More About Me: Who I Am…and Why

“My goal is to learn, but my purpose is to teach.” –Aunt Jake

Well, “Aunt Jake” is not truly my aunt, and her name is not Jake. My “Aunt Jake” is Juanedith Martin, a woman who played an integral role in helping me realize maturity–not in age, but in my values and their associated actions. She is also a retired Opinions editor, and holds multiple “First Woman to…” awards. The lessons I learned from her are life-long.

I have realized the need for this post about my introspective view for some time, yet over the last few days the realization has evolved into a…need? I have faced two major challenges: How to summarize myself into a bunch of words, and plain old fear. The self-description is just a tedious task, but the fear…. What if I alienate more people? What if I type an incoherent ramble, proving that I’m just plain nuts? The answer is the same answer that I realized around the time that I found I do not care what others think anymore, as long as I’m doing the job laid at my feet.

Wait…why read the ramblings of someone that admittedly does not care, a man that is willing to destroy his own his personal brand? How can I learn, whether it be business or philanthropy, from this person? The answer: I’m not sure. That choice of whether and how to learn is solely up to the reader. One may choose to learn from my mistakes alone; I have made plenty of them. One may sift through the inappropriate and/or irrelevant content and find a gem of insight or knowledge. One could even read my ramblings with the intent of finding humor and stumble on a series of sage words that I’ve probably stolen from others. Again, I cannot and will not attempt to force anyone to bend to my will–that is the ultimate form of abuse. I hope that others learn equally from what I have done correctly and incorrectly–that will lead to true insight and fulfillment of my duty.

My accomplishments and mistakes are all listed elsewhere…Google my name and enjoy the time, if labels are what you desire. I have been labeled a few times, yet none describe who I am. What is available describes “what I am,” which is quite insufficient…if the reader is a fact-seeker such as myself.

I accept some labels gladly, those of father, brother, sister, son, educator, student, friend, and the like. Other labels fit, such as perfectionist, dedicated and/or fanatical, intelligent, diligent, crazy, intuitive, argumentative, and over-burdened. I could go on and on with the labeling that does so little to provide insight into who I am.

As I assume to be true for everyone, I have some positive traits. I will list a few briefly, but only as information. I’m not a braggart by nature, and every positive correlates with what is/could be a fault. The extent that I push a particular quality is the difference, and I will attempt to convey a bit about who I am in as objective a nature as possible:

  • First of all is my uncanny ability to research and learn…and then see a larger picture that develops. Formal education has always been inexplicably easy…and inexplicably boring. In my mind, those days have past…the days that letters and papers are necessary to prove one’s ability. That being said, I am currently a formal student. Personally, I have learned as much this semester as I could have with a weeks’ research on my own. I wanted those letters behind my name, but I now realize that the reason was to impress others and not out of a personal desire. I had realized this more than once before, but I enrolled for some pretty letters I do not truly desire, hoping those letters would further my passion’s fulfillment. I will not be continuing the pursuit of letters.
  • I’ve always held a particular envy for those that see only today…or just this this month or year’s bills…and are happy. I’ve tried repetitively to be that person, yet that is not me. I have envied those who are slow of mind…the “normal” people that surround me. I’m not saying that I’m more adept or intelligent than others, just that I have a skill-set that can accomplish wondrous things–were I to let them.
  • I have a dutiful passion that will not be assuaged until it is complete…or well on its way. It consumes my being when I allow it to do so. Lately, I have been aided by personal/family needs; I have been given an unwelcome but necessary respite from my global, national, state, and local research (mostly). I wonder, however, if the urgency Noah felt during the building of his ark, coupled by the ridicule he endured, is akin to my passionate push toward a viable local food system. There are so very precious few that understand, and I have found even fewer individuals locally that both understand and are proactive.
  • I have a personal desire to support my family someday exclusively via organic farming and residing in a reclusive area. The world of barter with neighbors is one I dream of…not Wall Street or mansions. I know that sounds odd–this guy that is fanatic about expressing the financial aspect of developing School Gardens and Food Hubs, using professional Social Media sites to reach individuals and organizations that are completely unnecessary for the end-goal…yet the end-goal has steps that must be taken. Money is something that most people understand, hence the financial viability as the catalyst when speaking. It seems to work better than “reducing food costs” or “educating our children in the most basic areas.”

