501(c)3 Public Charity…Here We Come! @F2SMonth #FarmtoSchool

Have you ever had one of those “I’ve gotta Press this” moments? Well, I’m smack dab in the middle of one!

I’ve spent the last couple of months doing some truly grassroots reaching out…my front yard has been a non-stop, honesty-based, fresh local produce stand. In the beginning, I was working elsewhere part-time. At that point, most of the maintenance and interpersonal communication was handled by my wife. Things changed, and I was able to devote my attention to what turned out to be a multi-faceted operation…exactly as I would have had it, looking back. More on the specifics of recent events can be found on the Facebook Page.

Today, on October 19, we have a display that boasts fresh local tomatoes, sweet corn, peppers, zucchini, garlic, and pumpkins. Non-food items such as straw and decorative corn are also available. The local fresh food at this time of the year is pretty much unprecedented in our little community in East-Central Illinois, and we receive thanks on a near-daily basis from our customers. It can be the norm, and others are stepping up to help it become so!

There are obvious hiccups associated with a front-yard stand, especially when the front yard has about six feet of space in the most visible area. Weather…. Oh, I could complain about the weather, if that was what this blog was about. As my neighbor so aptly stated, “Anything to do with agriculture is reliant on the weather.” The gist of the comment on weather refers to rain, frost possibilities, and of course heat. We lost approximately 38% of what would otherwise be high quality, marketable goods to weather. We lost sales due to adverse conditions (Really, who wants to shop in the rain?). But, we kept track of all of that, and it’s also helpful to the cause. We helped people…profitably.

What’s more, we have had customers drive 50 or more miles from nearly every direction, while operating on a budget of less than $30 for Advertising/Marketing!

For those who have followed Illiana Ag Alliance for very long, you likely know that the form of organization is a sole proprietorship. Frankly, I did not know anybody that was able to see the movement through without risk of perverting it. I also thought that the only way a quick decision could be made was through this form of organization. I have been, and am, willing to take the risk of making the wrong decisions…. I was wrong…or at least, to think that remaining as a sole proprietorship now is the best solution is incorrect.

I made my decision about a week ago. I’ve been reading up on all IRS Regulations that concern a 501(c)3 Public Charity…and it fits well. (I have not yet studied State requirements). It’s going to be fun wading through the necessities for a non-profit for the first time, but it can be done.

Here’s the blogworthy event:

I received a message to call from a like-minded old friend. Ironically, I was going to soon ask him to be a member of the Board of Directors. Well, my friend, Robert Houpt, starts our conversation with “I’m going to start a non-profit.” Wow, the idea was amazing…encompassing all of the basic tenets of the 501(c)3 that I wished to form and more!

I’ll fill in more on how it evolves once it is more clear, but the bottom line is that the conversation led to each planning on asking the other to be a part of the charity. As of now, papers are not signed. The way the IRS sees a non-profit, the moment two or more sign a particular document, the 501(c)3 can begin operating as such, but with limits naturally imposed on an unrecognized 501(c)3. Funding, especially locally, is reliant on the approved 501(c)3 status.

Without funding, the charity will have a 3/4 ton truck with a towing package, a couple of growing lights, two pieces of land directly down the road from each other that will, when funded, sport housing that would most likely attract low-income tenants due to the greenhouses and hoophouses that tenants will use, with our support, to grow and sell their own vegetables.

I guess I did not mention who Robert is….. Robert is a graduate of the Class of 2000 here in Martinsville–the class that built the school greenhouse (see picture below). He currently owns an HVAC/Construction Company. More importantly, Robert acts on his charitable thoughts, and has a keen view of ethical and sustainable business. He shares my vision, and our skills, abilities, and arguments complement each other well. He built a flower garden for the local Pre-K, and is volunteering his services, labor, and supplies as In-Kind Contributions to rebuild the greenhouse at our school now.

