Meet our Sustainability Consultant – Who is Growing Growers

| By Lee Warren, Executive Director, Organic Growers School |

Organic Growers School, a local 501c3 non-profit, has been educating folks in western North Carolina for nearly 25 years on all aspects of sustainability and especially organic food production. We serve the Southern Appalachian community by offering workshops, conferences, and trainings that help strengthen and celebrate each person’s move towards self-reliance.

It occurred to us a few years back, that while classroom training is certainly educational and often inspirational, it doesn’t always lead to action. It used to be that we grew up knowing how to tend the soil, grow our own food, medicine, and fiber, and even build our own homes. In fact most of us descend from farmers and land-based peoples. 150 years ago 90% of Americans farmed. 100 years ago, 50% of people farmed and much of the other 50% had basic food, cooking, and growing skills. During the first and second world wars, 20 million Victory Gardens provided up to 45% of fruits and vegetables consumed in the US. Today, less than 2% of people in this country farm.

What that means is that we’ve lost the basic ancestral wisdom to keep ourselves alive. The oral tradition that used to tell us when to harvest, how to store, and how to prepare regional food is mostly gone. So it’s no wonder that participants of our programs often feel intimidated to take their classroom learning to the next level.

The barriers to food production can include a lack of knowledge and/or skill (carpentry, digging, procurement); a lack of confidence or sense of overwhelm; a not knowing where to begin (you don’t know what you don’t know); and even the physical limitations such as strength, coordination, stamina.

Despite these limitations, we desire to increase the number of people who are organic farming in our region and the number of people who are successfully growing on a home and community scale. Why? Because we want to live in a world with a thriving food and farming community. Imagine 20 million gardens in the US today (the number of Victory Gardens in the 1944 US). Imagine 50 million lawns, parks, and community gardens made productive. Imagine 40-50 percent of our food grown regionally by the very people eating it. We believe we can get there.

What we realized at Organic Growers School is that we need to become the surrogate grandparents to those who desire to be growers. Our mission is to grow growers. A sort of heart to heart, eye to eye, hand to hand, transference which happens best on the one-to-one.

To that end, In 2016, we introduced a new offering into our suite of programs. Our Sustainability Consulting Program offers one-on-one education, outreach, and support to the full range of OGS constituents (Farmers, Home-Growers, Healthy Consumers, and those interested in Sustainable Living) through year-round coaching and consulting on all aspects of sustainability and organic growing.

Meet Brandon Greenstein. He is the Organic Growers School Coach & Consulting Program Director and his goal is to get folks growing. His background is in Renewable Systems, Earth Works, Energy, Water, Homesteading, and Permaculture, specifically providing consulting, design, and technical services for the creation of low impact and energy conserving systems. He’s lived in this region on a small, hand-built, off-grid homestead for more than 18 years. He can both see the big picture and the small picture which is helpful when working with long-term land projects.

We’re excited by this program which can help people take the next step in their journey, whether it’s buying and cultivating land or implementing a small solution on an urban home. The ultimate outcome of that is an empowered population of folks, successfully growing organically on a home- and community-garden scale, who are financially and nutritionally resourced, ready to take a seat at the political table and use their voice to advocate for more equitable, sustainable and accessible food systems and a vibrant, engaged community.

To Learn More:
Brandon Greenstein
Home Grower Program Director

Sandi Tomlin-Sutker
Written by Sandi Tomlin-Sutker