We have a long way to go, but we're making progress. Here are some signs that we are moving towards sustainability.
December 9, 2013
Tompkins Weekly 12-9-13
By Damon Brangman
My interest in farming was first sparked as a youth growing up in Bermuda. One of my fondest memories, I was 13 or so, is of bringing fresh organic greens that I had grown to my grandmother. She was so genuinely appreciative of my gift that it inspired me to continue in some way giving to my family and community. My first job was landscaping with my uncle who held a small agricultural and livestock farm. Every morning we had to bring fresh feed and water to all of his animals before going to landscape and garden. This helped to develop my appreciation for the hard work and continuous diligence that goes into the stewardship of animals and in caring for farmed produce. As I got older I continued to farm throughout high school with the neighborhood farmer. He instilled in me the value and importance of growing vegetables organically. This farm, known as “Roots Development,” has grown extensively in size and is one of the only organic farms on the entire island to this day.
As a young teenager my family gave me access to a plot of land to farmland often the younger neighborhood children would come visit, help out and mostly learn about how different vegetables grew. I would harvest vegetables and then cook a large pot of stew, which would be shared with those who came to visit the garden and kids from the community. These opportunities to connect with the younger generation helped to foster an appreciation and understanding of where their food came from and also how to prepare it.
After leaving Bermuda I have carried with me the value of growing my own food and helping others do the same. Currently I work at Cornell Cooperative Extension as a Neighborhood Garden Specialist in the Gardens 4 Humanity Program, an initiative of the Whole Community Project. This program creates access to a range of opportunities for area youth to gain exposure to gardening and farming. The Youth Farm Project, Southside Community Center, GIAC, Ithaca High School’s Garden Club and New Roots Charter School are some of the organizations with which we provide garden-based education. The experience working with Ithaca’s younger community echoes the life that I had cultivated for myself in Bermuda.
I also have integrated this love for farming in my family life. In 2004 I met my wife, Jackie, in Ithaca and we shared a connection over the love of fresh food and attaining better health. We decided to put down roots here in Ithaca. As a family of two we learned from experimenting in our own kitchen and developing delicious and healthy juice and smoothie combinations while using fresh vegetables and greens from our own home garden. After the birth of our first child, we began a small-scale juicing business called Fruits and Roots Juice in order to provide a delicious, nutritious and health-conscious service to our community. We feel intrinsically good about our business: by farming our own organic produce for our juices we are insuring that our customers and community are getting only the best and freshest.
This year I was given an opportunity through Groundswell’s Incubator Farm Program to begin cultivating a quarter acre of land for a period of three years. I plan on using this time to learn about which crop varieties are suited best for this climate and yield the highest quality results for our small-scale juicing business. Our desire is to develop a working model that will demonstrate how to be independent and sustainable by mostly growing our own ingredients and sourcing locally as much as possible. In addition, we hope this model will help to encourage more relationships between local growers and producers of value-added products.
Through our work as educators, farmers and family we seek to share our experience with others in hopes of mutually learning and growing as a community. By sharing our passion for the respect of nature we hope in turn that the youth we work with will continue the legacy of caring for the land and being self-sufficient. As descendants of Africans we also desire to be representative of our ancestors who as a matter of birthright grew their own food and cared for their family and community through food production and sustainable harvesting practices. Our hope is that more people will be encouraged by our efforts and take ownership of their health and the land.
Damon Brangman works at Cornell Cooperative Extension as a neighborhood garden specialist in the Gardens for Humanity program.
December 5, 2013
At Sustainable Tompkins we keep our eyes open year -round for innovations, awards and new initiatives related to sustainability. Each December we recognize these achievements with our Signs of Sustainability Awards. Since 2006 where we recognized 31 individuals and businesses for their sustainability efforts—we have continued that tradition with a Celebration to honor and recognize sustainability achievements by business, individuals, governments and organizations on the first weekend of December.
What started out as handfuls has grown more than ten fold with 345 celebrated in 2012. Today there are more than 2000 Signs hanging in homes, businesses and offices around the County … and that’s not even counting the signs we saw in 2013.
The challenge has been how to share everything we have identified with both those we recognize and the general public. At the annual celebration we’ve tried displaying the certificates, we’ve made posters (and in 2012 banners) that described each groups achievement—in the beginning we even presented the certificates from the podium so the program went on and on. These methods, though not ideal, did give us a chance to showcase everyone in one place—but it was an opportunity that was limited to 2 hours and about 200 people.
Now everyone can celebrate those who have been recognized …
All of the 2013 Signs of Sustainability awardees will be featured in a multi-screen exhibit on display at the Sustainability Center, during Gallery Hours Thursdays and Saturday from 2 pm-6 pm from December 7, 2013 to January 23, 2014. There will be an opening reception on Saturday December 7 and a closing reception on January 23rd. Award recipients and community members are welcome to visit anytime to see the display and browse the Sustainability Center Gallery.
For a preview see the 2013 Signs of Sustainability.
Remember to keep your eyes open for Signs of Sustainability in 2014 and send them along to firstname.lastname@example.org.