The picture:

10/19/2014

10/19/2014

I’m not sure if the picture has the clarity to see, but the end nearest the white building has a geothermal heat pump with propane backup. Robert has volunteered to attempt to repair the heat pump, which is what is stopping the school from putting up plastic immediately. Once repaired, I will start the veggies and fruits in my basement, for now. We will help to put in a sink, help lay out the greenhouse, source seed, train volunteers, get the community active, etc. There are other future plans and needs for curriculum-based School Gardens, starting with Martinsville School District, but the “curriculum-based” is just that. The school, Ag/Industrial Arts teacher, and the students will be running the Martinsville School District’s greenhouse. We’re just providing a medium for the community to help.

And there’s the preview, folks. I’m awaiting a meeting with the President of our County’s Farmer’s Market…and likely many more meetings in the future…but this is how Illiana Ag Alliance looks today.

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We Have Our School Garden! (And So Much More is Coming!)

Okay, maybe we are building our School Garden. And, I must confess, I am using the term “we” loosely here. I will be meeting tomorrow with the person who is ultimately responsible for rebuilding and re-establishing a profitable school greenhouse.

Here are the facts:

  • Martinsville High School has hired a new Ag teacher, Mr. Brian Haskins. Our previous Ag teacher quit about a week before school started.
  • I have been asked to assist in the planning and rebuilding of a greenhouse that is essentially nothing more than a frame and a broken heater…on what I believe is a current budget of pretty close to $0.
  • I have spoken with the President of the School Board, the Superintendent, the Principal, and Mr. Haskins is my neighbor and friend. Progress is permitted and desired, but grant funding is seemingly necessary. At the least, we could be a school year ahead of the game.
  • School Garden grants (that I know of) have already been awarded for Fiscal Year 2015.
  • As a community, we have bits and pieces of what is needed to get the greenhouse operational before winter.
  • Winter is fast approaching.

Now, I have a Certificate in Horticultural Science…but it has been a decade since I’ve truly operated a greenhouse. I also remember that among my bookmarks and notes many resources exist for education and collaboration. I’ve communicated with so many people in the past couple of years that I am not immediately sure who to speak with or where to apply for grant funding on behalf of the school that will reach the school on time. Readers: Is there any money out there for us? If so, please email me at bburson@outlook.com.

In the local food arena: Success…at least as I measure it. I have touched base lightly with the municipality, and I know a couple of City Council members that are interested in furthering the Food Hub while adhering to the principles that I hold dear. The President of our County Farmer’s Market is willing to meet next month to discuss a collaboration, also. Another 501(c)3 called “Martinsville on the Move” has also been informally contacted, and supporters of the Non-Profit also support Illiana Ag Alliance. I hear rumors about a charitable trust. The greater community has shown overwhelming support through purchases from a little retail stand in my front yard.

The next steps: First, I need to get proactive with my resources and skill-set and help this greenhouse get started. My resources are few physically, such as having some plastic to cover some of the greenhouse, unplanted colorful carrot seed, and time. The remaining resources will come. I fight an inner fight now: Do I go full steam ahead now that the links are coming together, or take slow, cautious steps to prevent the pitfalls of the past?

Second step…tenuous…. Another charitable foundation has built a community ampitheater this year. I could not imagine a more perfect venue to address the community–parents, educators, municipal leaders, charitable foundations and non-profits, Farmers Market vendors and customers, and area businesses that can assist…if they so choose. I have two misgivings about this; I am a terrible public speaker, and Ms. Julia Govis is not here to help guide our local movement any longer. (I sure miss her wisdom and sage advice, as well as her network that would be so beneficial now).

It appears that I have left out the contact and support of our local Food Bank. Illiana Ag Alliance, as a Food Hub, was able to make a few donations this season. My wife and I have established a rapport with the Food Bank, but processing and storage of frozen foods is not something that they are especially well-equipped to handle. I must say that I am truly amazed at the number of volunteers at the Food Bank in such a small community. I am proud to say that many are childhood friends who are now adult friends with shared values.

Today is the webinar I’ve been awaiting–The NGFN 2014 Food Hub Benchmarking Study. Learning more about what works sustainably in such a thin-margin business, while accomplishing altruistic goals and helping others obtain a basic need…priceless. My outdated research should pale in comparison to what I learn from that webinar! Hopefully, it will help me answer the how behind going forward and establishing a true collaboration on a local scale, backed with advice and support by non-local individuals and organizations that care.

