In March, Terrance Jackson did a presentation:
Teaching young people to grow food for their communities and solve the critical problems of our times.
We will begin at the Genius Farm by building personal food computers based on the work of the MIT Media Lab’s Open Agriculture Initiative. The OpenAg Initiative is developing open source “Food Computers.” A Food Computer is a controlled-environment agriculture technology platform that uses robotic systems to control and monitor climate, energy, and plant growth inside of a specialized growing chamber. Climate variables such as carbon dioxide, air temperature, humidity, dissolved oxygen, potential hydrogen, electrical conductivity, and root-zone temperature are among the many conditions that can be controlled and monitored within the growing chamber.
One of the long term goals of Genius Farm is to build a facility similar to the Center for Urban Agriculture. The building will include fields for growing vegetables and grains, greenhouses, and rooftop gardens. It will also include affordable housing.
[T]he issues that confront most Americans directly are income, food (thereby, agriculture), health and climate change. (And, of course, war, but let’s leave that aside for now.)
These are all related: You can’t address climate change without fixing agriculture, you can’t fix health without improving diet, you can’t improve diet without addressing income, and so on. The production, marketing and consumption of food is key to nearly everything. (It’s one of the keys to war, too, because large-scale agriculture is dependent on control of global land, oil, minerals and water.)
According to the CDC as reported by BloombergBusiness:
Forty percent of Americans born from 2000 to 2011 will develop diabetes, double the risk of those born a decade earlier….More than half of all Hispanics and non-Hispanic black women born from 2000 to 2011 will develop diabetes in their lifetime.
In 2013, African Americans were twice as likely as non-Hispanic Whites to die from diabetes. This is according to the U. S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health.
Diabetes can be reversed with diet
Click here for full documentary.
At the northern outskirts of Milwaukee, stand 14 greenhouses on two acres of land. This is Growing Power, the only land within the Milwaukee city limits zoned as farmland. Founded by MacArthur Foundation “genius” fellow Will Allen, Growing Power is an active farm producing tons of food each year, a food distribution hub, and a training center. Will Allen is the author of The Good Food Revolution.
According to Will Allen’s The Good Food Revolution:
The history of agriculture in the United States is largely a history of racial exploitation. From the slavery that formed the rural economy of the South to the mistreatment of migrant farm workers that continues to this day, our food has too often been made possible by someone else’s suffering. And that someone else tends not to be white….The great tragedy for many African Americans…is that in losing touch with the land and with traditions handed down for generations, they also lost an important set of skills: how to grow and prepare healthy food….It’s no coincidence that the epidemic of diet-related illnesses now sweeping the country—obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, strokes—are harming blacks the most….America’s current agricultural system was hardly created by free market forces. Between 1995 and 2010, American farmers received about $262 billion in federal subsidies. And the wealthiest 10 percent of farmers received 74 percent of those subsidies. Almost two-thirds of American farmers didn’t receive any subsidies at all….One in two African Americans born in the year 2000 is expected to develop type II diabetes. Four out of every ten African American men and women over the age of twenty have high blood pressure….The farmer became less important than the food scientist, the distributor, the marketer, and the corporation. In 1974, farmers took home 32 cents of every dollar spent on food in the United States. Today, they get only 16 cents.
In 1920 African-Americans made up 14 percent of all the farmers in the nation and worked 16 million acres of land. In 2012, African-Americans farmers were 1.4 percent of the country’s 3.2 million farmers, and worked 3.2 million acres of land. African-American sales represented 0.2 percent of total U.S. agriculture sales, and African-American-operated farmland accounted for 0.4 percent of U.S. farmland.
First Lady Michelle Obama agrees about the importance of growing food:
Getting in touch with the land can also help us fight climate change. Consider that compared to large-scale industrial farms, small-scale agroecological farms not only use fewer fossil fuel-based fertilizer inputs and emit less Greenhouse gases (GHGs), including methane, nitrous oxide and carbon dioxide (CO2), but they also have the potential to actually reverse climate change by sequestering CO2 from the air into the soil year after year. According to the Rodale Institute, small-scale farmers and pastoralists could sequester more than 100% of current annual CO2 emissions with a switch to widely available, safe and inexpensive agroecological management practices that emphasize diversity, traditional knowledge, agroforestry, landscape complexity, and water and soil management techniques, including cover cropping, composting and water harvesting.
Importantly, agroecology can not only sequester upwards of 7,000 pounds of CO2 per acre per year, but it can actually boosts crop yields. In fact, recent studies by GRAIN (www.grain.org) demonstrate that small-scale farmers already feed the majority of the world with less than a quarter of all farmland. Addressing climate change on the farm can not only tackle the challenging task of agriculture-generated GHGs, but it can also produce more food with fewer fossil fuels. In other words, as the ETC Group (www.etcgroup.org) has highlighted, industrial agriculture uses 70% of the world’s agricultural resources to produce just 30% of the global food supply, while small-scale farmers provide 70% of the global food supply while using only 30% of agricultural resources.
Most of us believe that the best way to motivate ourselves and others is with external rewards like money—the carrot-and-stick approach. That’s a mistake, Daniel H. Pink says in, Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, his provocative and persuasive new book. The secret to high performance and satisfaction—at work, at school, and at home—is the deeply human need to direct our own lives, to learn and create new things, and to do better by ourselves and our world.
[Y]ou [cannot] understand why someone [is] healthy [or wealthy] if all you [do is] think about their individual choices or actions in isolation. You [have] to look beyond the individual. You [have] to understand what culture they were a part of, and who their friends and families were, and what town… their family came from. You [have] to appreciate the idea that community — the values of the world we inhabit and the people we surround ourselves with — has a profound effect on who we are. ~ Malcolm GladwellWhen it comes to motivation, there’s a gap between what science knows and what business does. Our current business operating system–which is built around external, carrot-and-stick motivators–doesn’t work and often does harm. We need an upgrade. And the science shows the way. This new approach has three essential elements: 1. Autonomy – the desire to direct our own lives. 2. Mastery— the urge to get better and better at something that matters. 3. Purpose — the yearning to do what we do in the service of something larger than ourselves. ~ Daniel Pink
According to Chris Dixon at Startup School 2013, there are two ways to develop startup ideas: through direct experience with tools/technologies, problems, perspectives; or through abstract things like analyst reports, trends, analogies (Airbnb for X, Uber for Y). The best ideas come through direct experience. The abstract things tend to be an encapsulation of conventional wisdom. When you diff your direct experience with conventional wisdom, that’s where the best startup ideas come from.
To enable our young people to build the next set of great companies and to solve the critical crises of our time it is important to give them the direct experience of building the digital and organic infrastructure necessary for the urban agriculture revolution.
Click the image above for a rough draft of New Ro Magazine.