Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Week of Big Hearts

This week is National Random Acts of Kindness Week. It’s likely no coincidence that Valentine’s Day falls within the same week! While being kind to others is contagious and encourages others to do the same, so does being kind to the earth. Consider a new challenge for the week to do more than you already do to nurture our planet. Adding a new act each day can be as simple as switching to cloth napkins from paper, buying an aluminum refillable water bottle and giving up plastic or just being more mindful about what we choose to recycle rather than throw out.

Community members came out to kindly help out Farmer John Wilson plant new fruit trees on his newly relocated New Earth farm. Kids and adults helped to dig, plant, and spread mulch and even found time to play in the hay. We can enjoy his fruit this spring and summer and for years to come. Visit him at http://newearthfarm.org/New_Earth_Farm/Welcome.html

At the last meeting of the Green LIONS Garden Group we were up to some acts of kindness ourselves making Valentine’s Day homemade soap for our loved ones. We used organic goat’s milk soap base to melt and pour into heart-shaped silicone molds. The students customized the soaps by adding lavender or fir balsam essential oils and lavender flowers, rose petals or dried rosemary. They even hand-stamped and painted organic cotton bags as gift bags.

We discussed how we can make many household items ourselves when we have the time and the know-how, like soap, yogurt, pasta, bread, muffins, pickles, granola, chicken stock, beef stock, vegetable stock, dried herbs, household cleaners, laundry detergent and much much more. When we take control of the making of many of our commonly-used items we save not only on packaging and carbon emissions to get that package to us, but we can control the quality of the ingredients. Learning to can, preserve, dehydrate, or simply freeze foods when they are in season is a wonderful way to take responsibility for what goes on our table. We can all summon a little of our inner Ma and Pa Ingalls!

We also studied the leaves of bok choy, cabbage, kale, collards, and chard noting their beauty and their differences in our garden journals.

We then watched excerpts from Fresh the Movie focusing on two farmers, Joel Salatin with Polyface Farm, http://www.polyfacefarms.com/  , and Will Allen of Growing Power, http://www.growingpower.org/  .

Polyface Farm is a farm located in rural Swoope, Virginia that uses unconventional methods with the goal of “emotionally, economically and environmentally enhancing agriculture.” This farm is where Salatin developed and put into practice many of his most innovative and significant agricultural methods including pastured-poultry, grass-fed beef and the rotation method which makes his farm more like an ecological system than conventional farming. In our community, Polyface Farms products can be found at Virginia Organic Grocery (see our links) and Chipotle restaurants.

Watch this wonderful commercial by Chipotle promoting crop rotation and humane raising of animals. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aMfSGt6rHos&utm_source=google&utm_medium=cpv&utm_campaign=video

Growing Power is a farm and community food center in the heart of Milwaukee, Wisconsin and run by  former professional basketball player turned farmer Will Allen. At Growing Power and in community food projects across the nation and around the world, Will Allen promotes the belief that all people, regardless of their economic circumstances, should have access to fresh, safe, affordable and nutritious foods at all times. Using creative growing methods he has developed over a lifetime, Allen trains community members to become community farmers, assuring them a secure source of good food without regard to political or economic forces. Growing Power’s goal is a simple one: to grow food, to grow minds, and to grow community. Both Allen and Salatin are leading the movement towards a better, safer, and sustainable food system.

Will Allen was one of the key note speakers at the Sustainable Living Fair last year in Norfolk. The Sustainable Living Fair is scheduled this year for this weekend, February 18-19, at Old Dominion University. This fair features multiple exhibitors, classes and workshops like preserving food, vermi-composting, raising chickens, beekeeping and creating your own rain barrel. Go to http://www.slfhr.com/ for more information on the schedule of classes and events and this year’s key note speaker, Tony Geraci.

Geraci was hired by the Baltimore Public School system to create a healthier lunch and breakfast program supported by local farmers and growers with great success. Geraci is now working in Memphis with their school system to do the same inspiring transformation, and also travels the country teaching other school systems how to recreate his program. He stars in the documentary Cafeteria Man, http://cafeteriaman.com/.

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