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REGENERATING U.S. FARMLAND: K-12 Land Walk Curriculum — How to be an organic certifier

THE ETERNAL FEAR, by Real Organic Project: “At the same time that we are afraid to challenge the fraud, we are being driven out of business by it. It is a legitimate fear, but also a self-destructive one.” “This is why it is so difficult to come forward with such bad news: the USDA’s National Organic Program is failing us.” As ROP is developing an “add-on” label to USDA Certified Organic, I recommend a national K-12 hands-on education campaign: Learn how to be an organic certifier.

This is a lightly edited, slightly expanded version of the March 14, 2021 email that I sent to Dave Chapman and Linley Dixon, co-directors, Real Organic Project, under the subject line: Idea for ROP?

IDEA FOR ROP (Real Organic Project)?

I just read the latest ROP newsletter (The Eternal Fear). I have an idea that could expand your base and your partnerships while accomplishing a few other things—including creating the sea change among U.S. consumers (& voters) necessary to identify fraud, all the while transitioning all U.S. farmland to ROP standards.

Create K-12 curriculum (pilot as an independent study?)
Learn how to be an organic farm certifier:
How to transition land from non-organic to organic to real organic

Obviously, whatever “diploma” the student receives will not credential him/her to be an actual certifier. But the curriculum can ground U.S. students—urban, suburban, rural—in the climate chaos practicalities of agriculture—especially soil, especially the land. I think lots of adults would get behind this idea—parents, school garden coordinators, science teachers, health professionals, etc. 

As an almost-70 year old (Chicago native, retired professional gardener), I can comfortably say that most urban and suburban people are extremely ignorant about practical things like weather, soil, where food comes from, etc. Now that climate destruction is on the table, we can’t afford the next generations to grow up that way. I was pleased that theNew Farmers Almanac included my essay on Urban Soils, Urban Consciousness (p. 375). [NOTE: For an earlier, unedited version, see LEAVE THE LEAVES: Urban Soils, Urban Consciousness.]

Rural kids may not be that much more knowledgeable, given the U.S. TV culture and public schools “teach-to-the-test” paradigm. Ten years ago a farmer colleague from Iowa related a question from a neighbor’s 7-year old (as the family was eating breakfast): “Where do the cows keep the cartons?”

Of course, it’s a perfectly good question for ANY 7-year old. Can ROP make a space for those kinds of questions, K-12? National Farm to School even has an early childhood (ECE) curriculum. As you probably know, NFS is not ONLY fresh, healthy food in the cafeteria. Their 3-pronged programs include (a) school gardens and/or school farms, and (b) food systems curricula for every grade, for every year.

If anyone at ROP wants to explore this idea, I’m happy to have a chat. I have some ideas about how to get started, who might want to partner, etc. (Your 1000 Real Organic Fans might want to help think this through, etc.)

Or you can read the prototype for this “living skills” schooling idea, described in my November blog, LAND WALKS for K-12: Homeschooling & Remote Learning in the 2020-21 PandemicWhether or not ROP is interested, I will probably promote this idea to my networks, including the food & farm listservs. I’ve already shared it with a colleague here in Chicago, Tim Magner (Nature’s Farm Camp, now partnering with Angelic Organics Learning Center). As you can see, I’ve been thinking along these lines for a while. 

P.S. re Fraud, Corruption, Lying

I think Americans are finally understanding how much fraud, corruption, and lying has gone into 200+ years of U.S. policy making—including the U.S. Constitution. Many are ready to call out the fraud—wherever it is. That includes a lot of myths we’ve all swallowed. 

I think it was a mistake to create the USDA NOP as a marketing campaign. I think Grace Gershuny [who drafted the original USDA Organic guidelines] hates when I say that, but I think it’s true. “Salesmanship” is the middle name of the U.S.–adventurers, missionaries, capitalism—and the driving tool of colonialism everywhere. Now it’s time for human societies to concentrate on the truth—starting with restoring our soil and biodiversity.

Native American scholar Barbara Alice Mann (humanities, U. of Toledo) says it very succinctly in her short 2011 essay, Re-matriation of the Truth: “The first step toward sanity is the Rematriation of the Truth. A term coined by the Mohawk poet, Susan Deer Cloud, ‘Rematriation’ retools culture in terms of matriarchal giving. Regarding speech, it means that the Gift of Breath replicates reality; it does not invent some myth convenient to bullies. Rematriation of the Truth means that everyone has access to all the facts, all the time, to facilitate the One Good Mind of Consensus.”