Part I: Ajayan Borys, Effortless Mind Meditation
Ajayan has been exploring and teaching a variety of meditation practices since 1970. In the early 70′s, he spent several years studying in residence under Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, founder of the Transcendental Meditation Program®. For the next ten years, Ajayan taught the TM Program®. Since then he has traveled the globe continuing an impassioned exploration of consciousness and developing human potential through various meditation and yogic practices.
From 1994 to 1998 Ajayan studied with India’s most widely revered living woman saint, Mata Amritanandamayi (Ammachi, the “hugging saint”), living at her main ashram in Kerala, India, and serving as the meditation teacher there. While in India Ajayan also spent time with holy men and yogis in the Himalayas of Uttaranchal—a haven for saints throughout the ages—and researched the spiritual practices indigenous to that area. Having made a study of meditation his life, and having instructed and guided thousands in meditation in North America, Australia, Europe, and India, Ajayan has gained wide renown as a consummate meditation teacher.
Ajayan is a registered hypnotherapist in Washington state, a Reiki Master, and a certified Enneagram teacher. Ajayan Borys (aka Henry James Borys) is author of Effortless Mind: Meditate with Ease (New World Library, 2013), The Way of Marriage: A Journal of Spiritual Growth through Conflict, Love, and Sex (Purna Press, 1991; HarperCollins, 1993), The Sacred Fire: Love as a Spiritual Path (HarperCollins, 1994), and numerous articles on meditation and relationships as a spiritual path. In 2010, Ajayan launched Mind Matters Radio on the Healthy You Radio Network.
Part II: Grace Kim, Urban Rooftop Farming
Grace Kim is a founding principal of Schemata Workshop and has been practicing architecture in Chicago and Seattle for more than 20 years. Grace is a consensus builder, helping her clients and project stakeholders envision how a completed project will be experienced. She is a compassionate listener and sensitive designer, paying attention to both the present and future needs of her clients. Grace is the author of The Survival Guide to Architectural Internship and Career Development, and in 2008, she was recipient of the National AIA Young Architect Award. For four years, Grace served on the board of the Cohousing Association of the US. She is also a founding member of Capitol Hill Urban Cohousing. Grace is currently a commissioner of the Seattle Planning Commission and serves on the board for the Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce. Grace is frequently asked to present at national conferences on the topics of mentorship, Cohousing, and alternative housing models for seniors and those with disabilities.
TRANSCRIPTION PART I:
Caryn Hartglass: Hello everybody, welcome! It’s time to listen to It’s All About Food. I’m Caryn Hartglass..and who are you? I don’t know. Because you haven’t been sending me messages at firstname.lastname@example.org. I want to hear from you. So whether you have questions or not, if you’re listening let me know you’re out there, I want to say “hi” okay!?
Now it’s hot hot hot here in New York City and we’re dealing. I’m not someone who likes air conditioning very much so I’m trying to work that out, staying cool, calm, collected. I just want to mention 3 quick things that I’m thankful for. Whenever you’re feeling not quite your best, or even if you are feeling pretty good, it’s always good to think about things you’re grateful for. So maybe for a minute you can think about 3 things, just 3 things, what are you grateful for?
Right now I’m grateful for Go Organic NYC, and this is not a promo or anything, plugging this organization, even though I’m plugging them I’m not getting anything for it. It’s a wonderful local organization that delivers produce- and I just got a stunning delivery of collards and kale and celery- all of these great materials. I call them ‘juicing materials’ because I make my juice for the week, green juice, I have a glass of green juice, at least 12 oz, every day. What I do is, I make it once, put everything in glass jars, then freeze them so every day I have one little gift in the freezer that I take out and let defrost and have a juice to drink. It works out really great and I’m grateful for that; these wonderful foods that arrive at my door.
The other thing I’m grateful for are beans. I can’t say enough about beans. Maybe I’ll talk a little bit more about them later but I just had a big bowl of them. I was hungry and now I’m stuffed. They’re just a great food, you can do so many different things with them, they’re really healthy, they help you maintain your weight and they clean out your intestines. And that’s the last thing that I’m grateful for, I’m grateful for having regular bowel movements. I’ve been hearing a lot about people being constipated and maybe we’ll talk a little bit more about that if we have a movement. But it’s nice to keep moving. Get the food in, let it go in, the body takes what it needs, then moves the rest out. When something’s stuck, when it’s not flowing, everything stops and you feel really uncomfortable. Think about beans. They can really help keep things moving.
All right that’s my message for today, that’s the 3 things I’m grateful for and now I want to bring on a wonderful guest, he’s been on the program before, Ajayan Borys. He’s been exploring and teaching a variety of meditation practices since 1970. We’re going to hear quite a bit about that and his practice and what he calls ‘effortless mind meditation’. Ajayan, welcome to It’s All About Food.
Ajayan Borys: Hey, thank you so much Caryn. Great to be back.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah, well you had a free, one hour webinar last week and I’ve been telling my listeners about it and I was listening and I enjoyed it very much. I understand that it’s available on replay right now.
