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Greening America: Talking with Mindful Metropolis Publisher/CEO Richard McGinnis, Part Two

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Welcome back for the second half of my interview with Mindful Metropolis publisher/CEO Richard McGinnis. We've been talking about Mindful Metropolis within the context of the evolution of the environmental movement. So, Richard, it sounds like you're in exactly the right place at the right time! I understand that you live on a farm in northwest Illinois. Can you tell us about that? Were you always a farmboy or is this an evolution for you, too?

Ah, another big answer that involves both the philosophical and the practical. Yes, I grew up on a farm. I spent much of my early childhood shucking corn, shelling peas, chasing chickens and eating really good, high quality food. The problem was that I did not know how wonderful I had it, and I couldn't wait to get away from it. I lived in downtown Chicago for roughly 20 years, and maintained an apartment there until recently. My real home is the farm, though.

What I got from both my rural and my urban experience taught me that the two have to come together somehow. The food resources in the urban environment are lacking except to the privileged segments of the metropolitan community who can afford to shop the seasonal farmer's markets and stores like Whole Foods. One of my passions is bringing together farm and city concepts by working closely with organizations like City Provisions, FamilyFarmed.org, and Slow Food Chicago. Mindful Metropolis believes in collaboration and education. Introducing children and adults to healthy food resources -- which could be more abundant in the Midwest -- is paramount for both the citizens and the planet. My personal relationship with my farm has taught me the value of organic food, proper care of the land, and appreciation for the gifts of nature.

So you've come full circle and are back on the very same farm of your youth? How poetic. Tell us a little about City Provisions, FamilyFarmed.org, and Slow Food Chicago. I'm not familiar with them. And I'll bet there are plenty of others like me who inhabit the same space - the Chicago area - but are oblivious to them, too.

We are a little short on poetry. The farm of my youth was huge and in central Alabama. My property, just about 100 miles west of downtown Chicago, is much smaller. By comparison, it could only be described as a mini-farmette. However, a lot of the principals I employ are the same as my ancestors: I grow as much as I can, preserve as much as I can, and share as much as I can in an environmentally sensitive model.

City Provisions connects people with food sources by hosting farm dinners during the summer and a supper club the rest of the year. The farm dinners are especially interesting. The owner and chef, Cleetus Friedman, rents a bio-diesel bus and takes approximately 20 guests from the city to a local farm with a sustainable mission. Cleetus introduces the guests to the farmer, gives a tour, then prepares a sumptuous meal using all farm ingredients. He provides beverages from small local companies, and teaches guests about the food they eat and how it was grown. The supper clubs are much the same except they are hosted in the city with multiple local farmers contributing to the meal. They also accommodate 45 guests. Cleetus only serves food purchased from farmers he knows personally. He closes the loop on food.

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FamilyFarmed.org was founded by one of the original founders of Conscious Choice, Jim Slama. FamilyFarmed has a hand in all things sustainable and farm-related. Primarily, they do public policy advocacy for sustainable farming initiatives, source funding for family farms to employ environmental practices and hang on to ancestral land that is quickly being gobbled up by agribusiness, and they host a yearly exposition where local farmers and supportive organizations come together and share skills, knowledge and products with the metropolitan community.

Slow Food Chicago promotes good, clean and fair food. Their primary goal is to connect eaters with the Chicago region's bio-diverse and sustainable producers through social events, education and organizational partnerships.

I should also mention that Cleetus Friedman from City Provisions and Amy Cox from Slow Food Chicago gave an excellent presentation for Mindful Metropolis' recent film screening of FRESH! (www.freshthemovie.com).

And, you are correct. There are other organizations doing great work in our area and around the country. It would be impossible to go into any reasonable detail about those for whom we are so grateful.

I like that - "mini-farmette." It's great that you have harmonized your home life and professional life. I love the principles behind Family Farmed and Slow Food Chicago. But the farm dinner concept of City Provisions particularly catches my fancy. What a great teaching opportunity - Edible environmentalism!

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Funny you should use the word "harmony." I have the kanji for the word harmony tattooed on my back (is that too much information?). I offer that up solely for the proof of the importance of the word. My urban existence, my rural dream and Mindful Metropolis are not only harmonious, they are inseparable.


Is there anything you'd like to add, Richard?

I am sure I could add plenty, but I will leave that for the book.

Thanks so much, Richard. It's been a pleasure.

My pleasure! Thank you!

Good luck with your new endeavor. I look forward to future issues of Mindful Metropolis. And the book, of course!

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Joan Brunwasser is a co-founder of Citizens for Election Reform (CER) which since 2005 existed for the sole purpose of raising the public awareness of the critical need for election reform. Our goal: to restore fair, accurate, transparent, secure elections where votes are cast in private and counted in public. Because the problems with electronic (computerized) voting systems include a lack of (more...)
 

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