In this season of lush spring growth, I want to take just a moment to talk about the project that, from November 2011 to May 2013, I spent a billion hours a week working on and thinking about.
This was, as you know if you know me, the creation and implementation and development of the University of Michigan Sustainable Food Program (UMSFP) and Campus Farm. I worked on this with five of the smartest, most dogged and hardworking, creative, kind, selfless, and amusing people on this planet: Lindsey, Allyson, Jerry, and our so-good-the-term-intern-doesn’t-come-close-to-doing-them-justice interns, Lauren and Sarah. (Also, for a brief time, Laura, but she mysteriously vanished early on and that is another story for another day.) Michigan was falling far behind in the world of food sustainability, looking silly and lazy beside our peers, and in the name of experiential education, strong communities, and delicious foods grown locally and eaten on campus, we brought UMSFP to life.
We were not so much the creators (of what is now a strong, well-known program with university support and hundreds of students members, growing food at gardens around campus and out at the farm space, beside greenhouses and bee hives) – not so much the creators as the catalysts. Undergrads, grad students, faculty members, staff, and community members rallied around us, and the outpouring of enthusiasm and thousands of volunteer hours shoveling dirt and building fences and running events is what made it happen. There are several times every week, even now that I’ve graduated and the Leadership Team holds many new faces, that I think about how proud I am to have worked alongside these dedicated folk. How inspiring the whole beginning was. How good it felt to show someone a broccoli plant for the first time, or to pull weeds, kneeling side by side with strangers. How good the feeling to leave a meeting in our “grown-up pants” knowing the work was moving forward.
As the farm readies itself for its now third growing season, Allyson’s wearing Kale to the Victors shirts in photos with President Obama and a new masters project is preparing to present on community initiatives in the farm space. I’m hundreds of miles away but I can see the throngs of happy people that are making it all happen.
Farm projects are rife with growing metaphors. Our project is still a wee seedling, but she’s bedded in rich soil, the sun is out, and her gardeners are wise and many.
If you’d like to learn more about UMSFP, or purchase a rad “Kale to the Victors” or “Leaders and Beets” Tshirt, head on over to umsfp.com