Ajayan Borys: Yes, so probably the best way to find it is to just go to my website, effortlessmindmeditation.com. You go to the ‘classes’ page which is the first page. In the right hand corner there you’ll see ‘See our free webinar’, then ‘Yes I want to see it’ button, and if you click that it will get you to that webinar. On the webinar, basically what I do is, it’s entitled Secrets of Effortless Mind Meditation, something about getting rid of anxiety and experiencing deep peace and relaxation. In the webinar, what I do is talk about 3 really essential secrets to successful meditation. These 3 secrets really apply to any form of meditation. Then I actually teach a very easy quick form of meditation that just puts you into a deep state in just a few minutes. Then I also, kind of as a bonus, we talk quite a bit about the latest exciting research on meditation. So those are the highlights of the free webinar.
Caryn Hartglass: I found that really fascinating, especially the research. I’ve been reading quite a bit on meditation in mainstream papers The New York Times, The New Yorker, regularly have articles talking about how so many high powered executives today, CEO’s, people in very stressful situations, are now turning to meditation. Businesses include meditation practices for their employees and this is a really good thing. I’m really into health and nutrition and one thing that I frequently tell to people in my private coaching practice, and also people who listen to this program, is if we’re full of stress and anxiety and we’re eating, it’s a disaster. We’re not going to get the nutrition we need. There’s going to be all kinds of chemicals swimming around, that are going to not do what we need and even though you may be eating as healthily as possible, if you’re full of stress and anxiety, you’re going to have issues. Healthful issues. Which is why I think meditation is even more important than good nutrition. And for somebody who is so passionate about food to say that…I realize how powerful it is.
Ajayan Borys: Yes, well that is wonderful for you to say that. I also feel that nutrition is really important. In fact, I was going to ask you something about juicing but I’ll hold off on that question and just address what you are bringing up here. You know, it’s absolutely true. They’ve done a lot of studies and found people don’t perform well at work, you can’t enjoy your life, you don’t perform as well at school if you’re anxious or depressed. So it’s also no surprise that your body isn’t also going to digest your food properly if you’re flooded with the chemistry of anxiety or stress. There’s a biochemistry that’s correlated with anxiety, with depression, with anger, there’s also a whole biochemistry that’s associated with that meditative state. Even beyond that, you can start to cultivate a biochemistry of bliss. Where you just feel this sense of well-being, of wholeness, of peace, at ease… and there’s also a lot of creative juices floating in that state. That has its own biochemistry too, and that’s going to be much more beneficial to digesting all that healthy food you’re recommending, if you’re in that state.
Caryn Hartglass: I want to say, better living with biochemistry or better living through chemistry, like DuPont used to say as their slogan decades ago. Brings a whole new meaning, and the real meaning I think, of better living with chemistry. That’s our own healthy biochemistry from good thoughts. I wanted to say, I went through advanced Ovarian cancer in 2006, and doctors and medical professionals and my insurance company, they all made mistakes, I always had to be on guard, and it was very a scary time. I discovered, it was miraculous, that when I started regular meditation, my fear went away. It was so powerful and so empowering and that’s one of the reasons I really believe in it. But we can really craft our thoughts and our feelings and make them truly our own with meditation.
Ajayan Borys: Well you know, what you’re talking about here reminds me of one of the studies that I discuss in the webinar where they actually found that stress creates a chemistry in the system that shortens the telomeres, and telomeres are these sort of caps, they’re sort of like end caps on a chromosomes or on the DNA I think it is. I’m not a scientist. I’m reading this research and on the webinar I report it more exactly as it’s stated in the study but here it’s off the top of my head saying that these telomeres shorten and when the telomeres get to a certain shortness, when they’ve been degraded to a certain point, then the cells can no longer reproduce and they die. What happens during meditation- stress actually shortens the telomeres, actually weakening the cell and shortening the lifespan of our cells. Whereas during meditation they found that there’s a production of an enzyme called ‘telemerase’. Telemerase actually helps to rebuild the telomeres so they actually grow longer which strengthens the cells and makes them more vital so they can divide and reproduce and live longer. So this is an amazing implication that suggests that meditation is going to increase longevity as well as vitality and health. So that’s just a quick preview of some of the research I talk about in the webinar.
Caryn Hartglass: I was very excited when I heard that. We’re talking on and on here about mediation and let’s get to the basics for a moment. Because many people talk about meditation, there are many things that go by the name ‘meditation’ ..what do you mean by meditation?
Ajayan Borys: That’s a great question and it’s not a simple answer but I’ll try to just off the top of my head. Meditation is the process of going from the conscious thinking level- that’s where we’re hanging out all day long, that’s where we’re experiencing thoughts, our conscious mind- and it’s taking going from that level of awareness, of thought, to a subtler, quieter level of thought, to a quieter more abstract level, and to a very faint impulse of a thought at the deepest level of the mind, and then even that dissolves. You don’t fall asleep at that point, you’re still aware, but now there’s no object of awareness, you’re simply abiding in the state of pure awareness. Just simple awareness itself. So that is kind of the course of meditation, going from the conscious mind through these subtler layers of the mind, to finally transcend the final impulse of thought and abide in pure awareness. Which is your very core. So yeah, that’s what I call ‘meditation’.
