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Earth Day 2014 - Honoring Our Connections

The weather vane perched on the cupola of the timber frame barn here at the Learning Center does not sport the commonly utilized farm animals; there is not a rooster, nor a pig. This particular weathervane is adorned with dolphins.

It was originally a surprise gift from our Executive Director, Tom, to his wife Neddy when they built the barn in the early days of the Learning Center. Neddy, an Eco Theologian, was christened into the environmental justice movement when she learned of the plight of dolphins when she still lived in Venezuela.

This simple weather vane is still a symbol of love. As a community, it is a symbol of love for all living creatures and for our connection to all life on earth. Moreover, it does more than point the direction of the wind; it acts as a moral compass – reminding us to attend to the earth with compassion.

We celebrated Earth Day here at the Learning Center with a special farm tour, led by On Farm Educator Randy Mermel. He often uses this weather vane to point out to both children and adults that we are connected to the oceans here on the farm – and that even the small choices we make in our lives have ripple effects in the world. How we tend our fields can impact the oceans. There is always someone downstream.

The water from the farm fields in this area sheds into Kinnickinnick Creek, which then meanders into the Rock River, which flows into the Mississippi, and finally surges forth into the Gulf of Mexico. There is currently a dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico near the mouth of the Mississippi the size of the state of New Jersey – only jellyfish can live there because it is a hypoxic zone, or oxygen depleted. The dead zone is largely an effect of the run-off from industrial agriculture. In fact, modern agriculture is one of the leading causes of ocean pollution.

On the tour, Randy pointed out that waste at Angelic Organics gets recycled so that it doesn’t become a source of pollution. We maintain the fertility of the fields by tending to it with biodynamic compost and by letting it rest in cover crops to replenish the nitrogen in the soil, rather than spraying anhydrous ammonia - a synthetic fertilizer that pollutes the waters.

Farm tour participants could see the contrast first hand as we stood by and watched the Angelic Organics farm crew plant brassicas with the Dutch transplanter. Human hands touched each seedling as it was placed in the dark, living earth. Meanwhile, the neighboring farmer was also working in his fields, circling back and forth in his tractor, spraying chemical fertilizer from a white tank with warning labels emblazoned on the sides.

We’ve come a long way since the first Earth Day, but there is a great deal more work that needs to be done. True sustainability, or better – resilience - comes from recognizing the connections and the inherent value of all living things and operating from a place of reverence and collaboration with the rest of nature. Our choices do have an impact – positive or negative. You can make an impact with your food choices. In fact, you vote every time you pick up your fork. Here at Angelic Organics Learning Center, we are helping to build the sustainable local food network. We hope you will join us!

“Food is life. Food is not just our vital need: it is the web of life.” – Vandana Shiva


Update! While this blog was posted, there was an anhydrous ammonia tank that tipped over in the next town - the third of such recent incidents in the area. Another reason to go organic!