Regenerative Farming Scholarship

A  truly once in a lifetime moment arose last week at Linger, the restaurant where I work.  Darren Doherty, a man I knew nothing about when I met him last week (other than he was Australian), his wife, Lisa and their son Zane were seated at my table with another amazing man that I did know a little about Mike Callicrate. I’ll get back to Mike in a minute.  These amazing people started talking with me about their projects and all the work we were doing at SOCF came into conversation. They generously offered me the unique opportunity to have a full scholarship for their world-renowned 10 day course, REX (Regrarians 10) (taking place across the US and finally in Chile) about “regenerative farming.” Naively, I assumed this course was simply similar to “Permaculture,” the permanent agriculture field, created by Australians, Bill Mollison and David Holmgren.  As it turns out this course is so much more than I ever could have fathomed.   

Prior to taking the class, SOCF and I have been working with our Nepali partners at Prakriti Ko Ghar (PKG, a Nepali Non-Profit) to support the Lali Gurans project (www.socfusa.org/laligurans or www.lali-gurans.org ) with sustainable farming and permaculture designs.   As determined as we have been to have the absolute highest standards of systems and designs in these fields  (including but not limited to our cover crops, bio-intensive method, soil regeneration, rotational cropping, fire breaks), I realize I have so much more to learn.  Every minute is enlightening and filled with new possibilities.  There is so much material to process that I am just spending each moment absorbing as much as possible.   

Darren, his non profit Regrarians (www.regrarians.org ), and regenerative farming are on a whole other level.  Darren has taken on the daunting task of breathing life back into a dying keystone of society: industrial farming and food production.  As well, I have learned that sustainable farming may not be the right word.  Darren made it clear to me at our first meeting that, “nature cannot sustain itself, it regenerates itself.” Therefore, he believes regenerative farming is the way towards the future.

From this journey, I’ve learned in-depth what challenges farmers both foreign and domestic are facing such as their ever-dwindling water resources, lacking soil quality (due to pollution and a lack of phosphorous and the use of chemicals), EPA restrictions on farms (which while perhaps have solid intentions) have a devastating impact on the small farmers.  I was told that last year more than 40,000 farms in the U.S. have gone under or disappeared. Conditions have gotten so bad that the majority of family farms find their youth not wanting to stick around and manage the business; or, conversely parents often encourage their children to pursue other fields because of the immense daily struggles. The majority of farmers in the U.S. are in debt or only function due to subsidies that result from tedious claims through their insurance companies. Needless to say, our food production, and therefore our very lifeline is threatened.

The future though is not so bleak thanks to the practical education that Darren has created. His courses offer viable solutions to all these issues through a pragmatic and holistic approach. I encourage anyone reading this, whether you are in the field of permaculture and regenerative farming or not, to research the work of the Regrarians in more detail (see the HTML links throughout) as if nothing else, their work will truly inspire you.

The Regrarians also break down the main components to manifesting a economically viable regenerative farm and offer their REX course to further detail these various aspects such as geography, water, access (meaning roads), forestry, fencing, soils, marketing, and energy. The first day of REX, “Climate,” deals with more forms of the word than we generally think, such as the social climate of the people involved with the farm (the hierarchy of the people working at or with the farm, as well as the consumers who depend on the farm economically or as a source of food), as well as the actual environmental climate itself.  This is often overlooked and is so essential as if the people themselves fail, the farm fails and vice versa.

Now returning to Mike Callicrate—the man, the myth, the soon to be legend, and owner of Callicrate Farms where REX Kansas takes place: as I mentioned, I knew a little about Callicrate Farms previously, because the restaurant I work at uses his beef and pork in different dishes.  I already knew that Mike (along with a small group of farmers) had taken on the beef industry for being unjust and bias with which producers they were more readily dealing with and providing benefits to (usually the large scale producers who often utilize inhumane and harmful farming practices). As a result, smaller producers went bankrupt or were left struggling, and having to take lower than market prices just to sell their products.  The case, which made its way to the Supreme Court, was decided in favor of Mike and his associates. However, once that was all said and done, the beef industry, resentful, stopped accepting any of his products at all.

