Michelle's Earth Foundation
Newsletter - Spring 2016
Michelle's Earth Foundation, 801 S. 25th St., Arlington, VA 22202
Donations accepted via Paypal or by mail.
Dear Friend of MEF,

As the soil warms and our thoughts turn to the growing season, several of the contributors to this issue are also focusing on food justice. Claire Wiggin, a graduating senior at the University of Vermont is wrapping up a student lead course on Envisioning a Just Food System. Her students are thinking about how the alternative food movement, which includes locally grown food, organic farming and sustainable agriculture, can be more inclusive.

Ian Willson is actually achieving this goal with his Southbound Gardens. He and his partners have created a generally sustainable urban garden space in New Orleans. There they grow organic produce for restaurants, but also have student gardens and hold food growing workshops. Many community organizations interested in food justice help Southbound Gardens' sell plant starts throughout the city for urban gardens.
Southbound Gardens
by Ian Willson

Ian Willson, co-owner/founder Southbound Gardens
I believe gardening is as much about self-sustainability and health for individuals and communities as a whole, as it is about understanding the world around us.  Food is the source of our energy and our being. I want people to grow their own food, and I want food growing in places where fresh food is hard to find. But I think that the way growing our own food connects us to the earth, forces us outside and makes us see the world at a different pace, is as significant to our societal growth as food justice on a more concrete level is. It's not about spiritual fulfillment and feel-good vibes, it's about the literal understanding about the process of sun and dirt and water to leaf, to fruit, to animal, and finally to human. It's about recognizing how much energy it takes not just on a human level, but on an environmental level, to make food, energy, and our very existence possible and accessible to any of us, and reveling in the glory of all of that and the knowledge that we can be a part of that food cycle.

Southbound Gardens came about somewhat organically over a period of years through a little bit of being in the right places and a lot of work. It is an evolution of what started as a community garden plot, a restaurant garden, and a budding permaculture education center. We were generally fed up with the plethora of failed community gardens that were started with great intentions and plentiful grant money. These projects continually fell by the wayside, lacking continued involvement to their causes and maintenance of their physical structures. Southbound Gardens was essentially a response to that. We wanted to create a genuinely sustainable urban farming space that could help promulgate food, food systems, and food growing knowledge to the New Orleans community at large without being dependent on outside systems, grants, or long term ideals without long term commitment. I'm pretty sure we're pulling it off at this point.

Eating from the Garden
We grow produce and herbs in our gardens that is sold to local restaurants. We also hold tons of workshops monthly and grow vegetable and herb starts to get into the community's hands so that they can grow their own food. Our aforementioned workshops are also designed to help them do that affordably. We ask for donations at our workshops but nobody is ever turned away for lack of funds. Our plant starts are sold in large part through community organizations throughout the city of New Orleans that work hard on food justice, including but not limited to: Greenlight New Orleans, Parkway Partners, Edible Schoolyard New Orleans and Jericho Road.

Garden starts
We also sell those plants not just to garden centers but through other more unconventional markets for plant starts so that they may reach hands that otherwise might not have access to them. At our gardens we hold volunteer hours 4 days of the week, welcoming anybody to try their hand at urban farming, with an emphasis on educating them to their heart's desire while they are there. Additionally we currently run two after-school gardening programs with Elementary school aged kids, at Sci-Tech Academy and Harney School of Excellence, putting the dirt and the plants in the children's hands and getting them familiar with the growing process early.

It is not one vision, but many visions that are constantly shifting and intertwining, slowly forming a tight and orderly weave that we can only hope will one day serve as a quilt to blanket all of New Orleans and points beyond. As Michelle well knew, one can only learn so much without doing, and why learn anyway if one isn't going to put their knowledge into action? With Southbound gardens we are actively putting knowledge and action into the communities' hands, circumventing the occasionally burdensome idealism of urban farming and turning it into something tangible for everyone.

Question: What storage medium is used to capture solar energy at the Imhoff solar power plant in the Mohave Dessert? This medium allows the plant to function uninterrupted after dark.

Answer: Molten salt
(Source: Solar Reserve website )
The City of Falls Church Begins a Pilot Program to Compost Garbage

Burpee Kitchen Compost Pail
Green compost bins appeared last year at the Falls Church farmers' market every Saturday. They allowed residents to bring their weekly food waste (no meat or dairy) for composting. The food scraps were then taken to a local composting facility where they were turned into fertilizer in about 8 weeks, bagged and sold, saving landfills much waste. This program continues.

In addition this year city residents may participate in a weekly curbside pilot program. For $35 for 3 mos. Residents receive a 5 gallon collection container, compostable liners and weekly curbside collection (meat and dairy allowed). Participants may also be eligible to receive finished compost. This program has the potential to turn into a regular service available to all city residents.
Proposed Mount Mansfield Science Center

Dean Nancy Mathews, School of Environment and Natural Resources
An exciting proposal is now under review to establish a science center on top of Vermont's highest peak, along the ridgeline of Mount Mansfield and adjacent to 400 acres of UVM's designated Natural Area, where Michelle used to hike. The Center would become the only biological field station in N. America located in a high-elevation spruce-fir forest. Interdisciplinary research in water quality, climate change and biodiversity would help define the health of this ecosystem. By building a community of scholars, educators, and natural resource managers a hub of discovery and learning would be created that fosters understanding of high-elevation ecology. Such a Center could extend bridges to state and local programs as well as serve the broader community through citizen science and educational outreach.

We wish the best to UVM and the Rubenstein School of the Environment and Natural Resources in their effort to transform this idea into a reality.
Mount Mansfield
Envisioning a Just Food System
by Claire Wiggin, Olivia Burt and Leila Rezvani

The alternative food movement (AFM) in the United States is a collection of organizations, communities, and individuals who are united under a common goal to search for and ultimately carry out alternative solutions to the current industrial, pesticide-laden, monocrop agriculture model. As this movement has evolved and become more nuanced, questions surrounding exclusivity related to race, class, socioeconomic status, gender, and identity have begun to surface. Tied to the neoliberalist regime, the AFM as it stands today benefits the dominant group, white middle-to-upper class citizens who are educated, and vastly excludes underserved populations.  Through the analysis of a 15-student, Students-teaching-Students course at the University of Vermont developed and taught by Olivia Burt, Leila Rezvani, and Claire Wiggin in the spring of 2016, our research aims to critically assess the food movement as it stands today and collectively determine how the food movement could be more inclusive and act as a vehicle for positive social change.  Using emergent pedagogy including backwards design and safe space, as facilitators we aim to stimulate conversation and thought for a more realistic and just movement that achieves environmental, economic and social sustainability.

Course syllabus.

Margot Van Horne made perfume from the needles on Michelle's Siberian spruce on the UVM Green. Then she decorated the tree with a garland of cranberries as a reciprocal gesture.

Question: Globally, what was the warmest year on record?

Answer: 2015
(Source: NYT/Science by Justin Gillis 1/20/16)
Ian's Beekeeping Fundraiser, New Orleans

As our crops and gardens grow, let us remember those less fortunate by contributing our excess produce to local food banks.
Many thanks to everyone who gave during MEF's winter matching grant campaign and to those who gave throughout the year. We will strive to use those funds wisely, keeping Michelle's spirit moving amongst us.