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Sunday, July 5, 2009

Response to proposal

Jim Bremer writes:

My mind is picturing a lush "campus" 5 years hence. And on
> the map are farmplots,
> orchards, packing sheds and walk-in coolers, distribution site, aquaculture
> systems, water catchment and grey water systems, composting, recycling,
> trial agricultural projects funded by SARE grants, rare livestock breeds
> conservancy, animal farms, all applicable academic infrastructure(your area
> of expertise), store(s), commercial kitchen and butchershop for added value
> processing and training, dining hall(s), imagine brick ovens and fire
> circles spread around 'cause people need to eat..., music, art, craft,
> theater houses, dorms with microcosmic cultures, ........All designed and
> built in collaboration with student participation and labor, drawn as much
> as possible from indiginous New Orleanians but globally responsive to human
> resources. This segues into a system of sister cities wherein various
> partnerships
> could cultivate "exchange programs" and relocation options for youth in
> particularly talented
> or troubled circumstances. ...also providing a network of specialized
> training and internship
> possibilities. Picture a flow of apprentices and mentors landing in new
> environs for a fresh start. Do you see how this globalizes as it localizes?
> And it is a perfect fit for transforming the farm-as-factory paradigm. Does
> this vision fit into Kellogg's? -Yours? -Will's?
> Particular treatments of our growing region are not here given but know that
> this can of worms runneth over, too.
> If at our Friday meeting, we could all exchange one-page, if not
> one-sentence, statements of position/interests regarding food security,
> education, economic development, community development, and health, they
> might be coalesced into an interesting document(manifesto?).
> I think with Jakob's mapmaking gifts, a remarkable vision could be crafted
> and funded.
> The cashing of a good check.
> The partnerships are critical, requiring dear diplomacy.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Kellogg Proposal

In a continued effort to be forthright and transparent here is the rough draft of the Kellogg proposal. All types of feedback are welcome.

Kellogg Foundation Food Security Proposal - DRAFT

Our School at Blair Grocery

The Context

Hurricane Katrina took an enormous toll on the resilient communities of New Orleans. The question is: how do we rebuild stronger, more resilient communities? At least in part we need to look at the fundamental building blocks of community: food security, social institutions that bring continuity (schools, community centers, churches, mentoring/sports and after school programs), meaningful employment opportunities, decent affordable housing and healthcare for folks who are themselves trying to lead a healthy lifestyle. To put it bluntly, none of these are in place in my neighborhood, The Lower Ninth Ward.

Leveraging sustainable community development under these conditions is extremely difficult, the social fabric and building blocks are so frayed and worn that most folks are pretty overwhelmed just trying to get by. As a result there are numerable gaps, areas where things are really just falling apart. More than 70% of the houses are abandoned, there is no high school in the neighborhood, the land looks like a jungle, there is no healthy food in the area, and there is really nothing for young people to do down here. We're really starting from scratch. It's going to require thinking outside of the box.

Our position

Our School at Blair Grocery is creating a resource rich safe space for youth empowerment and sustainable community development. We must have safe spaces for youth to take risks to transform themselves. We must increase their overall literacy by building skills, abilities and confidence including their sense of efficacy: they must know how to access resources that build stronger communities and they must recognize themselves as valued participants in community building efforts. We must bring youth to the table with a developed and articulate vision of their own creation to act as agents of social change. We must understand that anyone who is not speaking to the youth in our community is not truly speaking to our community. So to restate the question: how do we constructively engage youth in sustainable community development?

The Opportunities

The storm has left us 5,000 people in our neighborhood (which will eventually grow to close to 20,000) who have no food security. The silver lining is that we have young people who want to access resources, readily available land, an incredibly supportive community of growers, tons of sun and some of the richest soil in the world. We just need the seed.

The real opportunity is that we can realistically meet the food security needs of this community in a very short time AND from there we will be able to grow our capacity to grow in step with the increasing demands of our community.

We must act now.

We must immediately begin accessing nearby food sources and bring them to the people AND simultaneously grow growers in our local community. This can include pick your own vegetable gardens (sweat equity or for purchase), a farmers market or cooperative, community supported agriculture or a buyers club, customized delivery (i.e. At church on Sunday) and it must be strategically built with an eye towards the tipping point when we can open our own store. Winn Dixie recently said they will not reopen stores in this area until the population reaches 35,000. That gives us a lot of time to grow our capacity and supply and build those real face to face relationships that will increase our likelihood of customer loyalty when the chain stores do return.

