Saturday, March 12, 2011

Spring forward: The world will need more farmers!

In the past week, The NY Times published articles that pointed to the demand for manual labor that can’t be automated by technology or outsourced overseas. After noting how technological progress is actually reducing the demand for highly educated workers, economist Paul Krugman challenged our obsession with college education—“which may be no more than tickets to jobs that don’t exist or don’t pay middle-class wages.” ( In response to the UN’s March 8, 2011 report, “Agro-ecology and the Right to Food,” Mark Bittman observed: “Agro-ecology and related methods are going to require resources too, but they’re more in the form of labor, both intellectual — much research remains to be done — and physical: the world will need more farmers, and quite possibly less mechanization.” (
We all need to eat plants so growing plants is an essential life skill, which you can learn tuition-free and hands-on at The Free Farm! In From Telling to Teaching, Joye A. Norris, Ed.D., sets out the following 7 elements for effective learning, which you can personally experience here: engaging in dialogue; positive and safe environment so people feel free to speak; activating prior learning; variety of approaches (visual, kinesthetic, auditory) so people can show how smart they are; open questions to inspire deeper, more reflective thinking; partner interactions to test ideas, energize room; and reinforcing learning. Educator Edgar Dale noted the most memorable learning comes from doing the real thing and talking about it.

Tree's task list

Today I completed my 40 hours of community service requirement toward my GCETP certificate, but I plan to continue volunteering indefinitely as I’m positively hooked on The Free Farm community (--much like my rent-controlled apartment)! When I started (my initial post at, I had no experience blogging, identifying bolted lettuce, constructing a greenhouse, managing a farm stand, etc. And I have so much more to learn! Organic farming involves lots of trial and error as we try to work with, rather than control, nature—which is increasingly unpredictable like our recent weather (sun, rain, snow).

My GCETP classmates weren’t at the Farm today, but my public health nutrition classmate Marlo volunteered today. After completing our clinical nutrition class, we’ve been fascinated at how food truly is medicine in the prevention and treatment of chronic diseases (cardiovascular, GERD, inflammatory bowel, diabetes, liver, kidney, cancer, HIV/AIDS, etc.). The most nutrient-dense food is grown in soil built with organic matter, free from harmful chemicals.

As more people make the connection between food and health (Marlo and I are nutrition educators!), they will want to eat more SLOW (Seasonal, Local, Organic, Whole) food—so there will be increasing demand for food grown locally. And, farming is best done when you can share in the manual work within a community, building biceps and people-to-people ties.

One pleasant surprise was learning that Jordan was the same fellow whom I had an email correspondence last summer when we were both working at Women’s Initiative for Self-Employment—Jordan was a Microenterprise Fellow while I was transitioning to my virtual office. Today I learned that Jordan makes a savory potato, quinoa and split pea salad—something you must experience with all your senses!

Remember to spring forward at 2 a.m. on Sunday!
Wake up refreshed to some great music
"Early to bed, and early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.” Benjamin Franklin

Public Service Announcement:
Thurs., Mar. 17, 2011 at 6 pm: Fair Farm Bill kickoff
25 Stillman St, Ste 200, San Francisco, CA 94107
In the face of budget cuts to local food programs, now is the time to build powerful support for healthy food and sustainable agriculture in California. We all have a stake in increasing access to healthy food and supporting small and mid-sized farmers.
Join us at The Free Farm next Saturday because the world needs more organic farmers!

Before the harvest

Fixing plumbing

Lauren continues construction of toolshed
Marlo harvests lettuce
Stained glass adds elegance to greenhouse
Lavender & mushrooms

Transplanting cucumber seedlings

Avocado tree sprouts from split pit

Marlo records weighed produce Pancho holds up his bamboo cup creation
Neighborhood council member joins gratitude circle between Marlo & Tree

23 volunteers showed up for lunch

Chef Jordan created spiced potato, quinoa & split pea salad

Ricardo & Marlo wear T-shirts to make statements

Neighborhood regulars arrive to select from 30 lbs of harvested produce: chard, kale, mixed lettuce, fava beans, snap peas & lemons
Mimicking rainwater
Installing window

Gray Line tour makes stop in front of The Free Farm!

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