Marion Institute Blog
What part of local and organic food is important to you? Is it the quality, the taste, the environmental impact, the local economic support?
In 2010, and again in 2013 the United Nations organized conferences and released publications focused on the future of feeding the world. In both cases, the conclusion has been that small, diverse, local-scale organic agriculture is the key to healthy, sustainable food supply.
The 2013 report titled, "Wake Up Before It’s Too Late," emphasizes that we must move away from intensive industrial farming practices, saying that, "meeting the food security challenges is primarily about empowerment of the poor and their food sovereignty.” This includes, “a rapid and significant shift from conventional... industrial production towards mosaics of sustainable, regenerative, production systems that improve the productivity of small-scale farmers”
For years, the Marion Institute has advocated and supported local sustainable agriculture, and the positive effects it can have on communities and the environment. Currently the Marion Institute's Grow Education program is playing a leading roll in addressing food security issues in the Greater New Bedford area. Grow Education is working directly with the community by creating organic community gardens at New Bedford public schools to educate, raise awareness and foster community-building, an effort that has been extremely effective in getting parents and neighbors involved.
Urban Agriculture is an interesting part of a sustainable food system, but it can be difficult due to regulations and contamination issues. Fortunately many cities are progressing in a forward-thinking direction that we can all learn from. Recently California passed the Neighborhood Food Act. The law ensures that, "people have the right to grow food for themselves regardless of their housing status, and includes provisions that would completely overturn local zoning ordinances that prohibit growing food in front yards, back yards, or otherwise vacant lots.”
Locally, the city of Somerville, MA has passed an Urban Agriculture Ordinance to further encourage the growing of local, healthy foods, including the ability to raise bee’s and chickens in one of the most densely populated Massachusetts cities.
What is next for urban agriculture in gateway cities such as New Bedford and Fall River; community gardens at every school, urban farms, repurposed mills? Priorities are changing; ideas are churning; opportunities are expanding. As always, we are excited to be a part of it!
By Adam Davenport, Grow Education
Eleven years ago, our Connecting for Change conference began as a satellite of the renowned, California-based Bioneers conference. The Marion Institute was so impressed by the depth and range of topics being discussed at Bioneers each year that we wanted to bring that discussion to New England. We hoped to spark interest and debate around some of the growing challenges facing our planet, and most importantly, some of the brilliant solutions being designed by people all around the globe.
We never dreamed that spark would grow into a bonfire of ideas and energy that would ripple out in so many positive ways, for so many years. As the conference changed and evolved, we worked to embody some of the best ideas being shared by our amazing line-up of speakers – moving the venue from UMass Dartmouth into the heart of New Bedford, changing our name from “Bioneers by the Bay” to “Connecting for Change,” adding dynamic youth programs, committing to serving local organic food on a scale unheard of, recycling and composting record portions of our trash, and expanding workshops to provide deep dives for our participants into a fascinating range of topics.
Along the way, we’re most proud of the fact that we’ve provided a powerful venue for people to connect – with ground-breaking ideas, with opportunities for action, with innovative organizations, and with new friends.
We’ve seen the world change in ways that have moved ideas advocated by our speakers from the cutting edge into the center of the national debate: on climate change, sustainable and healthy farming, personal wellness, social justice, and values-based business. And we’ve seen the primary mechanisms for sharing grassroots ideas change from analogue to digital, with new thinking now able to gain traction through a wide range of channels.
As part of our commitment to positive evolution, we’ve decided to further transform Connecting for Change from an annual two-day event into a deeper workshop and lecture series that runs throughout the year: The Connector Series. Instead of providing keynote speakers with 20 minutes, each Connector Series event will have room for a longer presentation, combined with in-depth discussion on the topic at hand. These Connector Series events will take place in an afternoon or evening, at times over a full a weekend. We hope to combine the best aspects of the conference’s keynote addresses and workshops in a way that will serve the public’s need for deeper understanding and greater impact.
We are also appreciative of all of our supporters who have helped keep the Connecting for Change flame burning all of these years, and all the partners and attendees who have used the conference as a launching pad for doing great things. We are looking forward to continuing our important work together!
The Marion Institute is committed to being at the forefront of positive social change. We are committed to identifying coming challenges when they are still on the horizon. We are committed to finding and supporting people with ideas that will make a strong, positive difference in the world.
And we are committed to sharing transformative ideas with you. In all of our work we try to set ideas and energy in motion to have longterm, lasting impact.
We look forward to seeing you, hearing your thoughts, and building your energy at the Connector Series events as they develop.
By Kathleen McKiernan
October 25. 2015 2:01AM
Connecting for Change links ideas to solutions
NEW BEDFORD — Jake Burke of Northampton is trying to create a student social movement at at Hampshire College, while Alanna Gilbert is working in Connecticut to connect under-served populations to health information and careers.