I notice a bit of rambling and incoherency in my words, but they go together well if one is willing to jump around. There is more about me on Facebook, LinkedIn, and other sites. Twitter is mainly a “share” medium, yet it is somewhere to find links to more ramblings and insights.

Well, as I have said before, I have a plan. It is financially viable, but more importantly it is necessary and right to give my talents toward its realization. There have been major holes in my plan’s fruition, however. I’m lacking either start-up money to pay for assistance and/or the ability to delegate to others that share my dream…and believe it. Truly, both are lacking. Half of the barrier is completely my fault. I jumped in head-first, sacrificing all that I have financially, believing that my plan would become more than a curiosity to someone that could fill the holes.

That brings up the question of what I’d do differently if given the chance. First, I would have met with the media when I was first approached. I dropped the ball on that one without doubt. Secondly, instead of adding in each individual, each potential customer, and each mini-plan into an evolving business plan, I would have submitted a much more generic plan pre-season. I would not have turned down potential equity investors. I would have forced myself to take breaks, to sleep more, and present myself effectively in person. Would have, would have, would have…. Worthless words. Now on to “will.”

First, our schools need help financially as well as educationally. More and more I see this happening locally by the way of School Gardens, and it is unimaginably exciting. I see evidence of “Illinois’ Farm Bureau in the Classroom,” I have been directed to,, and more resources that I am able to cite. I have well over 3,000 bookmarks of relevant sites…and it just is not possible to list them all now.

Many other events locally give me hope…and work into the proposed plan perfectly. A local Food Hub…or ten…must be in place in order to fulfill my end-goal. Two seem to be developing, one in Rantoul, IL and one in Terre Haute, IN. The obvious correlation, at least in my mind, is to utilize the strengths and abilities offered by The Local Food Marketplace. (Add a .com or .org and you’ll understand). Essentially, a “Virtual Hub for Local Hubs” is the idea…it is a return to the original idea, minus smaller hubs in-between. Those will come, I believe: look at Campbell’s stock and the given reason. Local, fresh food demand is on the rise fast. I am surrounded by prime farmland!!!

The beginning has been initiated. Now, the middle steps–actually enriching the health and vitality of our schools, growing our local sustainability efforts to the point that they are sustainably growing, and building a viable local food system are the vital steps that consume me today…all while I dream of reaching the end-goal while my children are still young enough to learn the values of small farm life. 

Why am I not accomplishing that? The largest reason is overextending myself and becoming distracted. I’ll give two very recent examples:

  • The local utility office made a large mistake on our bill. Others face this regularly…the utility arena here is predatory, as some say. Off I go researching deregulation laws in Illinois, making a big stink, and doing nothing to work toward the end-goal.
  • My friend is fighting a custody/child support issue. She was given a Motion for Discovery of Documents and Things. Her lawyer is Pro Bono, and obviously could not take time to read the questions prior to sending on the Motion. The questions were irrelevant and loaded. I spent two days explaining that she must legally respond to each question, not answer it. I explained the value of “irrelevant” and “harassment” as answers, pending a Motion to Compel…and more time and money being spent by her ex-husband…such is our system. I may well have been beating my head against a wall, because she feared upsetting the judge.

A friend once said, “Once a person endures enough shame they become shameless. Once driven to fear long enough they become fearless, and attacking one’s convictions only strengthens them.” I have seen the truth in the first two points, and the third holds some weight. I like to believe myself to be objective, although sometimes it takes serious evidence and argument to reach that point. When I am very sure of my beliefs, I defend them vehemently, until contradictory evidence destroys the belief. I am wrong at times, and I freely admit this when I understand that I have been wrong. I may, however, argue my side until each of us are red in the face, walk away, and realize that I was wrong later. It happens sometimes.

