The UN 17 Sustainable Development Goals

The UN 17 Sustainable Development Goals

The 17 Un Sustainable Development Goals
UN 17 Sustainable Development Goals

The UN 17 Sustainable Development Goals are my new favorite thing. I get to deal with these all of the time in my work at Mezzacello. So I decided to write a blog about them.

These are the United Nation’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals (UN 17 SDG). They are not only useful metrics for sustainability; they are guideposts for the future development of programming at Mezzacello.

From the Person To The Globe

The 17 goals may seem random but they build on each other from the individual to the family, to the community, to the nation, to the globe. It’s an elegant way to think about our issue with Climate reality. And the dead center is Goal 9: Industry Innovation and Infrastructure.

Goal 9 is where the system splits into a larger unit. From 1 to 5 it is the individual. Goals 6-9 are community based.

After Goal 10 we start dealing with systemic inequalities and social structures. From Goal 13 we are dealing with the planet itself. And the last two goals, Goal 16 and 17, are societal and global.

Purifying water with natural chemical agents.

The New Source Material

I have been spending a lot of time with these goals of late as I am tying all my workshops and summer camps to them. I have started telling myself narratives and pneumonic devices to remember them. This is how the pattern fell out.

The Design Cycle

Tomorrow I will be working with partners in Columbus at the Columbus Zoo. Last month I spoke at a global conference regarding these 17 Goals. It will be an interesting journey to take with these young people over the next year to discover how we can further explore the implications.

Mezzacello 2.0 Foundations

Mezzacello 2.0 Foundations

This was the moment when the obliteration of what was Mezzacello stopped and the renovation of the Mezzacello 2.0 foundations began. Three slabs that would form the nexus of the new camp structures at Mezzacello. In hindsight, I wish I had added one more for the greenhouse.

The foundations were being poured for the addition of three new sheds that would provide much needed storage, infrastructure, and security to Mezzacello. Prior to this, everything I had at this urban farm was piecemeal. Added as needed and built as best as I could guess I needed.

The Mezzacello 2.o foundations represent a multi-year process of research and interviews I started in 2016. I traveled around and spoke to chicken and poultry experts, farmers, scientists and Amish families. I took photos and created countless CAD diagrams.

It all came down to these three pads of concrete. My line in the sand, Large enough to function, small enough to fit, and low enough to allow sunlight in.

The power systems would be delayed by 1/2 a year due to COVID, but the sheds are solid and well-built. Amish built (it’s own set of difficulties in downtown Columbus) and sturdy. Now I need a new greenhouse, le sigh.

Summer Camps 2022

Summer Camps 2022

Summer Camps 2022
Potential Campers in 2022?

Summer Camps 2022

I am happy to say that #UrbanAgTech summer camps are coming back in 2022! I have a whole series of camps planned around BioTech and Animal Vet Tech, Bioengineering and Automation, Renewable Energy, and BioChemistry and Composting.

Check out my summer Camps 2022 page here at under the events tab. Registration will be opening this month and the price is very reasonable. Until the registration link is live, register your interest here and the be the first on the list for these popular and exciting camps!

I will look forward to seeing you this summer at Mezzacello. You can learn all about last summer’s camps at the following links!

Ohio Farm Bureau 2021 Annual Report

Ohio Farm Bureau 2021 Annual Report

Ohio Farm Bureau 2021 Annual Report
Mezzacello Urban Farm in the 2021 Ohio Farm Bureau Annual Report

I was surprised and delighted that Mezzacello Urban Farm was a highlight of the Ohio Farm Bureau 2021 Annual Report. I really loved working with them last year. And working with the kids, parents, schools, communities, and businesses was a privilege and learning opportunity for me.

The OFB ExploreAg Program Rocks!

ExploreAg at OFB

I want to highlight the OFB ExploreAg program. I have been involved with this program for a few years and I have met some amazing young people in this program!

They continue to serve as inspirations and mentors to me on social media and at OFB events. These bright young ag-minded people inspire me to look at issues and problems in unique and innovative ways.

If you can at all, get involved with or support this program. It is such an important and ongoing program and is very dear to my heart – and mission – at Mezzacello.