Dave O'Connor, meanwhile, helps deliver furniture and food to families in need as part of My Brother's Keeper, a Dartmouth nonprofit.
Over Friday and Saturday, they were among the many who converged on the downtown to connect real ideas to solutions for change.
The Marion Institute hosted its annual Connecting for Change conference, a gathering in downtown New Bedford that brings innovators and community members together to discuss solutions related to food and farming, policy, innovative tech and design, health and healing, green business, environmental and social justice and women and youth empowerment.
The conference features dozens of speakers and workshops for guests to have conversations around how to address issues, particularly those that plague disadvantaged populations.
"It's connecting people on the ground to those who have resources," said Leah Penniman, owner of Soul Fire Farm, a Grafton, N.Y., farm that is working to address oppressive systems that dominate the food system.
"It can feel nice to remember that what is going on in the world is connected to what I'm doing," said Seth Kolker, a teacher in Central Falls, R.I.
"We see the effects of inequalities and challenges," said O'Connor "It's a wonderful event of progress and change."
On Saturday, these activists gathered in a classroom at Bristol Community College to learn about how Soul Fire Farm uses art and community to return farming and food back to the people, especially people of color, and bring back food sovereignty (or the right of people to healthy food produced in ecological manners and their right to define their own food system).
The first step to making any change, Penniman said, is being a family rather than an institution. The other is to focus on success when trying to broaden support.
"Present the challenges but also present the dignity. We want to see ourselves in a positive light, not victims of circumstance," she said.
The Marion Institute’s partner Himalayan Project is pleased to offer an unrivaled group trekking adventure in Nepal, led by project director Sally Hunsdorfer, from March 8 to March 23, 2016.
This trip will be a classic trek into the environs of Mount Everest, and the Nepalese Sherpa’s world of beautiful mountain villages and Buddhist monasteries. It will start at an elevation of 9200’ and climb to 15,000’, past the renowned Tengboche Monastery. A limited group of just 8-10 people will hike through forests of rhododendron, oak, birch, and silver fir trees, and receive blessings and teachings from Lama Ghesi at Pangboche Monastery.
In the village of Chaurikharka, you will experience firsthand the rhythms of Sherpa daily life, staying in private homes and visiting the classrooms of the village school that has been a major focus of development for The Himalayan Project over the last several years.
Since the two earthquakes in Nepal earlier this year, the Himalayan Project has been raising funds to help restoration efforts in villages like Chaurikharka. The country has recovered strongly and is safe for tourism, but more is needed, and this trip includes a contribution to help continue the rebuilding effort.
Do something good for yourself and good for the world. Discover why few who visit can remain indifferent to the strength, warmth, and loyalty of the Sherpa people. Upon returning to Kathmandu explore the fascinating history and culture of this medieval city. Space is limited, reserve today!
Come join Sally Hunsdorfer and The Himalayan Project team for an unrivaled adventure in Nepal from March 15 to March 23, 2016. Few mountains in the world have the mysticism or draw of Everest. This is a classic trek which starts at an elevation of 9200’ and climbs to 15,000’, past the renowned Tengboche Monastery, to receive blessings and teachings from Lama Ghesi at Pangboche Monastery, trekking alongside the world’s mightiest and arguably most awesome and beautiful mountains! This is a challenging trek through beautiful rhododendron, oak, silver fir and birch forests, past amazing alpine scenery and traditional Sherpa villages and monasteries. You will experience firsthand the rhythms of Sherpa daily life, staying in private homes in the village of Chaurikharka and visiting the village school and its classrooms which have been a major focus of development for The Himalayan Project over the last several years. Discover why few who visit can remain indifferent to the strength, warmth and loyalty of the Sherpa people. Upon return to Kathmandu explore the fascinating history and culture of this medieval city. Come join Sally for a once in a lifetime journey!
The cost for the trip is $3000. This does not include airfare to and from Nepal. Please call the Marion Institute for more information 508.748.0816x119 or email Pam Ellis at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This trek is strenuous but does not require that you have any previous trekking experience. It does not require any technical expertise, only that you be in good physical condition with aerobic endurance which will enable you to hike for 4-6 hours a day over hilly terrain with a day pack.
March 8 Leave the U.S.
March10 Arrive in Kathmandu
March 11 Sightseeing in Kathmandu
March 12 Fly to Lukla, hike to Chaurikharka and spend the afternoon at the school
March 13 Hike to Jorsale
March 14 Hike to Namche
March 15 Acclimatization day in Namche with a side trip to Khumjung and Kunde
March 16 Hike to Pangboche with lunch at Tengboche Monastery
March 17 Rest day in Pangboche with Lama Ghesi
March 18 Hike back to Namche
March 19 Hike back to Chaurikharka
March 20 Fly to Kathmandu
March 21 Rest day in Kathmandu
March 22 Fly home to U.S.