At this point, I will work with what is in front of me. Tomorrow, I will catch the long-awaited webinar. I will also go up to the school and learn/share visions for the greenhouse–already dedicated by the school for long-term growth of food for student consumption. I wish to help the “long-term” change to “immediate.” Secondary plans include tidying up the front-yard stand, unloading pumpkins, and replacing the hitch on my pickup truck to accommodate a trailer load of pumpkins from a local auction on Friday.

For now, I am glad to be able to post about true progress, spearheaded by locals beyond myself. Life is good….

I am home.

Who Says You Can’t Go Home?

Well, I have shifted to part-time as Process Control Engineer at Rowe Foundry. Apparently, this is a pretty unprecedented option I was given. I have referred to the foundry as being Christian and having Christian values before, but I truly get to experience it first hand now. And the security combined with opportunity for the food hub…priceless. Continue reading

My Organic Garden

Well, I must say that the whole blog idea is great…for those with the time. I’ve not forgotten to blog; in fact, I have tens of drafts that span March and April. But…. They became obsolete before they were published. I stopped trying for the next couple of months, watching and doing….

I guess I will start at what I remember prior to be the break from blogging. First, I went hog-wild laying out plans and deadlines. I hate deadlines, by the way. Well, I was poised to purchase the “perfect” home for Illiana Ag Alliance and my family. Instead of securing the deal, I started anew with recruiting/reassuring local farmers and buyers. I ranted about how I was going to approach the School Board, the City of Martinsville (and Martinsville on the Move), etc. I spoke of the Clark County Farmers Market probable shutdown…. While on the tirade, well, life happened.

I missed out on the house and pole barn–someone else followed through more quickly than I. I then received a phone call (hours after learning of the missed opportunity) from an interested local intern focused on Organic foods, and I shut the conversation off immediately. I regret that decision, yet I had no clue what to tell her. I may well have alienated a boon to the Food Hub. Almost immediately following the phone call, I read a message from someone that states that she not only reads this blog of mine, but that she is excited about “what I am accomplishing.” I’m not sure if I thanked you for that, Janet, but I thank you now. At the time, it hurt. My “accomplishments” were swirling away. That’s the inherent problem with deadlines and timelines…they evolve, and not always in the way one desires!

I hit the brakes…hard, and without warning to most people. Part of the reasoning behind the fall from online interests lays in the fact that I had to make some hard decisions. I had to decide which parts of my life demanded immediate and full attention and which ones could wait. Work…my career…took its place above the struggles of the Food Hub. This was a bit of a no-brainer, in hindsight. At the time, I felt like a sell-out. I love what I do, and an unbelievable number of my personal values are encompassed within my job description.

Part of the reasoning that led to a full stop was tied to my family’s needs. These correlate directly to my great career and the time I needed to make for my wife and children. I believe that I briefly mentioned both before now…Process Control Engineer at Rowe Foundry, Inc., in my hometown of Martinsville, IL…newborn preemie son and six-year old suffering from jealousy/perceived long-term fatherly neglect….

A huge part of the reasoning behind the stop was that the Farmers Market held a meeting…and there was discussion about NOT closing! The desire to not interfere with direct-to-consumer marketing and my ideas of local wholesale did not mesh well in my mind. I wanted to see how things panned out…and there is a Farmers Market this year. I’ve not made it to one yet, but I will!

There are other reasons…no soil close to home for so much as a garden, unless I chose to use chemicals to take care of weeds. I chose not to. To list more reasons/excuses would be…whining?

Skip to today:  I have relocated six miles away into a rented home. It is located approximately two blocks from where I had my first roadside stand in my early teens–where I attribute the beginning of my local food passion’s growth. I am also less than half of a block from work–convenient and a fuel saver. My back yard holds a thriving 1,200(ish) square foot Organic garden! Beyond the need to replace a couple of heirloom tomato plants and the current head-scratching over how to keep my eggplant leaves from being eaten in an organic manner, it is looking immensely successful!