Local Collaboration and Support

A huge shout out to The PAST Foundation for serving as my fiscal sponsor while I am waiting for my 501c3 status to clear. Also a shoutout to Bronzeville Agricademy, and Highland youth Garden. They kept me grounded and extended my mission greatly, even during pandemic.

It makes me proud to see what I did in print. It transformed Mezzacello completely. And through that transformation, I am committed to continuing to leverage that grant opportunity to create meaningful change in my community, and around the world as well.

Global Reach

Last year I shared the research and programming I was doing at Mezzacello with global audiences through the UN Food Challenge and through the Invent Future Global Innovation Field Trip; 200 kids from 16 countries all around the world. That was thrilling.

Growth, Health, and Change

But mostly it was thrilling that I get to leverage my unique health crisis, my passion for Applied STEM and my home to make meaningful and replicable change.

Change in my neighbor, my city, my region, nation and ultimately the world. I am a very lucky person and I am ready for even more transformation!

This year, I am continuing to innovate, run summer camps and as a member of the Columbus CEO Magazine’s #Future50 2022 cohort, I expect even more innovation and change!

UrbanAgTech Camps at Mezzacello In June

UrbanAgTech Camps at Mezzacello in June

Exploring Ag Tech, Careers, and Science

How many dolls are in that model of reality?! Can it get any smaller?!


This past summer 2021 I had the pleasure of hosting UrbanAgTech Camps at Mezzacello in June! This camp was a blast and the students captured my heart and taught me so much about teaching kids at Mezzacello. But we did have some crazy adventures!

In one of the early design challenges, the students were given resources to build a secure cage for the baby chicks that were arriving the next day. The students designed and built this mobile habitat and they were so excited to put it together. The kicker was that the instructions were in Piglatin (a simple language algorithm) that surprisingly, middle school kids do not have a lot of experience with.

These students designed and built this mobile habitat for a clutch of baby chicks.

People Plan, But Life Adapts

There was a plan, of course, but teaching 12 kids on an urban farm in the summer during a pandemic has a way of changing plans. The great news is that even our pivots were fun! We built a mobile vet tech hospital, a mobile whiteboard computer lab, and a modified soil testing unit for soil on Mars. It was a great deal of fun!

It was an interesting challenge working with kids in a camp that is also your home. It feels like I never left, and other times everyone else did. Like the time it rained and all the kids called their parents and went home.

You don’t stop working on a farm because it’s raining! You thank the environment and ecosystems for the rain and keep working!

Jim Bruner

We were able work in the six main areas of learning and research! We divided the 12 kids into three teams; Team Red Roses (BioTech) Team Blue Ocelot (Systems Design and implementation) Team Duck (Engineering). The kids were into it, but I discovered that you need to TEACH the other adults in the room, the other 1,000 one needs to know about an urban farm.

Let’s Pivot this camps PEOPLE!

The Research and Products

BioTech/Vet Tech
  • Sanitation
  • Health and Safety Impacts
  • Animal Needs
  • Feed and Water
  • Water Quality
  • Identifying Parasites
  • Microbiologics
  • Planting strategies
  • Food Collection and Prep

Systems Design
  • Computer Development
  • Data Strategies
  • Statistics
  • Coding and Robotics
  • Building Instructions
  • Design Challenge Implementation
  • Testing and Tool Cleaning
  • Robot Deployment

  • Design and Tools
  • Bioreactor Schematics
  • Soil Test Facility
  • Maintenance
  • Door and Sensor Deployment
  • Security and Maintenance
  • CAD and Schematics
  • Robotic Maintenance

Teams Duck, Red Roses, Blue Ocelot Building out a mobile computer lab on a vinyl whiteboard tarp.

The kids and the teams all came together very well. The kids learned and more importantly were able to apply what they learned to solve problems and devise solutions on the fly. That made me very proud.

The most flattering aspect of the camp was the fact that the kids wanted to share what they were learning. Each kid was eager to give tours of Mezzacello to their parents at the end of the day. That was really powerful to watch them explain systems they implemented or things they had designed, or the animals and sanitation systems they cared for.

I was amazed at how excited and smart these middle school kids were about science and the farm at Mezzacello! It was the most delightful tour! They were so eager to share what they’s learned.