Mike was left between a rock and a hard place; he had to create and adapt.  He created one of the first, if not the first, mobile slaughter units. These were designed not only to offer services to smaller farms (that can’t afford or don’t want to use cruel and mass-production units) but also to provide more humane ways of dealing with the livestock.  Instead of inducing the horrible and stressful conditions which leave animals stressed and sickly (having to watch each other bleed out in front of each other), the animals are privately, quickly, and humanely slaughtered.  This process is otherwise a very dramatic event for the animal in which livestock will release stress hormones as a response. These hormones actually release into the meat, which can affect the flavor, quality, and health of those who consume the food.

I actually felt I had to watch one slaughter, not because I was excited to see something like that, but just because I needed to see with my own eyes and sense what the animals go through.  It was a quite hard for me because of the compassion I have towards resulting from work on Lali Gurans and living in Nepal where the people respect the cow as their Hindu deity (Dhurga).  I also asked another student to prod me with the cow prodder, just to know how it feels. I suppose I felt that if I’m going to eat beef, I need to fully absorb the process.  

Mike has created other financial support links to the farm and diversify: his “bander” inventions (a product to ease the task of cutting the testicles off the animals) www.callicratebanders.com . This is better for the animal because other methods cause the animal more pain, the need to sedate the animal, or the risk of infection. Cutting the bulls testicles also create a higher fat content in the bull and thus higher value on the market.  They also have created a metal fabrication business, a farm to table distribution business (www.ranchfoodsdirect.com ), No Bull Inc, and a new venture creating bone char (a way to utilize the bones from the farm to rejuvenate the soil in a big way).  Bone char adds more phosphorous, absorbs nitrogen, filters fluoride, and is a porous material which retains more water.

Mike and Darren are now working together to combine their unique talents and designs. Together they will take Callicrate farms and regenerative farming education to the next level.  This will allow Mike to lead the way of the future for production, permaculture on a larger, more industrial level. However, when I say industrial, I don’t mean in the same way we think of the term as applied to farming now. The goal is to completely redefine the term with a very conscious, long term, mindset.

If all this wasn’t enough to write about, there is yet another great, unexpected part of this journey: the other students.  I say students lightly because everyone here has so many other “real world” talents to learn from that they could all be considered teachers as well.  Each of these amazing people have so many equally important and innovative experiences, passions, and wisdom to share.  I sit and learn during class; when we have free time, I sit and learn from the students. For me coming into REX with very little knowledge has been challenging because my hand doesn’t move fast enough.  My lack of understanding has been filled by these other students. I have learned the importance of specific species, the importance of native grass production to feed the livestock, the necessity of innovations in tools and systems, and perhaps most important, what obstacles they have faced and the solutions they have come up with to overcome.

I am forever in debt for all of these amazing people, from Darren and Lisa at Regrarians, to the other students here learning with me, Mike Callicrate, and everyone on this amazing farm. Because of you I now have the tools to make a truly successful farm that will support Lali Gurans and hopefully countless future projects to come.




 

Patagonia and the NRN

Tuesday, March 8, 2016, was an auspicious day.  Following up on our RideOM trip, I flew out to California to first meet with Patagonia. I was honored with an invitation to discuss, in person, their incredible early childhood development program in the context of Lali Gurans. I very nearly cried, caught myself twice.  It was a dream come true to see Patagonia's early childhood development program (ECD) in action, as it functioned at their headquarters. 

I met with Anita Furtaw, an incredible and passionate director who has been working in ECD programs for 40 years. Her plans and ideas have been utilized in some of the best ECD practices in the world with Patagonia's, in my opinion, being the crowning achievement.

Everything I felt was possible to be provided for our children, and all children, starting at a very young age, I saw happening before my eyes. Children around the age of 1 year old were able to understand the caretakers speaking to them in English and Spanish.  The children could even use aminimal amount of sign language to communicate when they are hungry or when they are finished eating. This outside the box and advanced thinking in education creates a drive for knowledge and success in the children’s minds from a very young age. Perhaps most importantly, Anita and Patagonia have developed a program where creativity flows so freely you can see it in their children's eyes at any moment; it is palpable.  There was no fighting, no greed but a symbiotic balance of respect and care between children and caretakers: one of the most beautiful things I have seen in a while. Watching the children play outside in their multi dynamic space was inspired and inspiring.

A key element to Patagonia's ECD program is that they feel whatever can be taught inside can and should be taught outside whenever possible to connect the children to nature, and the importance of respecting our shared enviornment. This is exactly what the world needs to ensure the next generation will be adaptable in creating solutions to healing our ever endangered world. 

I cannot thank Anita and Patagonia enough for showing us the way for their insights into this incredible world of educational possibilities that I know will change the world for the better.

