food stability

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This may be my final retrospective of Full Life Farm for 2014, but life and adventures, the academic and homesteading ones, will continue as I work towards an MSc in social psychology, a PhD in community psychology, and the co-creation of an intentional community eco-village while I also learn of life and the uses of herbal medicine. Hopefully, you have read my other experiences in previous entries so this won’t be a difficult to follow. Rather, this will be a reflection of what I have experienced and learned from the end of April to the end of September.

I explored the possibility of an internship over nine months ago when I when I began research and visited Paul, Terra, and Zinnia at the farm in December. The day we met to interview each other, Zinnia was barely four months old, tiny, and bundled up warmly from the cold. It’s now over a month after her first birthday, and she’s walking, laughing, talking, and energizing everyone she encounters. I am eager to visit all of them soon to update them on my adventures and hear them tell their tales.

After nine months of living less than a mile from Full Life and assisting where I was needed, everything became a routine of one sort or another. Paul always generously asked me where I would like to work and assist to occasionally break that routine, but the routines became such a joyous routines in the end. Yes, I am romanticizing but not by much. My destiny is my own collective farming spacer with others. Ultimately, there is much on a farm that generally remains the same, as you read in previous entries, but there was always something to learn, even if it was a tiny but important detail. Full Life was, and is, a wonderful place to learn while communing with nature and warm, intelligent human beings that care about the future of sustainability. I do miss the farm.

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It is challenging to summarize the end of the beginning of what has become a lifetime of learning food sustainability. For me, it did not begin in Carrollton, GA at Full Life Farm (http://www.full-life-farm.com); it began in the backyard of my father’s house in the California suburbs where I reluctantly mowed lawns and performed other chores that children never appreciate in the moment. However, I always noticed the very obvious care my Italian farm-raised father put into apricots, plums, peaches, oranges, avocados and a variety of other plants that never seemed to grow in abundance. His small scale grafting sparked what has become my lifelong interest. Full Life Farm allowed me to immerse myself in and reignite this lifelong interest. While it is difficult to summarize months of food sustainability experience into a short essay or even a longer one, there are a few ideas that are important here. Learning has always been important to my growth and I will never really stop. Prior knowledge is valuable and should never be discounted, even in unfamiliar situations. I will always ask questions, even if since childhood that has placed me in a variety of trouble but not with the wise that always encouraged it. I will return to these points as needed throughout the following essay.

Full Life Farm is a sustainable farm. Sustainable signifies that the farm lives and thrives upon what it grows. Anything extra goes for sale to local restaurants and the local farmers’ market. It isn’t a factory farm that uses machinery to plow the land, plant seed, weed, or harvest the food crops. It is a small sustainable farm that relies upon its residents, volunteers, and occasional interns to do all of these things. Frequently sustainable farms are also called intentional communities. From research and what I have learned over the last several months, an intentional community, whether a house with a large garden inside the city limits or outside of the city limits on a small farm, is an enclosed community shared between several individuals (and possibly families). If anyone is interested in a more in-depth explanation of intentional communities (ICs), please consult http://www.ic.org. I began my quest for an IC months before this internship began, and my education will continue long after the formal education of this internship ends when I leave the farm and I leave the country. It began as and always was more than just an internship.

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While the semester and my official learning experience through a farming internship are almost technically over, I am far from finished, and I don’t plan to stop learning for quite some time.  That’s counterproductive to my nature.  As life breathes through my veins, learning will continue wherever I am in the world, whether at another university, another country, or another farm and intentional community.  All of the above is about to happen.  As I have grown and learned from everything and everyone, this is my destiny.

For the first time in a while, Monday was too wet to work on the farm.  It rained most of the night and the previous weekend so the solution in times like this is to take my previous skills that relate to farming and food sustainability and use them to benefit the farm.  Back when I began interning at Full Life Farm, I mentioned my love of fermentation and home made bread using sourdough starter, and Paul mentioned the excess wheat berries that he has.  So I took those skills and the experience from the previous bread I made a few weeks ago and improved on the recipe and the baking. It came out beautifully and Paul loved it.  He also received another big bag of wheat berries so there will be more bread to make soon and there may even be a regular supply of wheat berries for the farmers’ market.

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If one conquers obesity and disease, one conquers bad eating and living habits.  This is a “comprehensive tool for communities to assess opportunities for active living and healthy eating and to mobilize all sectors of society to conquer obesity and chronic disease.” (Kim:  1).  While I agree that obesity is an epidemic that I see daily, in order for people to eat and live more healthy, a combination of acts need to happen.  Propaganda (and I should clarify that I mean propaganda in the neutral, European sense as influencing ideas, objects, actions, etc. rather than anything that one disagrees with, or an “evil”) needs to be instituted that conditions people to read labels in detail, refuse to eat most packaged food, and to eat more local foods and less sugar.  In tandem, the correct funding needs to be made available that allow low-income families the affordability and availability to purchase (or better yet, grow their own) local and organic foods. Both are vitally necessary, but in the end, each person has to take the initiative and make the decision to eat and live healthy, all the while fighting intellectually to question the propaganda that bombards them daily and hourly.  The collective or the government cannot make this decision for anyone or prohibition and illegal activity result. But creating such a program may result, partially, in a “build it and they will come” phenomenon.

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With this specific food assessment, I appreciate what all of us will be doing even more. Essentially, this assessment will teach us life-long skills that each of us can take with us, and more immediately, it will serve to improve the lives of the residents of three Georgia counties.  That is my intent and my goal at least.  The Northwest Colorado Community (NCC) strikes at the heart of the need by asking directly if the policies in place are meeting the fruit and vegetable consumption needs of the residents.  (p. 3).  I observe and I am affected by such economic policies that determine if healthy foods are available and affordable.  The NCC finds that the answer is yes, the healthy options are available, and no, they are not affordable.  If further engagement in the NCC communities and the communities that we will be studying is possible, educating those communities about the importance of healthy eating and realistically rationing their limited economic and food resources is a possible reality.

Faced with dietary restrictions, whether based on spiritual practice, a diet based upon non-animal products, or a diet based upon health hazards (gluten-free, nut-free, etc.), I have hardly considered that programs such as this consider such limitations or are even aware of them.  Local hospitals and local churches hardly seem to consider these, but maybe programs such as these are the first step to larger societal evolution.  This actually makes me hopeful that we can make a difference in our study.

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