One of the realities we are going to have to face up to in this project is the fact that we need to grow growers. I think that reality demands a three pronged approach. 1. Sustainability education is key to changing paradigms and building systems of thought among a community of practice giving deep roots to the work we are doing. ( 2. Technical training and assistance in urban farming methods is key to growing successful growers. ( 3. Working in intergenerational cooperative learning teams to grow and market produce will demonstrate results and foster a community of growers.

The Core

The core of this project will be to grow growers at Our School at Blair Grocery. The vision is to have teams of students learning how to be urban farmers by experience: they will take an overgrown and abandoned lot and grow food on it to feed their community and learn how to cook it to feed themselves. The students will grow, harvest and market the produce all as part of a project based experiential learning opportunity with support from teachers and guests with specialized knowledge.

Community Education

There needs to be a broader public education component including living healthy lifestyles, public presentations by the students and perhaps a conference or series of guest speakers as well as locally based initiatives to encourage community and/or backyard gardens.

The Satellites

The Lower Ninth Ward is part of the city of New Orleans and we should take leadership in facilitating community building and cooperation around sustainable communities. We can serve as a hub for a very limited number of addition urban farming teams initially and build a reputation for being the best local source for knowledge, training and partnership. Potential partners can include but are not limited to Kids Rethinking New Orleans Schools, Latino Farmers Cooperative, The Edible Schoolyard, Vietnamese American Young Leadership Association and Mary Queen of Vietnam, El Puente, City of Hope, Holy Cross Neighborhood Association, and Hollygrove Market and Farm.

The Vision

The most important part of Martin Luther King's I Have A Dream speech is usually overlooked. It is the part where he says that the people have come forward on this day to cash a check written to them long ago for liberty and justice for all. He didn't want to believe that that check would come back marked “insufficient funds”. Repairing the damage that has been done to this community by the legacy of slavery and years of institutionalized racism, by Hurricane Katrina -a man made disaster-, and by the negligence on the part of so many in this community will not come cheap. But the cost in human terms (bodily and in hope), in continued social degradation and in real dollars cents to the overall revitalization of the city of New Orleans is a far higher price to pay.

You have the opportunity here to support what may become recognized as a part of the most dynamic sustainable youth community building initiative in the nation. Let's take the message to the people! Let's cash that check! Let's make it right for real!

Our Team

Our School at Blair Grocery

Nat Turner, Head of School – Environmental literacy educator and team leader

Cory Ashby, Delta Service Corp – CSA coordinator

David Crowley, Evergreen State University – Urban Farming Intern

Our Partners

The Lower Ninth Ward Urban Farming Coalition

Jenga Mwendo, co-founder – Urban Farmer and team leader

Brennan Dougherty, Urban Farmer – Teacher and team leader ( – lot by lot urban farms)

Common Ground Relief

Malik Rahim, founder– visionary and organizer

Thom Pepper, Operations Director

The New Orleans Food and Farm Network

Pamela Broom, farm-yard director – urban farming trainer

Growing Power

Will Allen, founder – Will wants us to become a regional training center. We fully intend to make this project economically profitable in as short amount of time as possible (3-5 years) through a major soil building initiative, marketing produce, fisheries, and added value products (worm castings, etc.)

Majora Carter Group LLC

Majora Carter, founder –

The Make It Right Foundation

Tim Duggan, Landscape Architect –Through the LDRF, Make It Right is transforming our urban farm into a topnotch educational opportunity for learners of all ages.

Whole Foods

Kristina Bradford, public relations - contributing green waste to the soil building initiative.

Sankofa Marketplace

Rashida Ferdinand, founder - a local cultural arts and community market that could be a venue for produce. needs additional funding

Lower Ninth Ward Health Clinic

Alice Craft-Kearney, Director - We've got to change the way people think about health from a curative paradigm to a healtheir living paradigm.

Charmaine Marchand, District 99 Representative – has visited the school and supports our work.

Greater New Orleans Foundation

Marco Cocito, Program Officer – Granted L9WUFC $25,000 to grow our capacity to do urban farming, Youth Stewardship, Backyard Gardens and lot by lot urban farms.

Lafayette College

Gladstone Fluney Hutchinson, Professor of Sustainable Economic Development – Advisor. Is bringing a conference here in October to showcase the Lower Ninth Ward as a 51st Dream state.

The Cloud Institute for Sustainability Education

Jaimie Cloud, Founder – Advisor. Curriculum design and paradigm shifting.