Saturday, July 18, 2009


A few months ago I got a call from a woman who had read an article i had written for Sevananda Natural Foods Coop's newsletter. She said she was with an organization called "Partnership for Community Action" and they had a program called the Dekalb County Neighborhood Leadership Institute. This is their description of the program.
DeKalb Neighborhood Leadership Institute is a year-long adult leadership development program focused on potential and emerging leaders who represent the low-income community to moderate in Dekalb County.The Program acquaints participants with the various levels of government, education, business, economic and community development, engaging them in the decision-making process, while allowing them to develop their own leadership style and skills. Graduates of the program join an Alumni Association where continued leadership education and other opportunities for community investment are available.
She asked if she could bring a group of women in this program to visit the Funny Farm. I told her i would be happy for them to come for a visit.
They came this morning. It was the most beautiful cool, clear morning we've had in a long time, an ideal time to tour the garden. I'm pretty sure from the questions they asked that they were expecting something completely different than what they found. A farm in a suburban neighborhood? "What did the neighbors think?" was one of the first questions they asked.

Most of them had little or no experience with gardening. They were very excited to see the source of a potato and a zucchini. Some of them got a little freaked out by all of the bees and other insects flying about but they were very interested to learn the roles the insects played in the process on an organic farm. When i showed them that zucchini had separate male and female flowers, someone asked how you could tell the difference. Another woman rubbed her belly and said " the female is the one with the fruit on it just like us". They so got it!
They got to taste fresh basil and smell dill. A few did have gardens and they got to take home some dill and coriander seeds. They were fascinated to see how a lettuce head eventually put out a flower stalk and then produced a seed. They were disappointed that they missed the blackberry harvest by a week :-)
I showed them our compost and vermiculture processes. They loved the idea.

When we got to the chocolate mint they asked what we did with it. Make Mojitos i said. Immediately everyone wanted to know if they could have a piece they could take home and root so they could make their own. I think that was the highlight of the morning.
They asked about where i got my seeds. That gave me an opening to talk about the crisis in the seed industry as Monsanto is trying to take control of all the seed sources. I asked who had heard of Monsanto. Only 1 out of 30 raised her hand. Someone asked why i did not grow soybeans. I said i did not like to eat them and went on to explain how in Eastern cultures all the soy is fermented before it is eaten. Tofu, tempeh, miso, tamari. I explained to them that here in the goodole US of A. Industrial Ag has tried to convince us that eating unfermented soy and soy-based derivatives that are found in many processed foods is a good thing. I told them how studies are showing that this consumption is harming our children.
I know that i live in an insular world where most of the people i am in contact with regularly know about these things. Clearly we have a lot of work to do make the general public aware of the problems in our food system.
I was truly inspired by this enthusiastic, engaged and totally fun group of women. This is the kind of experience that motivates me to keep on doing what i do because i know it is helping others.
Thank you ladies for a wonderful start to a fabulous day.


Angela said...

I had heard that seeds were going to be scarce but I didn't know that Monsanto had anything to do with it. Living here near the chemical valley in Charleston, West Virginia, I do know what Monsanto is. lol

What is the best way to save seeds or get seeds from the plants that we are currently growing? I also was wondering if you had transplanted blackberries and how you did it? I have read that you need to pick a good plant that has big plump berries on it and then cut 6 inches off and plant it 2 inches deep and they will grow next year. I'm really looking for a good location to plant some of those on our farm. My kids love blackberries!


steona said...

I love this story Duane, I am so glad you showed them around. I miss coming over there, maybe I can come by soon.

Country Girl said...

What a great story, inspiring!!!