A crash course in changing the world.
One of the reasons I moved from Los Angeles to Riverside was to learn how to farm. When I was 14, my parents bought a dilapidated old mansion with boards over all the windows, a roof that was caving in, and a huge rotting eucalyptus grove. All of the soil had turned hydrophobic from the oils in the eucalyptus, and there were hardly any plants growing. A huge flock of crows infested the area, killing off smaller birds and creating a deafening cacophany with their incessant cawing.
When we moved in, we were overwhelmed. We started with a small garden right against the house, then slowly branched out to more and more sections of the yard. We cut down many of the blighted eucalyptus, and before we knew it, there was an acre of orchard fruit trees and another acre of orange grove. We planted an arboretum and a half acre vegetable garden, culminating in a beautiful botanical gardens where the eucalyptus grove used to be.
Now the crows are gone, replaced by myriad butteflies, dragonflies, hummingbirds, and a flock of chickens. We're expanding the vegetable garden, but instead of just growing for ourselves, we've invited the local community college to participate.
A group of culinary students are tending their own plots, so they can learn where their food comes from and how to grow their own herbs and vegetables. We're hosting an "Iron Chef" style competition in July and August, and everything they don't grow themselves will have to be obtained from local farmers or sustainable groceries.
We think its important that the next generation of chefs and restaurateurs get away from supporting the exploitative, wasteful global food exchange, so dependent on huge monoculture farms, genetically tampered seeds, harsh chemical fertilizers and pesticides, and huge carbon-intensive supply chains. Instead, we're doc**enting materials on how to grow locally, using organic and biodynamic methods, diverse companion and guild planting, and heirloom seed varieties.
Hopefully our initial Chefs du Potager project will expand into a global initiative for chefs to reconnect to farmers.
For more information, check out the culinary competition at Growcology.com