Back to the “About Me:”  To plagiarize a bit…the more I learn, the more I realize that I do not know. I know that is not original, yet I have no clue who deserves the credit for the statement. I must merely state that I agree with the quote. In the real world, however, I suffer from what I have learned is normal. I, however, tend to push my ideas to an extreme, either until they are fulfilled or cannot be affected by my actions any more.

The “Fundamental Attribution Error:”  Once I learn something, I automatically assume that others know the same thing. Jargon that is unintelligible to the average person pours out of my mouth and regularly prevents effective communication. I’d be a terrible reporter/columnist in this regard. Even my personal hero, my mother, a woman who teaches business and mathematics, tells me to slow down and/or stop talking. Why? Because I toss out words that are only relevant to certain audiences toward everyone, as if they all have a clue what I’m referring to.

I’ve sometimes been told I care about others too much. I know that is a bit of a stupid-sounding statement, yet in some areas it is true. Had I not worried about my neighbors’ well-being or that of local farmers and schools, I would have earned well above average this year. However, selfishness is not a characteristic that I can don well. Instead, I sacrificed everything short of household furnishings, clothing, and the most base needs this season in order to grow the Food Hub movement locally. I borrowed against vital assets–beyond any reasonable amount, through the wrong channels, and my family is without many of the things that they would have if I could have just walked away (or had the 20/20 hindsight of today). Had I just created a stopping point prior to my personal financial limits, great things would have happened. However, I am so stuck in the big picture…coupled with an urgency that is indescribable…that I have made the aforementioned mistakes. I have hopes that what I am listing as mistakes are but necessary learning blocks that lead to realization of my duties. If they are not, I will mold them into such.

This series of imperfect steps is being rectified by removing the thought of profit from directly distributing the foods…narrowing my focus, if you will. I will still give all that it takes, but I am retaining a career position if it is offered to me. I must provide for my own, and they need me more than ever right now. Enough groundwork is laid that I can advise from the sidelines now…or just offer my knowledge. I will attempt to answer all questions placed before me, but I currently live a hectic life. My email is now back into the thousands of unread messages, and I am about to be a father again…possibly with complications between now and delivery. For me: a reliable career, reselling bulk and packets of heirloom seed, providing links to information, helping to develop a web-based resource for growers, wholesalers, and consumers alike, and taking care of my family as they deserve are the definite objectives. Secondary objectives include obtaining land and growing pumpkins, selling seed packets and starts for small/medium sized gardeners–complete with resource referrals to maximize sustainable production, and refurbishing laptops for some pocket change until then. I cannot begin to list the things I dream of accomplishing…yet I’m learning to retain some family/personal time nowadays.

I have heard that an email that I sent once upon a time is/was referred to as “The Infamous Email.” My message was absolutely correct, but the method used was inexcusably crude. The reason for anger? My personal pet peeve, intentional propagation of ignorance without investigation, instigated my response. Now, to be fair, I cannot say definitively that the ignorance was intentional. One speaker that was paid to research the viability of a Food Hub, yet lacked a basic knowledge–or the ability to communicate it seemed unable to answer the most basic questions without adding personal beliefs as if they were necessities. A second speaker denounced the conclusion of a months-long research and findings as inaccurate–that cropland cannot be rededicated to food crops locally. I handed over the ability to research the information in time to rectify this widely-held misbelief, and I did not see any response toward rectifying his perpetuation of ignorance. I lost my temper, and my communication shone a spotlight on yet another character flaw.

I could go on and on here…I already have. I could also proofread this until my eyes cross…my perfectionism is screaming that I do so…yet I have things to do that are more productive than telling an audience about my life. This is who I am now, condensed beyond humanity, and something to bear in mind while reading any future/previous posts.

Thanks for reading, and more thanks to those proactively working toward sustainability in their respective locales!!!



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