Note from the Nepal Office of Tourism
"Following devastating earthquakes last spring , Nepal has officially been cleared to welcome tourists again, just in time for peak hiking season. Structural engineering firms from the U.S. and Europe oversaw a survey of Nepal's infrastructure and it was determined that the country—as well as Annapurna, Mt. Everest, and other places favored by international tourists—is safe to visit. The Everest Base Camp trail is now open and it's business as usual with most of the teahouses operational. There were several minor landslides that crossed the trail but the locals have been quick to engineer alternative routes where necessary meaning the entire Everest Trek is currently passable without to much difficulty."
“The trip was beyond my wildest expectations. We were totally immersed in the Sherpa, Nepali and Tibetan culture and landscape, thanks to our most knowledgeable guide, Karsang. On the day of fleece distribution to the hundreds of school children, we were brought to tears experiencing their joy in receiving a scarf, hat or fleece jacket.”
- Nancy Bousum
“To travel to Nepal with Sally Hunsdorfer is a very special experience that no traditional tour operator could ever replicate. Because of Sally’s long history and fast friendships with the Sherpa people I was welcomed into their homes and lives like family. I was able to participate in village life and to learn about the Sherpa culture and Buddhist customs up close and personal, as they say. The guides and porters who accompanied us on our trek were long-time friends as well…..and they knocked themselves out to see to it that we were well taken care of and safe every step of the way. I came back from Nepal with more than a lot of pretty pictures. I came away profoundly changed by what I learned and with new friends I hope I will have for a lifetime!”
- Susanne Rheault
“Traveling with the Himalayan Project does not involve just trekking. Yes, under the expert and inspiring leadership of Karsang Sherpa we were able to do both the Mt. Kailash and Mustang treks through scenery that is beyond description. But there was
another level that most treks don’t include. That is the spiritual level – the understanding and appreciation of the Buddhist faith and way of life and the Sherpa culture. These insights were life changing!”
- Karen Budd
“Unless the things I believe in, i.e. the sanctity of all life: human life that includes women and children and native peoples of the earth; non-selective species; the life of wild places; the life of mystery and the life of the earth……unless these beliefs are grounded in interconnectedness, they can become shrill and hurtful to life itself. It is a comfort to have found you!”
- Anonymous Donor
When Zoe Hansen-DiBello walked out onto the stage at TEDx New Bedford last week, it was the kick-off to an amazing day of ideas and inspiration. She set the tone perfectly with a story that was locally focused but thematically universal, sharing the story of how the Marion Institute’s Grow Education program is building gardens in urban schools, and in the process building a richer sense of community and connection in the surrounding neighborhoods.
She talked about how surprised the teachers have been to realize the gardens draw in parental involvement far beyond any other school program. And she talked about how proud the children have been to see their immigrant parents and grandparents sharing their farming skills with the teachers. One student’s Azorean grandmothers made suggestions about how to use every part of the vegetable in soups. Another student’s mother requested that they grow foods that were expensive in the grocery stores.
In each of the 8 schools the program is operating in, the children grew seedlings in their classroom in the winter time. In the springtime, the neighborhood families built raised beds together and then transferred the seedlings. The teachers are using the gardens for lessons in a variety of subjects. And after hours, the local families tend the beds and are free to use the produce for their dinner table. “The garden creates a space where people can connect in a meaningful and authentic way,” Zoe said in her speech, “where parents can participate, not in a formal teacher conference, but in real life.”
Zoe pointed out that our schools are one of the few public institutions that have a lot of land available, especially in urban environments. “We can provide spaces for increasing cultural capital and healthy food, while providing space for engaging school curriculum,” she said, “… the garden is a place where people build relationships.”
Zoe closed with a challenge for all us: “I challenge you to create spaces in your life where you connect in authentic ways with those who are similar and different from you. I believe it is the development of relationships and connections, sometimes through a garden, that will create space for compassion. And it is that compassion and connection to other and the earth that will ultimately create a more peaceful, sustainable, equitable, and just society.”
Zoe’s full talk will be available soon on YouTube, and we will be sure to connect to it on the Marion Institute’s channel.
Laura Killingbeck’s workshop on brining produce proved that just about anything in season can be transformed into a tangy treat.
Killingbeck’s class, the first in a three-part series she will be hosting at Round the Bend Farm, offered guidance to those interested in preserving vegetables.
The process involves submerging, sealing and storing vegetables in a salt water solution inside a jar or vessel. The produce will be preserved by transforming the plants’ sugars into acid.
The end result is a tart vegetable that can last for months. It’s a way that consumers can have vegetables regardless of whether or not they’re in season.
Killingbeck said fermentation also comes with some health benefits. Read the rest on the Dartmouth Weekly Website.
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