Plant! Cook! Organize! Staff Training Update


Various members of Planting Justice Staff convened Tuesday, May 26th for an internal training around the Plant! Cook! Organize! Curriculum currently in development here at the organization. The curriculum, which includes 18 lessons, covers some exciting methods and techniques to give Staff members the training to facilitate workshops with communities most impacted by poverty and food injustice. The curriuculum, which includes workshops like Plants as Medicine, Farrmworker Justice, and Holistic Wellness, are hands on, interactive and inspiring.

Alisia Brown, who splits her time between the Education team and the Canvassing team, facilitated the workshop, What Is A Food System? This 90 minute piece traces the journey of an apple from seed to it's ultimate destination, which in this case was the bottle of fresh pressed apple juice Alisia brought to make kale smoothies.

We had a chance to discuss the folks who labor in growing, harvesting, processing, transporting, selling, and managing the waste of this apple, including low wages, illness born from the stress of hard labor in a toxic work environment with the immense pressure of being a migrant worker juxtaposed in poverty, and little time to chill and relax with family friends and community. What Is A Food System also provided an opportunity for us to discuss the high cost of distribution; food waste and ways to create people-earth positive change in a system that is largely uncritiqued by most of us on  a day to day basis. For instsnce, we were all really disturbed by the fact that 50% of the food produced in US is never becomes waste.

We highlighted some of the organizations and people, like that work to educate and inspire the community to make positive change around handling waste, like installing convenient compost and recycling bins at schools and replacing lawns with drought tolerant or greywater-fed gardens. Our discussion highlighted better wages for farmworkers; worker owned farms; and paying better respect to the workers handling our waste. These are tough, necessary jobs that should, we thought, be held in higher esteem because of their crucial impact on our environment. We connected this to the way Grace Lee Boggs challenges us to reimagine our definition of work, writing in 2011, “The continuing jobs crisis is an opportunity to go beyond protest organizing for more jobs and begin imagining work that frees us from being the appendages to machines that we have become because of our dependence on jobs. Instead of looking to politicians for programs that will provide millions of jobs, we need to encourage the creation of work that not only produces goods and services but develops our skills, protects our environment and lifts our spirits.” Another well facilitated workshop was hosted by Alejandra Cano, who works with the Transform Your Yard team. Alejandra's workshop focused on Plants as Medicine. Alejandra shared a variety of herbs that she harvested that afternoon, like rosemary; peppermint; calendula; and the leaf of plantain (which was new to me!). We take inspiration from bell hooks holistic approach to education in a way that honors the mind, body, and spirit, where the classroom can transform from a source of constraint to a source of liberation, and to find ways to use collaboration to make learning more relaxing and exciting.

We had an opportunity to sketch each herb and using Planting Justice Plants as Medicine guide, research and share the uses and benefits of each one. Plantain leaf for instance is a great healer of wounds, cuts and abrasions because it is both a natural anti-inflamatory and  anti-biotic. All you do is chew it  to release it's healing  properties and wrap it around the affected area. This practice reminds me of something my great grandmother, a woman of African and Native origin, used to do. Mama Deah would chew fresh tobacco leaf and press it into the swelling skin of folks who had been bit by wasps or spiders. Seemed strange to me as a kid, but now I understand the wealth of her folk knowledge, passed down for as long as people have been interacting with plants and the earth. Since we've lost much of our indigenous knowledge of natural healing, because of Western Medicine's focus on chemicals and man made medicine which treats symptoms and not root causes, this workshop was especially eye opening and excited us all to the healing gifts of the earth  provided by whats growing around us and within us.

The Holistic Wellness workshop by Maya Salsedo is an amazing tool that yielded space for us all to look within ourselves for things that make us really happy and find balance as well as the things that stress us out. Honoring the Native American wellness wheel, which observes the reflexive nature of the earth and all things inhabiting her land, balance and attention to our whole selves, as opposed to parts of ourselves, is highlighted in this part of the curriculum. In the end we have to ask ourselves, each one of us, how are we making the earth happy with our habits? How are we stressing her out? When she is unhappy or stressed, we all feel it. When she is feeling great and satisfied with our contribution to ourselves, her and our communities...she lets us know as well.

The next day, Maya and I had the opportunity to take part in the Holistic Wellness workshop when we went to Santa Rita Jail, where Planting Justice work with men and women to explore the deep impact lack of food justice has on our communities. Because it gave each participant an opportunity to survey herself, the workshop was engaging and informative and yielded some methods of gauging the impact of both joy and pain in our day to day lives.

Darryl Aikens, who works with the Transform Your Yard team and participated in the day long training, enjoyed a chance to look at his own life through the lens of the Holistic Wellness workshop. "I didn't realize until doing this workshop that I'm spending a lot less time on myself. I spend so much time in traffic, getting from here to there, that I'm not working out the way I used to. I'm gonna change that."

Marcelo Garzo facilitated an introduction to trauma-informed education to realize the widespread impact of trauma and to find ways to respond to the symptoms of trauma by fully integrating knowledge about trauma into the practices and lesson plans of the Planting Justice curriculum. To resist re-traumatization, we are creating a culture of safety and support, to recognize triggers in ourselves and others, and actively provide self-care/community care.

The Plant! Cook! Organize! curriculum, a collaborative effort of Planting Justice Educators and community allies will be available online soon!"