After, I had the good fortune to meet with the Non-Resident Nepali Agency,  (NRN) a Nepali organization with serious clout and interest into supporting SOCF and Lali Gurans! I attended to watch the presentation of SOCF partner Kishor Lohani, the president of Prakriti Ko Ghar (PKG), the Nepali firm helping to develop and maintain Lali Gurans. Though we were incredibly nervous as we had no idea what time he was going to present, and stressing over every detail like what kind of cables we needed to have to connect to their projector, we, as always pulled through by working together.

The event, arranged at a Nepali restaurant complete with Dal Baht music and traditional dancing was chaotic, yet beautiful, in such a way that a part of me felt I was back in Nepal.  Though the microphone was--until Kishor had it raised--too low to hear most of the other speakers, and the crowd wasn’t listening too much at first as children were running around unsupervised, spraying each other with “Silly String” foam, once Kishor stood up, he killed it. They all listened intently to his words and to our work.  I could feel the curiosity in the room spike exponentially.

The conclusion of this auspicious day?  We are very hopeful that if we (SOCF) puts in the time to review all the resources Anita gave us, we will make something even more incredible than our already award-winning project. We hope that she will help us tocontinue to refine the programs we dream of creating for the children of Lali Gurans and the community, so that we can create the best educational programs Nepal has ever seen.  As well, the NRN seem more than interested in helping our project. They have agreed tohelp us arrange fundraisers in different state (they have chapters all across the country) and hopefully, upon our soon to be granted 501 C 3 status, might even help finance the project as well. 

Suffice it to say, this day was a good day!

 

Reaching Out

SOCF Chair Eric Goodline and I returned from riding ourbicycles 1,600 miles from Colorado to Ventura California to meet with Patagonia. I got to shake the hand of a personal hero of mine, Patagonia's founder Yvon Chouinard.  They invited us to discuss their incredible Early Childhood Development programs in hopes that we may emulate their amazing work with our Lali Gurans orphanage programs.  Additionally, we met incredible people at every turn willing to go above and beyond to support and promote the accomplish. The love for what we were doing was phenomenal.  Mission accomplished.  

Now my thought is more exposure. Let's keep this up. It's the snowball effect. We've started getting people really into what we are doing and we need to keep it going. The real question is how.

One way is I wanted to make myself more accessible to people as many seem interested but are almost afraid to ask--afraid to take that leap of faith that what we are doing, as strange and outside the box as it might be just might be the key to helping bring widespread change. To this end, our team has created the new "Ask the Founder" website at www.socfusa.org/askthefounder where you can email me questions directly (even anonymously).  

Conversely, I have to access more people. Those of you familiar with Denver know that there is an abundance of panhandlers around town.  Some of these people are truly amazing souls if you take the time to talk to them. Though most people just assume they are out there for drug or alcohol money. I began to think about their stories and I had an idea, for better or worse, to model a new mission in kind.  What if I  stood with them on street corners around town, not necessarily for money, but to bring attention to Lali Gurans and SOCF? I might even help the other panhandlers out by drawing attention to their ordeals in turn.

Yesterday, I went down to the Union Station Light Rail, again not to take money, but to reach out to others in hopes they “like” or “share” the Facebook page.  It has been challenging. Some people are receptive. Many don’t even give it a chance. Maybe because they are jaded and assume I have a self-serving motivation involved. And I suppose I do. I want to create something good in the world. I don’t want to imagine a world where there is more bad than good around me.  There’s just too much on the television to persuade us that the world is out to get us. I am determined to break through and make people believe in better.

The signs I am using for this little initiative say: “Ask me about when I was a millionaire and 3 inches taller” (to get people’s attention), and “I have a job and a home” (so people realize I’m not asking for money), and “Help us finish/spread the word, building an orphanage in Nepal, www.socfusa.org”

Many people read the signs, few approach. Some that I make eye contact with I walk up to them politely and ask if a can give them something.  It seems the people most fearful or put off tend to be the ones wearing nicer clothes. In a way it is slightly entertaining to see people’s reactions. 

I will keep trying but am working on other marketing projects as well. We really need to have more progress for the project soon.  If you have any ideas, please feel free to send them to us at LaliGurans@socfusa.org.

We will succeed. And to anyone reading this, be inspired in life. Take chances. Don’t turned a blind eye.  Things aren't always what they seem. If you do possibilities will pass you by. Otherwise, you might just change the world one step at a time.

