An Exhilarating Tuesday

We met Chris in the parking lot of W.B. Saul High School, which is in the city limits of Philadelphia. Surprisingly, it has a massive plot of land and a fully functioning farm. A model for other FFA chapters to replicate.

We entered, going through the daily ritual of checking in at the main office of schools. This involves a name tag, a call to the teacher, and usually an escort from a student through the hallways to the appropriate school room. 

Tiffany, the AgEd instructor, met us at the front desk, after a bit of waiting. We walked the school to the classroom where about 20 kids watched the documentary, Chris and I, walking to the front of the room incrementally beginning conversations about what we watched. 

After the screening, we were giving a tour by Doc, a retired dentist who volunteers at the school. The farm is many many acres, and the educational activities are impressive. There's a dairy that supplies Land O' Lakes, and you have the odd and heartwarming mix of rural and urban cultures. The full time staff of the farm are from rural areas, the students from Philly. 

We saw the composting system, the meat science lab, where students actually broke down sides of beef- raised on the farm- and then sell it retail to the community. 

There's the CSA, that is a joint partnership of the local co-op, and some non-profits, and the school. There's just so much good happening, much of it from volunteers. It can be at times chaotic, as Doc points out, and with any endeavor that's driven by education, and not monetary gain, there are often inefficiencies. 

We said goodbyes and headed to a wonderful local sourcing restaurant in Philly, the White Dog, a restaurant at the forefront of local food in Philly for decades. 

In the evening we were hosted at UPenn by Prof. Anne Barnhill, an intimate gathering of about 40. The post screening conversation was really incredible, Victor Galli, is a young vegan activist who was very very impressive. He talked about how  corn and soy are referred to as "Produce" and how vegetables and fruit are referred to as "Specialty Crops". These fruits and vegetables make up 15% of the food grown in America, and yet receive .1% of government subsidies. 

 He talked about how the average grocery transaction globally means that Monsanto, Dow, DuPont, BASF and Exxon will get 80 cents of each dollar spent. That's how much that a global food system favors the large chemical companies and oil companies. Let's see that shift to the local farmers in the years ahead. 

 Marilyn of PASA talked about resources for people and for farmers, PASA itself having an incredible annual event for farmers and folks interested in agriculture and agricultural issues. Along with ECO-Farm and MOSES, it is seen as the top conference in the country. 

 After the screening, there was a nice reception, where we ate food, and talked more. We said goodbye and headed out, our trip nearing its end. 

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