This is not strictly speaking Fukuoka, but many of his ideas of cultivating wildness have drifted into the gardens and repertoires of permaculture and urban farming folks.
Occidental College, a private liberal arts institution, has always been dedicated to positively contributing to the Los Angeles community. A large community oriented advocacy organization based at this college is the Urban & Environmental Policy Institute (UEPI), and within this organization is the sub-group called the Center for Food & Justice, or the CFJ.
The Center for Food & Justice is a very progress-oriented group with two main objectives. Firstly, they look to improve access to fresh, as well as healthy foods in all communities. For now, they are primarily focused on the underprivileged communities where access to healthy food is scarce, and for now, they are focusing on the Los Angeles area.
Their second objective is to promote community development, social justice, healthy eating habits, preserving the environment, and positive uses for land.
A USC community garden could prove very useful for the first objective. Imagine if children from the underprivileged schools were allowed to take trips to a USC-owned plot of land (a large one, preferably), where we could get master gardeners (like Florence Nishida) and others to teach them how to properly grow their own food. By doing this, the children could learn about how to eat healthily, and how to grow their own natural food. In addition to showing them how, all of the food grown in the USC garden could be donated to the children in these schools.
Currently, the CFJ partakes and leads many programs designed to accomplish their goals. One example of their programs is Farm to School which teaches communities how to pick up good farming practices. Another one, Project CAFE works to implement community-directed activities that relate to food and health in low-income areas within Los Angeles. The CFJ is also involved in the Grocery Accountability Project, or GAP, which engages in research and works to increase the performance of food retail corporations in the areas of food access, labeling, supply, health, and labor standards. Another program, which holds special interest for me (as it should with other Modernology students), is Project GROW. The main purpose of this is to explore the potential for gardens and healthy food as a way to improve the lives of clients and staff of grassroots domestic violence agencies. Young people literally jump with joy when they realize that as a result of their actions, some fruit or vegetable has grown.
I’m willing to bet that if a USC program similar to what I have described previously were to actually come to fruition, some bigger-named speakers would be willing to participate to help the community to help with the CFJ’s second objective. Let’s make it happen! Also, the CFJ, as well as all of their projects, are running quite low on funds. They are accepting any and all donations. For more information, please visit http://departments.oxy.edu/uepi/cfj/index.htm
If you come to the LACMA thing, feel free to radio in and connect, at the museum. I will have my gadget with me. It is typically the time of semester when people get kind of overwhelmed by various timings and commitments, and don’t venture far from home. But if you do, holler!
Here is a program. It is hard to find on the site, but the LACMA director of education passed it on to me.
For EC, you would attend a minimum of 2-3 out of the 52 performances/events and write them up, in light of things we have discussed in class or read.
It’s always interesting to see how other campuses are working with the urban nature on their grounds. On Friday, I stopped by a festival at Caltech, in Pasadena. The occasion was a harvest on their famed Olive Walk, which sports many of the 130 olive trees on campus. The day featured the last of the harvest, which had begun a few days earlier, when the Grounds crew picked some of the olives from the higher tree branches. This is what olive-picking looks like:
The olives are then collected and put into large bins. This is what the take looked like, toward the end of the harvest.
According to organizers, the last festival was in 2008, when volunteers–mostly students–harvested 2500 pounds of olives, and the Grounds crew harvested another 3500 pounds. This yielded about 127 gallons of olive oil. Some cooking demos and a lunch accompanied the olive-picking. Here, one volunteer presides over pots of herb-infused olive oil.
And another stirs pots of herby, buttery escargots to be eaten on french bread.
The event is the brainchild of Tom Mannion, Assistant VP of Student Affairs and Campus Life at Caltech. Tom also teaches a for-credit course called “Cooking Basics,” which he mentioned is the most popular course at Caltech. It is also worth noting that Caltech is the intellectual home of Harold McGee, the author of On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen, the go-to book for understanding the scientific mysteries of the kitchen, including the health benefits of fermented milks, the effects of rigor mortis over time on shellfish, and breakdowns of species of rice and their growing environments.
There are a few differences from our setup–this is a one-day event, with a lot of help from college staff and workers, whereas you have been tending the garden from scratch all on your own. Their connection to the larger communities and spaces around them, though, is something we might use for inspiration. The project started through student initiatives and experimenting with your old friend vernacular creativity:
In 2005, Kristen Kozak (’09) tried to preserve some olives by dry curing them, that is, using salt to remove the bitter taste. Unfortunately, the olives were infested by flies. The experiment was repeated with better olives in 2006 by Kristen and four other students (Alex Roper, Robbie Xiao, Dan Rowlands, and Cathy Douglass, all also Class of ’09) and met with mixed results. What worked very well, however, was pressing them for oil. These students picked both green and black olives and pressed them with cheesecloth to separate the pulp from the oil and juice, and put the liquids in a jar to separate. The oil rose to the top and was then skimmed off. The students ate the oil plain and on bread. Also in 2006, undergraduates Dvin Adalian and Ricky Jones did their own olive oil experiment. Using a remedial set of tools and a set of instructions they devised themselves, they managed to purify 550 mL of oil. (For a more detailed account of the process, click here.) They distributed the oil throughout their residence (Ruddock House) and the biology division, to Caltech president and first lady Jean-Lou Chameau and Carol Carmichael, and to their friends and families. The verdict? “It was delicious.”
Are there similar resources waiting to be cultivated at USC? Keep an eye out on the grounds as you walk around. It took a couple years of prepping the olives to get rid of flies and make them consumable, but with a little planning, experimentation and collaboration, they did it!
Some folks who do contemporary art in LA are aiming to think critically about the politics of large museums and big money in LA. Here is a very interesting piece by Robbie Herbst, “Social Art, Ambiguity, Oil, Critique, Compromise, and Los Angeles Art Museums,” which talks about some of the debates that are happening as LACMA engages local artists–most relevant to us, in the Nov 7 array of shows and performances, and one key event by Fallen Fruit. At issue is the 2007 $25 million donation by BP, and the dependence of local artists on (for the recent exhibitions under discussion, minimal ) funding for public art projects that actually critique environmental degradation and runaway corporate greed. Interesting to see people within the art community taking this on, as they think and articulate their relation to the “publics” in public art, and also make some connections to the corporatization of higher education…