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Lions Roar : November 2011
SHAMBHALA SUN NOVEMBER 2011 44 of buildings. While that’s important—40 percent of greenhouse gases come from buildings, and there are about 150,000 school buildings in America—Gutter focuses on the students inside. “We can raise sustainability natives,” she says, “which is differ- ent from raising environmentalists.” While an environmentalist fights to bring the perspective of the earth’s needs into everyday life, a sustainability native sees the needs of the earth as integral to everything we do. “Historically,” Gutter says, “an environmentally aware student might have taken environmental education, gone on a camping trip, and learned about ecosystems. That’s critically important, but today we’re trying to do something larger. Sustainability is integrated into every aspect of the curriculum. The values are supported by teachers, administrators, and parents. And the school building and grounds are sustainable.” Gutter practices yoga and meditation, and is a regular pre- senter at Garrison programs. “We simply don’t sit in quiet enough,” she says. “In my own life, my yoga practice is often too separate from the rest of my life. Interweaving sustainability dis- cussions with contemplative practice helps us make better deci- sions. When we take even a few minutes to sit with the silence, it helps our behavior align with our views and beliefs. We see ourselves as part of a bigger picture.” “W HEN I FIRST WENT into homeless shelters to make my pitch to work on a farm,” Harry Rhodes told me, “I got a pretty strong reaction. People said, ‘Are you crazy? I’m no farmer. My family left the south to get away from that. Why in hell would I want to do that?’” Rhodes is the director of one of the innovative programs Van Jones celebrated in The Green Collar Economy. Growing Home was founded in Chi- cago in 1992 by Les Brown of the Chicago Coalition for the Home- less. Brown, who died in 2005, recruited Rhodes in 2001 to set up a training program for homeless people to work at three sites: the Wood Street Urban Farm, the Su Casa Market Garden, and what is now called the Les Brown Memorial Farm in Marseilles, seventy- five miles south of the city. The produce is sold at a farmers’ market in downtown Chicago and at on-site farm stands. It’s also served in top Chicago restaurants and distributed in weekly food baskets through a community-supported agriculture program. A seasoned activist who had tried to get Arabs and Israelis to work side by side, Rhodes was undaunted by the initial response from the homeless people he was trying to recruit. He calmly explained that they would be paid, and after all, it would be some- thing new and different. After visiting several shelters, Rhodes was able to muster a group of six people to take out to the farm in Marseilles. Just as Brown had hoped, they began to like it, and took well to training. “Homeless people are rootless and have trouble finding purpose. There’s nothing like working in the soil to give you roots and a sense of belonging. The case manager at one shelter was astounded that the guys would get up at six in the morning for an hour-and-a -half drive, work all day, and come back with smiles on their faces.” Since its inception, Growing Home has provided training and transitional employment for more than two hundred interns. In addition to working on the farm, they tend their own plots in the city and can use the food for friends and family. The program also supplies low-cost weekly vegetable baskets in the Englewood and Back of the Yards neighborhoods. The inner cities of America have been described as “food deserts,” where fast-food joints prevail and few markets can be found. Children grow up with no sense of where food comes from or what unprocessed food looks, smells, and tastes like. “Sixty years ago, everyone was eating locally grown food, all throughout the world,” Rhodes says. “Now, agribusiness systems bring us poorer quality food from great distances, at a high cost to our planet. On top of that, we have an epidemic of poor nutrition and obesity. People need affordable, healthy, local food.” A founding member of Advocates for Urban Agriculture, Rhodes see lots of positive developments in the campaign: farm- ers’ markets are springing up all over the place, cities across the country are passing ordinances that permit raising livestock and farming within city limits, and programs like his and Growing Power in nearby Milwaukee and the Brooklyn Grange in New York City are getting noticed. “Experiential education can make a big difference. It helps people see food in ways they haven’t before. When people come to our farm stand in the inner city, or an open house, or a cooking workshop, they have a hands-on experience. Slowly attitudes change. Our graduates are different people than when they started. Not long ago, one of them said, ‘When I first came here, I didn’t even know how a vegetable grew. Now I’m growing my own.’” A Growing Home intern harvests organic tomatoes. PHOTOBYANDREWCOLLINGS