer me through the first couple of years, and SLUG, and Pastor Paul for whom without this project wouldn’t exist; the shade of the oak trees in Spanish Lake, who shelter us and bring daily beauty and relief from sun, Kenny, for being a man of his era, the people at St Peter’s Lutheran and Helping Hands food pantry, Angelique for watering and freeing our weekends, and the list could seemingly go on forever, but would be very incomplete without direct recognition of a certain few.

I am especially grateful to my supervisor, Georgie Donahue, for her passion and devotion to this project, and to her everlasting faith in me. She is the first person to have given me a great deal of responsibility, or a true promotion, and I hope I have served her well. Georgie’s leadership has allowed me to push the edge, create, drive, and recover when I have failed. She has been a teacher to me in ways of management and tolerance. She has always, while recognizing my many mistakes and shortcomings, built my confidence and make me want to work harder for her.

To Deidre Kelly, for cultivating my sense of gratitude, giving me so many tools in communication, demonstrating the importance of organizing and planning, bringing the teens, and helping me set my perfectionist tendencies aside to again realize my deep want of becoming a teacher.

And perhaps most of all to Randy. Who has so many times been the wiser. Who has been the clutch. And the quiet, thoughtful voice behind Seeds of Hope Farm. Who got the reports in. Who saved my tail innumerable times. Who knew the line. And who, after my move, I will miss, so so dearly.

I find that when allow myself to fully acknowledge the source of this gratitude, I need look no farther than the ground beneath my feet. And whether the feeling seems far away, or, I am filled with such an upwelling of gratefulness that I feel my heart and chest cannot possibly contain it, I simply drop my knees to the earth. This gesture inherently brings a feeling of humility and recognition, as I am closer to that which directly supports and carries me through every day. From this place, I can clearly feel my place in the world, and be of better service to myself and others in it.