On Activism & Manifestation

2012 for me was a year of action after a long period of meditating on passion and values. Also a year of challenging my sensitivity, facing my fears, and taking risks. The start of this new proactive journey truly humbled me and gave me a lot of hopeful new energy. As I told a friend on writings we've been exchanging catching-up with our lives, if there's one thing I've had to master is the virtue of patience, as everything I have accomplished has been by taking the tiniest littlest steps.

On a brief retrospective of my pursuits last year, in May I launched my first line of illustrated eco greeting cards. The idea of creating a line of stationary had been incubating in my noggin for ten years! Since a kid I've loved cute and curious stationary shops and writing letters, but I know and admire so many incredible artists and illustrators that I was shy to put my stuff out there. There were also ecological concerns with the product I wanted to create. An important part of my design process is to think first of the need and demand for that product, and then to think of the materials and how those materials impact the environment and the health of the consumers. I'm happy to say I found the way to combine my passion for stationary with my passion for ecology. In my market research I found that many people still value the special sentiment of a hand-written letter packaged nicely, and I strategized a way to make that more eco sensibly possible – even considering footprint. And I am so joyful to say that my stationary was welcomed with open arms by local shops and enthusiastically received by their customers – so much so they sold out! So I'm motivated to work on new designs to launch in the coming years.

In 2012 I also felt driven to go beyond my own kitchen experiments and really learn to cook a good variety of dishes with the abundance of succulent organic produce I’ve been introduced to by the farmers at my local farmer's markets. I wanted to learn to preserve their nutritional value and extract the capacity of their flavors. Searching for nutritionally based cooking schools in the area that I could attend while keeping my day job and which I could afford, I ran into Three Stone Hearth where I was able to spend an intensive month learning the culture of a commercial kitchen that has the integrity of only using nutritional traditional cooking methods and good ingredients. The way I cook and see food, our current food system, food workers, farmers, and ranchers has changed me forever. And for that I am so incredibly grateful.

Another great thing I did last year was enrolling and attending all of Michael Pollan's Edible Education 103  series of lectures at UC Berkeley through Edible Schoolyard (I'll be writing about ESY later on this blog), as well as other interesting lectures, which gave me the opportunity to learn from and know of more people that are taking different important steps towards healing the food system (and the world!), and helped me connect a lot of more dots regarding our fractured economic and food systems. My father, who passed away a little over a year ago, was an environmentalist and political activist, so I’ve had awareness of some of the dangers of Big Food (monopolized capitalization of land, natural resources, and food supplies) since an early age. That's partly why I've enjoyed living in a metropolitan area that is highly active in the efforts of supporting and rescuing the values of environmentalism and rural traditions such as organic farming. And this year I was driven to do more than just vote with my fork, which I have being doing by supporting my local Farmer’s Markets and getting to know the producers of the foods and items I consume, and start taking serious steps towards becoming a participant in the efforts towards real global change.

On 2012 I became determined to sculpting my life, including my profession and the way I spend my money, to be aligned with my values.

In that line of thought, I volunteered some of my time to The Right to Know to campaign for California's Proposition 37, which I've talked about on earlier blog posts and was a really interesting undertake. By talking to different people I learned of a lot of different points of views. I realized that some people’s values, although concern social justice like mine, geared more towards the thought of the possibility of ending world hunger. And I was able to explain to some people I talked to what I had learned about monocultures, pesticides, seed contamination and provide my opinion of how I didn’t think the answer was to feed food of little to no nutritional value full of poisons to the world. That there could be enough clean nutritious food for everybody if we rather focused our efforts on fair distribution. I also learned other interesting topics and met and debated on the labeling of genetically modified foods with local scientists, including a researcher from the Energy Biosciences Institute who works with genetically modified organisms utilizing second generation/non edible crops for the application of the creation of bio fuels. When I asked her what she thought of labeling GM foods she said she thought people had the right to know. Some Berkeley progressives, including her, however, thought that Prop 37's campaign could potentially hurt the reputation and decrease funding of scientific experimentation with GMO which responsibly applied could have positive impact in human development. More fascinating food for thought.

