Why Food is Such an Important Resource and the Nourish Learning Lab

Important things in life are rarely ever motivated by just one thing; it’s usually a constellation of things. That is nature’s way as well. People ask me all the time why I am so dedicated to Urban Farming and living as ecologically stable as possible and to not wear them out, I will give them one answer. It’s usually “Because it’s the right thing to do.” But for me it’s deeper than that. For me living sustainably on an urban farm like Mezzacello is motivated by fear, necessity, economics, and reason. I want to just briefly go through these four topics.

When I was a child, I lived in a very unstable home with a mother how was mentally unstable and a drug addict. One of her idiosyncrasies was a paranoia that people were stealing from her. I can only guess at this, as I was just a kid at the time and I never asked her explicitly. But in a fit of mania one day, she took all of the food from the cupboards and locked it in her room with her. She rarely came out, we rarely saw her. My sister and I survived by the grace of public school lunches and summer programs where we would be sure to eat at least once a day. Oftentimes one of my other family members would bring us food, but I have a clear memory of not eating for a few days. That sticks with you, and you never shake it. Even when you have resources, there’s a scar and it’s a motivator. It’s a comfort to me to live in a place of plenty. Hence Mezzacello, my Urban Farm exists.

It’s also true that I have survived a catastrophic medical condition which ended with me losing my esophagus and having my stomach rebuilt to serve as an esophagus. If you know me then you know this is true. Asa result, I CANNOT eat easy, processed food. It is literally poison to me. If I do, I loose all the nutrients in my body in a condition called “Dumping Syndrome” and it’s essentially the same as going without eating for three days. Therefore, I have a direct need to eat fresh food. But fresh food is expensive. and I want to make sure my diet is as varied as possible, Meat, eggs, fish, insects, vegetables and whatever else I can grow to offset those costs. I grow as much as I can, Learning as I go. Feeling and learning from each failure from a sense of hope, loss, and fear. Hence Mezzacello exists.

In order to sustain our global population, we need to change the culture of how we interact, use, grow, transport food. My first instinct is to act. My second instinct is to teach. That is why Mezzacello has such a strong educational flavor. We all of us can do this; it will require compromise and work, yes. But those are better than misery and starvation any day. Trust, me I know. Hence Mezzacello exists.

But a life of all work and no play is not a life worth living either. That’s why Mezzacello is also a formal garden; Beauty is food for the soul. I live in a beautiful park filled with order and overlapping enclosed ecosystems that bring me peace and joy, and indirectly make the world a better place. That’s Rick’s doing. But my systems and inputs enable it. Mezzacello is a model urban enclosed ecosystem. It’s not perfect by any means, but it’s my imperfect dream. It feeds my body, it feeds my soul, it fuels my purpose. Hence Mezzacello exists.

Finally, many of you know that in 2014 I started working with an educational non-profit called The PAST Foundation [www.PASTFoundation.org]. It was a life changing experience for me. I have worked in the education space since 1996. But with PAST I found an organization that really does seek to change the world of education through hands-on learning. I served as project manager for an ambitious grant to create nine outdoor innovation learning labs around Ohio. The lessons I learned facilitating that grant kicked my passion to make Mezzacello a success into overdrive. I applied all those techniques, technologies and insights into my infrastructure.

Now as PAST Foundation embarks on it’s latest Learning Lab, Nourish, I find myself with an opportunity to make a real difference again. Nourish will focus Applied STEM in the service of teaching students, teachers, community and industry new ways of thinking about the art, science, impact, logistics and culture of food. But we need to raise funds. This is where you can help. I have a link below where you can donate, even $10 helps. I have donated $50 just this morning – $10 for each topic in this blog post – because I know this is the change I want to see in the world. PAST has been a great place for me. They really support my mission at Mezzacello – and they take my mission very seriously.

Food from PAST Foundation collected intentionally for the chickens so it doesn’t go to waste. Jim Bruner | Mezzacello

I am in the middle of an important transition right now. My work and private life have merged into a shared sense of purpose with Nourish.  Nourish will take a lot of my work here at Mezzacello and amplify it with Applied STEM and partnering with companies, communities, and students in a way that Mezzacello alone cannot. That fills me with pride, hope, joy. So I will shamelessly ask you to support my mission to help fund Nourish at the end of this blog. After reading this, you may well know better why this is so important to me.

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