Putting Down Roots

building relationships
March 7, 2011, 10:30 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: ,

Yesterday, one of America’s food movement heroes came to town to tell stories about growing food in cities all over the country and to teach a big group of Tallahasee folks how to compost, and, out of all of the things I could have shared with him–how I’m working on collecting stories of community gardens, how Tallahasee is doing an impressive job of working cross-racially on food issues, how we have this idea to start a bike-based lettuce delivery business–I managed, instead, to tell him that my first tactic in relationship-building for social change was “flirting.” And when I say I told him, I mean I told him that in front of 100 workshop participants. (We were doing a group brainstorm on how to start a large-scale composting operation. When he asked, “what’s the most crucial step in getting an operation like this started?”, I hollered out, “relationship building,” which was apparently the right answer. He asked how I’d do that: for example, if he was the owner of a cafe and I wanted his coffee grounds, what would I do? How would I build a relationship with him? This man (Will Allen of Milwaukee’s “Growing Power”) has an imposing presence, and he was shouting questions at all of us like a drill sargeant, and the only choice was to answer quickly and honestly.

And so, I answered: flirting.

The workshop was wonderful–Will had some great things to say, and got everyone inspired–but what I loved best about it were the silly, wonderful, very human things that came out of a day of being together.

It got cold (for all of you who live up north, this means it got into the high 40s/low 50s), and all I was wearing was a light cotton cardigan. I remarked to Suzee, a women for whom we just finished building two big garden beds, that I envied her brown wool shawl, and she insisted that I come stand next to her. She put her arm around my waist and wrapped the shawl over both of us, and we shared warmth for a bit.

I stood around with a chicken farmer and discussed his soon-to-be-born daughter, and where he goes to church, and what the proper combination of chicken guts to oak leaves is for composting (we decided 1/3 guts to 2/3 leaves).

I rode in the back of a truck with students from the two universities in town, and talked about the challenges of family relationships with a woman from my Quaker meeting, and joked about the phallic appearance of daikon radishes with Nathan and Mary Elizabeth.

The most valuable thing from a workshop like yesterday’s is not, I think, having an out-of-town expert come and give you information and answers, but instead getting the chance to come together with other ridiculous and inspired folks.


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