Tag Archives: unity gardens

The Personal Journey of a Locavore

With tomatoes from my own garden mixed with tomatillos, onions, and hot peppers grown by local farmers, I created a delicious, fire-roasted salsa.

Four weeks ago, Going Local week introduced me to the local food movement. The challenge of eating at least one Indiana food per day for one week increased my awareness of what I was choosing for the meals I created for my family and me. For seven days, I deliberately ate foods that were produced by me, bought from local farmers at the South Bend Farmer’s Market, or by volunteers who lovingly grow at the LaSalle Unity Garden. During that week, something happened; I awakened from the processed food-produced coma and began appreciating food for the health and energy-giving gift that it is. Thus began my journey to become a locavore.

An overused cliché states “we are what we eat.” However, we do identify ourselves by our eating habits: Vegetarian, Vegan, Pescetarian. In all cases, we are “eaters,” a word I prefer over “consumers” for its representation of the specific relationship between food and the person. Recently, I discovered a new identity: locavore—one who eats foods grown locally whenever possible. Eating local is hardly new but the movement is gaining momentum with every decision made to buy and eat locally grown and produced food that is locally grown and produced. Eating locally is the deliberate and intentional choice of those who see the value of connecting the eater to the food, to the producer, and to the community.

So why, when consistently stocked shelves assure us that we have plenty of food at our disposal at any given time, do I choose to buy and eat food that is grown and produced locally? I thought about this for some time. After Going Local week had ended, I realized I continued the challenge because I enjoyed it. I took joy in making a difference in my community and in my own household, especially, by growing my own vegetables. So, that’s a great place to start.

Then, several weeks ago, I had an epiphany. I had assisted in preparing beds in a hoop house at the LaSalle Unity Garden. The beds were already constructed and were awaiting dirt and seeds. Over the first layer of grass clippings, we spread a mixture consisting of bunny poop provided by a local farmer, beautiful black compost, leaves, and an organic growth agent made out of…more poop. After three hours, we had four boxes filled and I had planted kale, radishes, and mustard greens.

I was amazed at the effort made by different people that made this kale a reality: the bunny poop farmer, the grass-clippings guy who dropped off his donation every week, the compost pile-ers, not to mention those of us who turned the aromatic poop mixture and planted the seeds. The result of these combined efforts will be beautiful, healthy kale and greens that will become someone’s dinner.

Meanwhile, in my freezer, I have had bags of store-bought frozen corn since July. I know they’re there, the memory tucked in the back of my mind, but I keep forgetting about them. I didn’t grow the corn, nor do I know the person who did. I didn’t harvest the corn with my own hands, or shuck it, or cut it from the cob. It just appeared by my good-intentioned mother. I immediately noticed the different consideration I had for the kale than for the neglected bags of corn. It was near the point of obsession. How long would the kale take to grow? Will it be protected in the hoop house? When it is harvested, how will it be prepared? Will it be put into a soup or a simmered with onions and bacon?

I delight in the food I helped to grow because I experienced the work that is necessary to produce it. Since that my day in the soil—and the bunny poop—I take no food that has been raised by people who live and work in the community in which I also live and work, for granted.

Taking food for granted precludes its waste but also overeating and making unhealthy food choices. I am finding as I develop that locavore identity that the choices I make as an individual eater also have major implications on my community, the local economy, and the environment.

(Follow my locavore journey in future posts!)

Sustainable Fundraising

Sara Stewart (left) and gardener at LaSalle Square Unity Garden

When I first considered doing an internship, I knew that I wanted to intern somewhere that would teach/instill something new inside of me, while at the same time, working with an organization that would utilize all of my talents for their best interest.  Sara is open about how business works, how to go out and raise awareness as well as money, and, most importantly, how to bring people, the planet, and profits all in line together.  Because Sara offers all of this without even trying, I knew that the knowledge and the skills that I’ve gained from my marketing and psychology classes would help spread the Unity Garden message to other members in the community who would listen to me.  For the past week, I’ve had my hands in many of the activities that keep Unity Gardens up and running.  I like to consider myself a people person; however, I don’t like to ask, pressure, and/or beg for money, but to my surprise, this week was a little different.  On my very first day of interning, Sara asked me what was one job/activity that I was uncomfortable doing because in this “give-in-take” relationship; she would take what I had to offer and give me experience where I needed it most.  Due to the fact that Unity Gardens is a non-profit, they get donations from the government, a.k.a. NAP Credits, but they have duties that they must fulfill in order to continue receiving these funds.  Initially, I knew nothing about NAP Credits so this is how Sara explained them to me:

  • First apply for the credit (Sara applied for $60,000 in 2011)
  • If approved, the government gives you half (Sara receive $30,000 which goes toward business expenses)
  • From August to June 1st, you must raise the rest of the money (fundraising).
  • If you don’t raise your funds in time you have to sit out for TWO YEARS!!!
  • The best thing about the program is that those who donate money to Unity Gardens get HALF of the amount back when they file their taxes.  NOT a tax deduction but it actually goes with your refund or it can be applied to your tax bill if you owe the government.

When it comes to sustainability, condition 1 states that, as a society, we must reduce and eventually eliminate our contribution to the systematic accumulation of materials from the earth’s crust.  I believe that I am contributing to this condition for these two reasons:

  1. When it came to fundraising, I made the majority of my first contacts via the telephone because I didn’t want to waste excess gas while polluting the environment even further just riding around to hear No’s or Yes’s.  When it did come to driving, I drove to the McKinley Town and Country Shopping Center in Mishawaka, parked my car, and walked business to business because my energy cost are renewable and sustainable; unlike the petroleum that my car uses.
  2. For those who don’t know, I live in Elkhart and I intern in South Bend Monday thru Thursday.  I’m not a fan of “actual” summer school classes, but I felt that if I had to drive out there everyday, I should maximize my time effort and energy.  As a result, I became a true summer school student.  I intern from 9:30am to 12:30pm, I go to my Fine Arts class from 1pm to 2:30pm, and from 6pm to 10pm I work with a cleaning company in Elkhart, IN.  Fun, Fun, Fun === Work, Work, Work === Tired, Tired, Tired  === Rest, Rest, Rest!  A BEAUTIFUL FUFILLED LIFE.  Carpe Diem.