In the last week I’ve taught nearly 2,000 students. In Lennox, LA, San Juan Capistrano, and San Diego County, Compass Green taught Middle and High School students about important global sustainability issues, and explained what a huge difference an individual can make in their own life and their world environment by growing their own food sustainably. It was an inspiring, exhausting, and totally rewarding week.
One great highlight was giving a presentation to an assembly of 800 at St. Margarets Episcopal School on Earth Day. It is a larger group than I have ever spoken to before, and the silence that surrounded some of the more important points of soil loss and how to create soil sustainability was profound indeed. It was broken only by that Elton John song about making a stand “in an auditorium” playing in the back of my mind.
The extreme differences in socioeconomic statuses and backgrounds in the different regions we taught in really brought home that food is one of the few material commonalities that bind us all, and that the knowledge of how to create a food system that will reverse the great damage that industrial agriculture is causing to the planet is something that is relevant and exciting to all students with ears to listen and hearts that care (and stomachs that rumble!)
We really appreciate all the thoughtful questions we received, and all the work that the teachers of those schools did for our visit, and the work they do every day of the year, despite budget cuts and the terrible (although kindly named) No Child Left Behind Act.
After 11 days of nonstop action, I now have 5 days off until our workshop on sustainable gardening at UCLA on Saturday the 4th. Hurray for activity one believes in combined with well earned rest!
Well, we sure have been busy. We taught at two schools in Antioch, and then this week, drove down the coast to Southern California to begin the second half of our tour. We started by sharing our sustainable agriculture message with the employees of Patagonia, in Ventura CA. Although it had nothing to do with farming, they seemed to particularly appreciate the fact that I spent the night in my ENO hammock, 15ft off the ground in the carob tree which shades their parking lot. Many came up to us over the day we were there, asking detailed questions for their own gardens, and I am pleased to think that the next few months will be all the more delicious due to our visit.
Last night, we slept under the stars on the beautiful organic farm in Ojai, The Farmer and the Cook. The morning brought waves and last minute reconstruction on our rain-water catchment system as we geared up for the Santa Barbara Earth Day Festival.
It was an oil spill in Santa Barbara in 1969 which caused then-senator Gaylord Nelson to establish Earth Day, and we are pleased to be taking part in one of the oldest and largest Earth Day festivals in the country. We’ll have our truck and be giving greenhouse tours the whole weekend, and tomorrow (Saturday) I will be speaking at the Harvest Stage at 4:30. I hope to see you there!
Traveling past green hills, wind farms, and numerous almond orchards, we made our way to the central valley to kick off the spring California tour on Wednesday, April 3rd in Fresno, CA. We would like to send out a huge thankyou to Carl Kaku, an engaging and passionate instructor at Fresno high, who helpedwith organizing our opportunity to work with their school. During the first day we presented and shared with 125 high school students from environmental science and biology classes, with a couple of English classes as well.
One of the joys of teaching is when you find yourself learning new things in return; we were excited to hear about a water system that Fresno uses for their city’s water catchment and storage. Throughout our time there, we observed large water collection ponds that filter into underground aquifers beneath the city to supplement their water supply. The central valley is one of the main agricultural regions in the state, and also hosts the problem of being under persistent drought, so it was neat to see their alternative infrastructure for storing water. Now if that region’s monoculture agriculture could only switch to bio-intensive methods, which use up to 87% less water, then, combined with their water storage systems, they’d be headed towards a more sustainable future with today’s drought epidemic and the growing climate change.
We also learned that in Fresno county, almond production accounts for bringing in approximately $820,000/year. In order to feed the world’s burgeoning population sustainably, we need to adjust our diet. John Jeavons taught that filbert trees would produce 5 times the amount of calories, protein and calcium as almonds do. Don’t get us wrong, we love almonds just as much as anyone, but sustainability is to do less and accomplish more, or in this case it would be grow less and gain more.
Bringing our time in Fresno to a close, on Thursday, we had the refreshing experience of teaching 3-5 year olds as a part of Fresno City College’s early childhood development program. This brought us back to the basics of becoming in touch with where our food comes from, and the simple and elaborate systems nature provides to support life of plants, and ourselves, together on earth.
Compass Green was happy to welcome a new member of the team as she joined Justin in Fresno this Wednesday to begin the Spring tour. Justin and Nick first met Amelea when they were teaching at Warren Wilson College, which she graduated from in 2011.
Amelea Canaris is an alternative education enthusiast, through this she engages in work that creates more awareness with youth around environmental, farming, food & nutrition issues. Amelea has studied art education as well as studying and receiving her degree in environmental education at Warren Wilson College where she developed skills in curriculum writing and teaching as well as program planning. She has been trained in Joseph Cornell’s flow learning and Sharing Nature program, participated in the Nature Play Corps, and worked with the Natural Learning Initiative in North Carolina. In 2012, she was a teacher-in-residence at the educational non-profit farm, Slide Ranch in Muir Beach, CA. Recently she has worked with Urban Adamah garden, and currently she works for the Shorebird Nature Center and Adventure Playground in Berkeley, CA.
She did a great job this week, and Justin is looking forward to teaching with her next week, in Antioch, CA.