Agriculture Creates Community

Spent a couple hours at Black Walnut Café, and found ourselves close enough to the theater to walk. The sunsetting and a beautiful row of old mossy trees along University Ave. 

Dry Bones generously provided food, free for everyone, and lots of people, especially adolescents flocked in to partake in the wonderful sustenance that included crackers, tabouli-like spread, and incredible, phenomenal 5 onion soup. So good. Wanted to talk to the fellow, however, he was so passionately preparing and arranging the food, a window never came. 

A late arriving crowd of about 175 filled into seats, our film honored to be part of a monthly Green film series at Rice, that is partnered with Transition Houston. It's a beautiful theater, and an intimate setting for a conversation despite the decent capacity. 

We greeted Bon Appétit Management Company's Claire Cummings, the West Coast fellow, who's joined us on panels at Seattle Pacific and Gonzaga in Washington state. We caught up through whispers during the film, and were lucky to be a part of a profound discussion following. 

Sena is a student at Rice who started an organization called Real Food Revolution. She spoke about setting up events where students get to try food, and then learn about where the food came from. Sounds like fun. 

Claire talked about having a great job, getting to go around and work with college students at BAMCo campuses to set up events that raise awareness about the food system and what students can do to change it. David, who runs the in-house food service at Rice, was a super kind man who humbly mentioned that if he were to ever work for another company in food service, BAMCo would be it. He mentioned that they source local when the can, but that there are indeed budget limitations, and seasonal limitations for the thousands of fruits, vegetables, meats, sauces, etc. that are on the inventory of any college food provider.

The evening came to a close on a question about what teachers can do to inspire young people to get into agriculture. Geoffrey Smith, of Barry Farms, gave an answer to be remembered. He said one way to inspire young people is to truly believe every word you say, and believe in every action that you make. He talked about how he and his wife, decided that they could do better. That they could opt out of the grocery store and grow food for their family. What started with one hog has grown to many more, what started with one plot of land, is turning into a strong will to build a community. Geoffrey talked with a slight tremor in his voice, the passion and authenticity of his emotions clear. He said that all of us create our country's agriculture, that over the years, so many of us have moved into subdivisions or apartment buildings in which we do not know our neighbors names, in which we are sealed off from the places where we live, and the people around us stop being communities. He pointed out that our food, and our agriculture have followed this path, removed from community, food manipulated and wrapped in packaging that protects it from everything else, that shuts it off. And how our agriculture is doing the same. Huge machinery that forces more and more people out of rural communities, our nation's heartland too often an endless repetition of corn and soybeans while each week another rural high-school closes down, youth and resources consolidated into another district.

But Geoffrey, and his wife, put their foot down. Decided to start something new. They got a pig and an acre and started to grow, to have meals with people in the community, to learn their neighbors names, to break down the walls, visible and invisible that our culture and our agriculture have been weaving between us unintentionally.

There was a sense of purpose in the air as the conversation ended and a sense we've felt on this journey, that the tide is shifting, the pendulum is swinging, that something bigger and more powerful than the quarterly earnings of a three-letter abbreviation on a stock index can articulate. Farms are growing, people are growing, communities are beginning to sprout.  

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