I was standing on a million little pieces. (I promise this has nothing to do with outrage from Oprah’s book club and swear I didn’t make this up.)
The million little pieces were fragments of cement and gravel, remnants of Chicago sidewalks recently reconstructed. It was the second day of the Real Food Challenge conference held at Northwestern University. Five other students from the University of Iowa and I decided to split up the six choices of fieldtrip style workshops so we could share our experiences over dinner that night. Visiting the Northside Prep School garden project was the trip I’m glad I chose.
These odd-shaped concrete blocks were the building material students from the conference and leaders from the school’s garden project were working with.
“If I hear a jack hammer,” Mike said, “I always go ask what they plan on doing with the leftovers.” Mike is one of the founding leaders of the Northside Prep School Garden in Chicago, a teacher at the school and an organizer for an non-profit called Urban Habitat Chicago. For a few hours on that peculiarly sunny February day, Mike, five of “the kids out back,” (they explained is the name the rest of the school uses)
At the conference, there was a lot of talk about, ‘what does a sustainable food system look like?’ This is important to consider and I was happy to be surrounded by like minded, passionate young activists from around the mid-west, people who have put this conversation on the table (pun intended) alongside the “real” food they eat everyday.
Eventually this question inevitably always seems to lead to another. ‘How do we start to build that system?’ From the ground up is always a good place to start. I think the answer is in the mosaic foundation. The base of that new greenhouse was built not only out of reused material but also the time and energy of people around me. A group working together, building a foundation for something to grow on.
During lunch I asked the highschool student gardeners why they chose to come out today. For me the answer could have gone in a million different directions. For them it seemed simple. “We always come out on Saturdays.”
link to RFC: http://realfoodchallenge.org/
Note: Giselle is actively involved with the University of Iowa Environmental Coalition student garden. Watch for information about opportunities to participate in Earth Month work days, a garden open house and family day.