Sales? Well, I guess I never mentioned that one of the Owner/Managers at Rowe Foundry is also the President of Martinsville’s School Board, huh? I’ve yet to approach him, that will come in due time. First, I need to establish a processing method for most of the crops I’m growing. I’ll do the colorful carrot thing as a second-cropping, but promising without delivery is something I’ll refrain from now. I’ve done a bit of that, and it does not give me the warm fuzzies. (Current idea: Work with the Farmers Market and the local Food Pantry–they have an established connection–and follow the previously outlined idea of a % to be destined to processed school sales and a % for donations).

Melons will still be sold. Whether I continue down the path I’ve prepared with the purchase of a 3/4 ton beast of a truck and a fifth-wheel hitch, leasing a trailer locally, and placing someone else in the position to deliver melons to grocers and restaurateurs is undecided. What will be done is a permanent roadside stand in my shaded front yard. I’ll have plenty to sell (hopefully), my wife is a stay-at-home mom that loves the melon run/direct sales thing, and if local ordinances are persuaded to follow the best possible guidelines (following recent legislation at the State-level), there will be some consignments to complement our offerings. The stand will likely be closed during the Farmers Market time, I think. Maybe not a Food Hub, per se…but local foods (including Organics) will be available locally.

I am connecting and have reconnected with new and old friends here; including farmers, some members of the Fair Board, and some current and former City Officials. “A bug in the ear” is the newest approach I’m trying in an effort to increase local awareness and support. I still hold dreams of a Public/Private/School collaboration, but the timeline has changed to “if/when the time is right.”

Did I mention that the Jr./Sr. High School has a greenhouse that is not visibly used? (It is not in use, according to one staff member). Read: School Garden potential! Well, the “bug in the ear” has been initiated, and I’m ready to help however I can. Circumstances here are a bit different than in Casey: Martinsville is a tiny school…supposedly the smallest to have a boy’s athletic program in the State (we have three). Martinsville also has a positive budget (one of eight? in the State). We are also the only City that is growing within the County, according to second-hand knowledge. Yes…much different than Casey.

And some ramblings:

Hmmm…. Well, one of my pet peeves is judging others by family name. I hate that about small towns. It has caused me grief. Worst of all, I’ve been as guilty as possible of doing  just that–judging and condemning a governing person’s family and family businesses due to kinship. This is another reason for my online disappearance; I’ve noticed that the foot in my mouth was gagging my brain. I’m guilty, and I apologize to anyone reading this that this relates to.

I did not complete the “State of the Food Hub” information that I was invited to fill out from the Wallace Center at Winrock. At the time, I was considering closing the Food Hub as an official entity…and I was not doing anything to forward the Food Hub physically or financially. Putting ideas into words for others to read does not meet my criteria for Food Hub status.

One last thing:  The “Seeds and Starts Campaign” was abandoned. I only have so much time, and my email program/Social Media information was so spread out that it hit the back burner. I bought seed and starts from local nurseries instead.

I guess that’s all I have for now. I’ll most likely blog again someday…deadlines/timelines are now officially removed for any posts in any forum!

The Farm Bill, the Produce Rule, and Illiana Ag Alliance

The Four Hour Workday…. 

I have published elsewhere about my being referred to this book (thanks L.A.). I listened to the YouTube audio a few times, learning and forgetting to listen equally. The truth is that the lessons I gleaned may or may not have been those intended. Patience and…well, that is about all I remember. I still am not that guy that can stop the grinding of the brain-gears easily, but doing the right thing helped.

Before I go into a lot of detail about the Agriculture Act of 2014 and how it impacts the movement here, I must make a confession: I tried to walk away again. I did. I also failed…those gears are connected to my heart somehow. There is more to the story than that: My son was born prematurely, I landed a great career position in my hometown…many personal occurrences…and yet, I am here blogging with a smile. I still have a duty and an amended plan on fulfilling said duty.