Deb Lefman, Neighbor

The teams were also encouraged to film a three minute video to the next camp. In this video they offered advice to the next campers, what their favorite and least favorite part5s of the camps were, and finally what they want their careers to be in the future – based on their experience. that was a delightful and surprising.

I hope to run this camp again. There were lessons learned and successes, but mostly there was fun. See how Camp Two progressed!

UrbanAgTech Summer Camp 2021 Was Brought to Life By Mezzacello, Ohio Farm Bureau, and the PAST Foundation.

Mezzacello Urban Farm

The PAST Foundation

The Ohio Farm Bureau

Mezzacello and the Urban Ag Tech Camps

Mezzacello and the Urban Ag Tech Camps

Students in the Mezzacello Control station taking in data from around the urban farm and entering it into data files to build digital models.

Mezzacello and the Urban Ag Tech Camps was the dream I had when I first started at Urban Farming in 2015. I have been building towards this experience for years. Yes, the original motivations for Mezzacello are multiple; Nonetheless my passion is for education.

Grow, Maintain, Sustain, Explain

These four words are the stated mission of Mezzacello. They motivate and inform everything I do at Mezzacello. Today we are talking about that fourth item, Explain. That is what the #UrbanAgTech camps were designed to do.

In the partnership with the Ohio Farm Bureau and the PAST Foundation, I really was seeking a way to get students to reframe how they think about food and that farming is so much more than farming. In that I think I was very successful. And along the way they learned how to grow, maintain, sustain and explain themselves.

Thanks To My Generous Sponsors

This is the introduction to the experiences and knowledge I acquired running these camps. I will be creating a series of blogposts and resources to expand my ideas and plan for what will be inevitably be the next generation of ag camps here at Mezzacello.

None of this would be possible without the support and encouragement of The PAST Foundation, The Columbus Foundation, Ohio Farm Bureau Foundation, The Global Innovation Field Trip, Invent Future Global, Ohio Invention League, The Henry Ford, and the many amazing volunteers and friends. Over the next few weeks I will be discussing the following aspects:

  • Infrastructure
  • Programming
  • Problem-Based Learning
  • Integrated STEM
  • Logistics
  • Community Development
  • Sustainability
  • Positive Disruption
  • and the magic of children’s imagination.

Compost, Soil Enrichment, and Garden Infrastructure

Compost, Soil Enrichment, and Garden Infrastructure

As winter winds down and the days grow longer, I am back out in the garden beds getting ready for the growing season. This year I am experimenting with compost. Specifically in place composting, popularly called “Lasagna Gardening” or Compost, Soil Enrichment, and Garden Infrastructure.

In the past I have maintained separate compost bins at Mezzacello. This is convenient, but has a serious drawback: I don’t turn them. So it takes extra long for the materials to break down.

I produce copious amounts of biomass here at Mezzacello,  but I am not leveraging it as effectively as I should be. So I am turning to nature and the animals to do it for me.

A New Direction, Down

Over the fall and winter I was watching the chickens in the garden beds. They are master turners. I watched them for hours running around with their little dinosaur bodies scratching and pecking.

Over time I noticed that in the course of a day, they turned over the entire 720 square feet of my gardens. They are prolific scratchers. I have all that compost and manure just sitting in bins. They could be turning that into the garden beds for me.

So I started doing some research (my favorite past time at Mezzacello) and I rediscovered in place mulching and composting. It’s really simple. Also one of my favorite things.

Start by setting down a layer of paper or cardboard to block any weeds. Then on top of this spread manure and compost, then a layer of peat moss, then a layer of chopped straw, a layer of shredded leaves, then finally a top layer of dirt or soil. I’ll let this sit in the sun and rain and cook for a month. Over a season it will break down and I will plant transplants directly into this mesh.

When the season is complete, I’ll add more compost and leaves and let the chickens scratch over the fall and winter. This will require me to do some raking, to keep the beds nice and clean, but it’s easier than hauling compost from the bins in the alley and behind the greenhouse.

I am keeping detailed records of the water capacity and nutritional aspects of the in place composting, similar to the way I tested the “hugelkultur” gardens from last season. I’m interested to see how efficient this system will be.

I am also planning a week-long summer camp with some kids to build a simple lasagna garden and track the emergence of life in the form of bacteria, worms, and insects. That ought to be fun.