I know what you have all been wondering
I know this because the curiosity of others has peaked and many have reached out to ask “Why did you go to Mexico?” and “What did you do with your time?”. If you read the last two posts, or followed my journey on snapchat and facebook, then you may know that I was eating amazing food, riding my motorcycle to beautiful beaches and cenotes, and making some extremely beautiful friendships. What I was also hoping to do was take time to read and write, which I did a little. I spent very little time watching television, but a show that was suggested to me multiple times caught my interest: Cooked. It is a show that can be watched on Netflix, and it is about the different methods of cooking and preparing foods over the course of time.
Life evolves quickly when you are open and ready
While watching the first episode, I was sent a screenshot of a tweet from Michael Pollan about a journalism fellowship at UC Berkeley. Michael Pollan is a best selling author that has written the Botany of Desire and The Omnivores Dilemma, in addition to 5 other books. His book Cooked turned into this show where he explores these transformations of foods. Suddenly I realized that this amazing author who is influencing my way of thinking of food and writing is now leading a journalism fellowship. The fellowship is accepting 10 applicants to pitch a story that would be explored and written over the course of the next several months. My head was racing as I dreamed of the stories I could write with my experiences in farming and love of food and horticulture. I decided I would apply for this fellowship, even though my experience does not match the awardees from previous years fellowships. Nevertheless, I knew that to pass on this opportunity would be regrettable, whether I would be successful in my endeavor or not. Looking at the requirements of the application I knew it would be tough to get together the 3 published clips, 2 letters of reference, my story pitch, and my resume in just a few short days with margaritas, popcorn, and movies in my sights. I researched, I wrote, I read my pitch to a few, and then I edited. I researched more, I wrote, I read my pitch to a few more, then I edited. I made calls and e-mails getting together my letters of reference and got everything together just in time. My confidence was built and I was feeling optimistic with my story pitch.
Here is my story pitch for you to read
The sun is high in the sky on a warm, humid afternoon. The Philly Farm Crew is systematically planting rows of Dino Kale at Philadelphia’s Heritage Farm. In succession, a bed is being prepped for planting by volunteers. Crabgrass, roots, and volunteer crops are uprooted and placed in between the rows to compost down to soil. A second individual follows the first, popping seedlings out of a tray and placing them evenly spaced 8 inches apart. I follow next with a trowel and make small holes for the kale, place it in the hole after tussling the roots, and finally fill in the hole and lightly tamp down the soil before moving on to the next plant. A dark cloud rolls into view and covers the sun. Thunder roars and lightning cracks through the sky as rain starts to fall and the smell of ozone fills the air. Adrian Galbraith-Paul, the farmer of Heritage Farm, calls to us to run for cover under the high tunnel closest to the bed we were planting in. Feelings of anxiety that our work for the day is potentially thwarted quickly turns to joy and laughter as Adrian expresses that he will save some time with his irrigation that evening.
Philadelphia is a beautiful city that is hosting individuals from all walks of life. It is also a city that is poverty stricken. Out of the ten most populated cities in the United States, Philadelphia has the highest rate of deep poverty (a single individual making less than $5,700 a year). “Philadelphia’s deep poverty rate is around 12.9%, or 200,000 people”. While the statistics are depressing, it is not surprising that Philadelphia has such a high deep poverty rate considering that nearly half of local citizens don’t graduate high school. Education in urban farming is a way out of poverty. Urban farming won’t make them rich, but it can empower them to take charge of their life. If one would look at the success story of the Loess Plateau Project in China, then one would be convinced that permaculture (replicating natural biological systems) teaching can change a landscape and community. In 10 years of implementing permaculture methods, the project “has lifted an estimated 2.5 million people out of poverty”. Recognition of regenerative methods and the farmers who are making serious efforts to spread permaculture farming will lead to a positive transformation in Philadelphia.
Farmers like Adrian are heroes in our horticulture industry. They farm small and large plots, often with limited funds and no staff. They rely on volunteers who want to learn how to grow food, build a farm, or take away permaculture methods to their own gardens. Heritage Farm is more than just an urban farm; it is a hub for sustainable farming education, a site for various community outreach activities, and the permanent site of Methodist Home for Children and Methodist Services. It is a true safe haven that houses orphaned children, feeds travelers on cross country bike rides, and provides enrichment to the local community in the form of nourishment. What it lacks, like many permaculture farms across the world, is media attention and recognition as necessary staples of their local communities.
As a small CSA farmer and regular permaculture farm volunteer I understand the difficulty of enlisting volunteers and having enough time to host tours. I propose an idea to highlight these farms and volunteers in a feature; I will travel to these farms, work directly with the farmer in the field, and interview them. My interview will explore their methods of farming, their methods for enlisting volunteers, and how they aid in creating a poverty reduction community. Only by working and observing the farmer in their natural element can I understand what drives them and how they are affecting their communities. I will cook and share meals with the farmer to understand what crops are traditional to their diet, which influences how their society has developed over time. My goal for the readers is quite dynamic: to introduce them to local farms they can visit to experience farming firsthand, to have them take away one method of farming or cooking that can be replicated in their life, and to inspire them to spread this concept of creating a poverty reduction community. I am the perfect person to take on this endeavor. I have traveled across countries and islands with no more than a burning passion to engulf myself in food, farming, and culture. My current journey has led me away from my farm to experience life as authentically as possible. My curiosity of Mexican food and culture, eagerness to witness ancient ruins and water sources, and willingness to take time to explore myself and my writing has led me to a point to manifest a writing career.
Results not as expected, but nothing to fear
I had faith in myself that I would receive this fellowship and take the time to explore all that Heritage Farm has to offer. I would have been able to travel and look for other subjects to learn about and share with my readers. Unfortunately, I just found out that I was not selected as one of the ten fellows. What does this mean for me? No California, and no funding for my story. Does this mean I can’t write this story? Absolutely not, although I am not sure whether I can highlight Heritage Farm this year. My journey may be leading out of the Americas after I head to Mexico on April 30th. Cuba? Greece? Italy? Germany? Tanzania? Costa Rica? Back to Philadelphia to cater concerts? Right now, I can’t say for sure, but I will continue to write about those that inspire me and information that I find to be inspiring. Check back here to The First Law to join me on the next adventure.
“I never lose. I either win or learn.” – Nelson Mandela