To quickly summarize the reference to the proposed Produce Rule: It’s perfect…at least from my vantage point. Perfect, however, is to be interpreted as “the best that one could hope for when others with varying agendas are involved.” All of the major aspects of the proposed rule were covered in their entirety by the GAPs Training provided by the University of Illinois Extension last year. Illiana Ag Alliance is poised to exceed all requirements!

The above link to the 959-page Farm Bill is…dull reading? I have not yet parsed down the exact verbiage. National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition summarizes and breaks down the bill well. I will leave the reading of the synopsis to those interested in following the preceding link. I will instead focus on what is going on here currently, what is probable, what has changed, and what is still standing strong from the preliminary plans that have developed and evolved over time….

Setting up/keeping shop in Casey, Illinois, is changed. This is almost home…a mere six miles away. However, it’s the people and the municipality that spur the change. It’s the school system, the town’s dynamic, and the fact that the town of 1,300 individuals is where it all started for me. Mostly, it is the fact that Martinsville, Illinois is my home at heart. Shortly, it will be my home by location, also….

I will begin expounding here, with the forthcoming 6-mile move. As some may know, my new career position is with a family-owned company that has been a cornerstone of Martinsville’s economy and sustainability since 1898–providing fair wages, implementing a system of impeccable ethics, and offering an opportunity for many successes within, outside of…and very much in line with Illiana Ag Alliance’s goals today. We share values, and that is irreplaceable.

I had not yet read about this Farm Bill (truthfully, I had no clue that one was finally nearing completion) until today. However, it seems that legislators heard my prayers in so many ways. A Farm-to-School Pilot may be the best part. I have already spoken with a School Board member and two teachers, and I hope that a presentation is able to be added to the next Board Meeting Agenda following my request.

Other initiatives, such as expanding local food initiatives to include aggregators, are great to read about. The NSAC synopsis (above) mentions a grocery initiative. Leonard, the owner of Martinsville’s grocery store, is prepared to ally with Illiana Ag Alliance as a provider of source-identified local foods. There are still the other 20+ local/regional grocers and ? restaurants that desire local, sustainable food…but the in-town option helps fill the void left by the recent absence of a Clark County Farmer’s Market. Markets outside of Clark County and adjoining Counties are now in the “local melon/pumpkin-only” category insofar as planning is concerned for the forthcoming season.

I heard about the signing of the Farm Bill on my return trip to what I hope is to be my family’s new home in Martinsville. (The seller is also quite interested in furthering the local food movement). Our potential home sits on two lots…one with the house and room for a greenhouse, and one with an approximately 40’x100′ machine shed. Yes, a machine shed…destined to be the aggregation and wholesale distribution point for local foods. How? Truthfully, I’m not sure. I can tell you a million possibilities, a handful of probabilities, and some definites. Instead, I will wait for the next City Council meeting before I post more. It’s still in a “Don’t count your chickens….” stage today. The short story is that a Public/Private Cooperative is to be explored. The City was willing to assist the former Farmer’s Market in almost any way, so hopes are high!

So much is missing from this post: the most local Amish community is moving away, there are many new (very local) growers, the “Seeds and Starts Campaign” is about to begin, Organic Initiatives, invitations, and so very much more. Many events are destined without dates, what is to come and what is planned always evolve…and yet it is time to bring this local–where it all began.

At this second, however, I’m off to bed. 2:45 AM comes awfully early nowadays. The next step? Well, beyond the previous highlights, procuring the other 75% of the money to purchase the home and building outright–for roughly half of its value. This means I have a lot of research and number-crunching to do quickly, while exceeding the expectations of my new position AND keeping my family life in order…but the financial outlook is so much better than when I was trying to single-handedly change the local food system mere months ago. A modestly healthy revenue stream and expanded self-imposed timeline bring much opportunity and relief!

In short, Illiana Ag Alliance and the Burson Family are alive, well, and poised to fulfill our duty. Stumbling is again giving way to opportunity, insight, and refreshed vigor!

Live well…and until next time!

 

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 LinkedIn.com: 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 farmtoschool.org, edweb.net, 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!!!

Brian