Two Nights in Arcosanti: A RideOM! Update

November 29 2015

Upon riding into the community of Arcosanti (en route to Prescott, Arizona), I was immediately inspired by the vision of Dr. Paolo Soleri, an Italian Architect who worked under Frank Lloyd Wright (another amazing architect that inspired me in my youth). Seeing the threat of population growth and its exponential draining of our natural reserves, Dr. Soleri acted to create a sustainable community that was (and still is) ahead of its time.  By creating a concentrated community that spreads vertically rather than outwards, Dr. Soleri aimed to keep as much of the world’s natural habitat untouched to allow for regrowth and environmental preservation.  These mega-structures would contain sustainable passive systems better equipped to handle the ever growing needs of mankind without continually draining and damaging our natural environment. Dr. Soleri's ideas also allow human beings to live in better harmony with each other and the world, weakening our dependence on cars and reducing our carbon footprints.  

Though most of his designs are, so far, only conceptual, his theories and concerns still hold true and are ever more deserving of global consideration.  The heart of these values and ideals encompasses what we seek to accomplish through Lali Gurans.   In essence, we will create a living breathing structure that provides the children with all their needs while simultaneously respecting and preserving the natural world surrounding them. Through an incredible marriage of modern architecture and passive sustainable-systems, the social and environmental atmospheres can coexist and thrive together.

The people at Arcosanti are all incredible, residing in a community which began back in the early 70’s, existing without the need for much construction since its conception.  However, Dr. Soleri's dream is still incomplete compared to his original conceptualization.  Arcosanti was designed for 5,000 people, though, as of now, only 65 people reside there.  This makes me think about my project.  To have a dream unfinished is quite the weight; heavy is the load.

We set out to leave early in the day from Arcosanti but early became late as I had to change both tires on Eric’s trailer. On the way to Prescott, a “trance” song that I had never heard played while I was riding and contemplating everything.  I began thinking all I have is my mind, my heart and my body, while I was beginning the ascent on a large hill.  As the climax of the trance song played, its piano-based vibes sent me flying up the hill.  All I have IS my mind, heart, and body; this will be enough to finish my own dream.

Often while riding I get into what feels like a meditation. Some of my best ideas come from touring on my bicycle.  I am, from now on, a cyclist.  My back hurts, yet it is getting stronger.  It seems as if my stomach in disappearing into my rear. My right leg is getting much stronger (my right leg has had a lot of atrophy problems since the car accident.

We think we can be in California in the next two weeks!  We’ve made it 2/3 of the way and over 1,000 miles.  That's something I never thought I would say. Keep believing and RideOM!

Christopher Gish

President and Founder

Seeds of Change Foundation

 

 

One for the Books: A Night to Remember

A small group of committed caring individuals helped me to create something truly special to raise money and awareness towards the disaster relief for Nepal. In fact, large in part it was those that I grind with day-in and day-out working at Linger restaurant (Denver, CO).  I’ve been planning a fundraiser with the help of Linger’s sister location Ophelia’s Electric Soapbox (a new music venue downtown in Denver).  They gave me permission and support to have use of Justin Cucci’s location last night, August 10th 2015.  

The week before the event we had only sold 7 tickets and the plug was almost pulled on the event, because there didn’t seem to be enough interest, but all the "Linger-ites" both Front of House (FOH) and Back of House (BOH) showed their support, as well as, my managers, and the show went on. The morning of the event I got word the three of my five volunteers weren’t going to be able to make it.  One had to go to the Urgent Care while another had just too high of a temperature to make it in.  In fact, every person that volunteered for this event is one of a kind.  I carefully selected each one, though they don’t know it. All hard workers, incredibly honest, and I knew would bring a very special energy to this event.  And that they did, everyone came through with style. 

It was indeed a great venue, for a great cause, with an amazing live performance by "afro-funk” style 10-piece band Atomga.  However, it was the people that were there (customers and volunteers) making it something memorable.  Reginald, the energetic host with the most, welcoming people at the front door, presenting everyone with love and Nepali Katas. There are those behind the shadows that helped bring the event together (Megan Baldwin, Shannon Jones, Eric Goodline, Bria Stade, James DeRoche, Lulu Clair, and Peter Kitzes; to name just a few).   The volunteer staff from Linger who after working hard all night without pay, gave their individual tips from customers showing a whole other level of support for our cause.  I wanted to cry I was so moved.

