Can the older generation lead the way on community farm movement?

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Millennials have short attention spans. We only read headlines – or Tweets. We choose the path of least resistance, whether that’s liking a photo over making a phone call, sending a Snapchat over writing a postcard or checking Facebook while conversation lulls at dinner.

Some say we are materialistic, self-involved and entitled.

Those last three descriptors are typically hurled from previous generations. They don’t understand the world we grew up in. Neither, really, do Millennials.

Who does? When you buy food today, where does that money go? Where did the product come from? What happened in between? How much did the farmer get paid?

If I told you that your money helped subsidize CEO bonuses or open a slaughterhouse in China, you’d have no idea whether I was telling the truth. I might be, for all anyone knows. Ultimately, the system grew too big, too complex and too interconnected to possibly grasp from where you and I stand on the ground level.

The food system hasn’t made sense for 40 years. No Millennial – myself included – can possibly sit there and say what the world will be like when we provide our own food. For that kind of advice, we need to lean on older generations.

In part, learning from my grandfather guided me toward sustainability and healthy food. He joined the Northern Ireland Livestock Commission in the 60s, selling beef and lamb around the world. Northern Ireland is one of the few places in the world where it’s cheaper to grow grass than corn, allowing cows, sheep and goats to eat natural diets.

Corn-fed beef, on the other hand, leads to liver disease in cows and increased rates of heart disease for people consuming such products, because cows are not natural corn eaters.

These thoughts came to me as I met with leaders at Chambrel at Roswell, a senior living facility. They have a handful of raised beds filled with tomatoes and squash on their 35-acre facility.

As with many other unproductive urban structures, ideas immediately popped into my head.

Could the four water fountains be turned into aquaponic tanks? Could vertical gardens hang from every staircase? Could sheep help trim back the tree line to add room for more plots and a community garden?

Whether Chambrel is able to pull off the edible campus ideas we inadvertently discussed over lunch depends on a number of factors, including corporate support, city support and money. The residents must also invest and take ownership of the project.

Community farms at senior living facilities would go a long way to boosting the health of our seniors, not only reducing the immense medical expenses seniors face, but help them reclaim a healthy, active lifestyle through direct involvement in a vital aspect of society: food and nutrition.

Gardens provide a sense of purpose, particularly important for a society that often isolates undesirables, including seniors.

Community gardens would provide a great avenue for boosting intergenerational ties.

People are more connected today than ever before, yet so far removed from one another. As we build a technologically based future, people must keep in mind ways to help us stay connected to nature. We need smarter ways to efficiently grow food locally by harvesting sustainable energy and developing urban environments for multi-purpose use.

Chambrel at Roswell has the potential to model what this future might look like – perhaps, quite a bit like childhood.

James Carr is working on a book about the local, sustainable movement called “The Jig Is Up.” To pre-order a copy, visit thejigisup89.com.

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