And of course, how can I leave the presidential election out, which also made 2012 stand-out in my list of accomplishments, as the candidate I believed was the best choice, campaigned and voted for won. But I already dedicated a blog to that.

After such an exciting year of manifesting a long-awaited list of goals, including launching my illustrated cards; learning how to cook good food with seasonal, local, sustainable ingredients in a commercial kitchen with integrity; meeting some of my long time food stars in the environmental and sustainable food movements; and helping get the sustainable food movement a step closer into politics... now I feel so much more grounded and confident to continue with my journey of leading a fulfilling life.

In other words, I now know more what I value most and the direction I want to take.

Although my education is in communications, it wasn’t until recently that I focused my energy on providing my services to the conscious industries with meaningful missions — to communicating with the intentional purpose of educating people. Another thing to be grateful for.

So needless to say, I ended the year on an exciting note. And I still have to write about some of the lectures I attended in 2012 that impacted me. On the rest of this blog I'll focus on one lady whom I recently had the pleasure of meeting, and who happens to be someone who's books and life story have been of great inspiration to me; in a sense like a mentor — Alice Waters.

Ms. Waters' lecturing for Edible Education 103 on December 2012
In past blogs I've talked about people using their power for the pursuit of evil, such as those in the Big Food industry. Well I would like to start this year, that wasn't even suppose to happen according to some, with a more positive note. First by reminding everyone that the world didn't end. Hooray! We still have time to save it! And second, by giving an example of a person who has used her influence for good. This lady carries a big name in culinary arts, education reform, and slow food activism. And although she already has quite a bit of fame, I would like to give a little bit of background on what I've learned of her great accomplishments.

Alice Waters grew-up with a Victory Garden in the backyard of her parents' house. She studied at UC Berkeley in the 60s and mingled among the important historical movements that incubated here in the 60s and 70s. She also spent some time in France where she was inspired by the French culinary arts and provincial traditions. Her passions are tasteful sustainable food and education. After working as a Montessori teacher for a while she decided to open a restaurant with $10,000 she had saved-up, which besides introducing the art of simple tasteful nutritious food she had experienced in France to the community of Berkeley, she also envisioned as a hub for political and literary discussion. And that's exactly what Chez Panisse, her restaurant, is famous for. She is also a graceful and insightful food writer who's words have inspired me and many. On a press interview in 1995 Ms. Waters criticized Alameda county's school system by pointing-out the run down facade of a school in her neighborhood in Berkeley and raising the question of what kind of message that was sending the youth who attended that middle school. She was then approached by the principal of the school who encouraged her to provide input on how to improve the school, and being the visionary that she is, Ms. Waters went far beyond that call of duty to forming the Chez Panisse Foundation and later on the Edible Schoolyard — efforts which not only transformed the facade of Martin Luther King (the school she spoke about) but also changed an entire value system and improved the classroom curriculum.

According to ESY's website, the Edible Schoolyard:
"involves students in all aspects of farming the garden and preparing, serving, and eating food as a means of awakening their senses and encouraging awareness and appreciation of the transformative values of nourishment, community, and stewardship of the land."
On January 10, 2013 I was given a tour of the original Edible School Yard that has by now become so influential nation-wide.

Map of the garden created by students
Alameda County's school district chef
MLK's breakfast and Lunch facilities
MLK's. Kitchen
MLK's salad bar
MLK's new facade
MLK's courtyard garden
MLK's beautiful murals of civil rights movement
The Edible Schoolyard was created out of one influential visionary person's concern with a school in her own neighborhood. It encompasses garden and kitchen classroom settings and provides a hands-on environment for students in which to apply skills learned in traditional science, math, and humanities classes. The Martin Luther King Middle School garden has served as a model for other Edible Schoolyard affiliate programs that are being established around the country. Currently there are affiliate programs located in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Greensboro, Brooklyn, and New Orleans.

I'm a believer of positive power. And Alice Waters' story is a great example of what Margaret Mead was talking about when she said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.” Hope her story inspires you too!

Affly Yr Inda

Update: Great video on Times Magazine about The Edible Schoolyard
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