Isn’t it strange that it is in fact the hard working people that bring balance and hold up the pillars of civilization, not the wealthy alone; yet, these people are often so easily forgotten.  The most genuine and giving people I have known in  my entire life have always been the people that work hard and have less.  I am proud to be one of those people.  And I love each and every one of you.

Every single person there last night left happy from the guests, to the volunteers, to the band that played almost an hour and a half past their contract set, with no drama during the night whatsoever! How often does that happen in the world, let alone at an event? 

The All-Star of the night was without a doubt Paul Attardi for saving the event after my genuine but awkward speech. Paul’s energy demanded our hearts and ears.  He was somehow able to raise more money from the 7 auction items we had for the event (which included: a Buddha statue, movie tickets donated from Landmark Theaters, a new pair of Icelantic skis, Gift Certificate to Earls and Roadhouse and Old Major restaurants, and Paul’s addition of a bottle of champagne/china set) which amounted to $3,400 in addition to the incredible surge of ticket sales. Pretty astonishing. The people that attended were all so giving, even the ones that didn’t attend but instead bought tickets to save the show from being cancelled.

On the way home from work one day, when I was worried about the event, a friend made me believe, more than anything, that people care to find genuine and transparent people in their world as there tends to be a trend of plasticity in our society. He said that is why people support me; and that is what makes all these challenges worthwhile.  It is not the attention that matters to me, but the feeling that, as Margaret Thatcher puts it, "a small group of caring, loving, individuals can change the world.

Christopher Gish
President and Founder of the Seeds of Change Foundation

 

To the Children of Nepal

To the Children-

In making this new building for you and in everything I do, know all of this is for you. I hope that you will realize the ability that you have in yourself.  I can see great things waiting for all of you. Many people-- an insurmountable list of people-- have accomplished amazing feats during their lives, things people say are impossible even today; yet they did it:  climbing the tallest mountain, walking on water, healing millions of people, building impossible things. Human beings are capable of accomplishing anything.

More than anything else that comes of this new building, I hope to show you and empower you to shoot for the stars during your life, to pay it forward.  In truth, it should be more common for people to do big things in this world.  Everyone has the same capability, even if they don’t start with the same advantages. Most people just don’t dream big enough. Dream big, and believe in your dream.  This is the simple trick.  The biggest limitation that holds us back from greatness is ourselves; our fears, our doubts, our disappointment. Let go of these things, and believe in something beautiful. The world will literally open for you.

I will sell everything that I possess to build this new home for you. I will do everything in my power to make my dream come true for you. All I ask in return is to empower you, open your minds to possibilities, and to do what you can to bring human beings to a higher level of living.  You are the future. You can succeed where others have failed. 

People need to be shown how to produce for themselves. When governments fall apart and natural disasters persist, people need to be shown the way back to build again.  They will need to be reminded how to create food, water, and shelter for themselves.  I am creating this building so that you become experienced in these invaluable skills and be able to teach it to others like you in need.

We all have the same ability and power; you just need to know how to use it.   When people don’t know how to use it, they just hurt themselves in a destructive path of fear and disappointment. They know only a temporary happiness that will not last.  I hope I can show you how to find happiness that doesn’t disappear, but stays with you because it becomes a part of you.

I am not special. Truly, I am not. I am probably more flawed than most people. I have been beaten to a pulp, to a point where doctors said I could never live a normal life. Yet I am doing and seeing more than the average person.  I don’t have a higher education. I don’t come from a wealthy family. Everything I have, I have discovered on my own.  I will show you what one person can accomplish when he or she believes in themselves. 

Listen not to the negative people. Listen to what the world tells you can be, and what you know is right.  It will never lead you astray. I didn’t realize this potential until I reached death and had to fight my way back.  Then, when I saw what I was capable of, I knew what I had to do. Through tragedy I found purpose, and this purpose brought me to you.  Like a lotus flower born from the muddy water, my dreams and your dreams can and will endure and blossom. I will not leave you until I accomplish my goal.  You can help me remind the world of what beauty is.

Trying to change the whole world is impossible, but focusing on changing the world around you is something any one person can do if they believe.  In that simple way, you will have an impact on the world.  Only once you change yourself will changing the world be more possible.  Open your minds and go after something pure. Life is fragile. Don’t waste it, cherish it and seek the opportunity to create great things for the world. You can make a difference.

May the stars shine down on you and to thine own heart be true.

 

 

Christopher Gish

President and Founder

The Seeds of Change Foundation