Caryn Hartglass: Now I’m telling people to meditate all the time, and I recommend things, and I get different kinds of reactions. Some people say ‘Oh no, I get even more anxious when I meditate. I’m too uptight and I can’t sit still’ What do you tell these people?
Ajayan Borys: What to tell them? Ok, first off I have to say I think that it’s really important to get good instruction in meditation. I tried to teach myself. I tried to learn just by reading some books. This was many, many years ago and I found it really frustrating. There’s actually a lot of misunderstanding about meditation. The reason that is, is because sort of the end of meditation is mistaken for the means. What I mean by that is the end of meditation is this silent state, abiding in pure awareness where thoughts have subsided and you’re just in this expansive pure awareness. So people tend to think, and many instructors of meditation, tend to think that the way then to meditate is to silence the mind. So they endeavor to somehow still their thoughts and try to control thoughts, which is really an impossibility. You can’t control the mind. If you try to do that you’re going to be very frustrated. The reason I call Effortless mind meditation “Effortless mind” is because it’s recognizing that any time you shift from the conscious thinking mind into another state of consciousness, be that sleep or dreaming, or meditation, it has to be easy. It has to be effortless. Just think about when you fall asleep. If you’re trying to fall asleep, what happens? You stay awake. You toss and turn and you just want to stop trying. It has to happen naturally. The same holds true in meditation because if you’re trying to meditate, even the slightest bit of trying it keeps the mind on the surface. That activity of trying keeps you in the conscious waking state, in the ego mind. It’s only when you effortlessly fall into meditation is that you have a good deep meditation. So of course the key is to learn that art of falling into meditation reliably, every time you sit to meditate. Then you find that meditation is always effortless, it’s always deep, and you always get the benefits and it’s simple and easy to do. But it takes some instruction to do that. So that’s the thing. That’s the key to meditation. In fact that’s the first secret I talk about in the webinar.
Caryn Hartglass: So the trick is to learn the art of meditation. I guess it’s like crawling, then walking, then running, one thing at a time.
Ajayan Borys: Yes, and ironically it’s almost the reverse of that. Right now we’re running and we’re always doing things. So we want to slow down and do less and less and less until we’re finally just being and we’re abiding in that core of our being. So it’s just the reverse of that but you’ve got that right idea.
Caryn Hartglass: Now, there are so many benefits to meditation and it’s supposed to bring clarity and focus and make us more efficient and make our work somewhat easier and yet people struggle because they are all busy and they don’t know where in the day they can find time to sit and be still.
Ajayan Borys: Right. That is one of the things that catches people and first off you have to realize your mind is the lens through which you experience life. Meditation has the effect as you said, of really calming the mind, clearing out the clutter, allowing you to be fully present in your life, and enjoy it so much more. So first off, there is a great value in that. That is something worth having. It’s worth investing a few minutes of your day to start to experience that. The other thing is, once you have that you can be much more efficient in whatever you do. And also you’re using more of the mind so you can be more creative. In fact, more of the research that I talk about on the webinar is that meditation has actually been shown to increase intelligence and creativity as well as improved memory. So you can just be more productive if you’re using more of what you have. Really it’s a good investment. Probably a lot of your listeners have heard that story of Gandhi who was talking to some of his supporters and looking at his schedule and he said ‘Well I have to meditate at least an hour a day’. They said ‘Gandhi, you can’t do that. You’re too busy. You have too much to do.” And he said ‘Well in that case, I’d better meditate two hours a day.”
Caryn Hartglass: I love that story, I really love it.
Ajayan Borys: We can take a lesson from that, you know?
Caryn Hartglass: Absolutely. You mention improved memory. As I’m getting older and my friends are getting older people are being plagued with memory loss and dementia and Alzheimer’s. Meditation can help brain health. Does it help with these diseases and ailments?
Ajayan Borys: I’m sort of doing a spoiler here on my webinar but yes. Another one of the research studies, a couple of studies to this effect that are very exciting. As we grow older, they find that there are certain parts of our brain that are really critical to our rational thought and our attention and those parts of the brain as we grow older tend to thin out. The actual mass of our brain gets less and the brain becomes lighter. And this might concern you because we want our brain to stay healthy and vital and in as good of shape as ever. Well what they’ve found in these recent studies is that in longer term meditators those areas have not only been preserved but they’re thicker than the non-meditators. They’re actually getting more brain matter. Their brain is actually becoming more as they age. And that’s just really amazing. That suggests that we don’t have to experience that decline.
Caryn Hartglass: Everybody should be doing this.
Ajayan Borys: There’s so many good reasons to meditation. Like you say, almost every week more research comes out showing the benefits of meditation. It’s getting to be a no brainer that this is a good thing to do.
Caryn Hartglass: I’m trying to make a pun with no brainer, but I’m just going to skip over that.
Ajayan Borys: I kind of hesitated to say that because it was kind of a pun but whatever.
Caryn Hartglass: For people that aren’t familiar with you and your work I just want to say that you’ve taken many long retreats. You’ve lived in a cave at 10,000 ft in the Himalayas for months in silence, eating one meal a day. Why did you do this? Why was this necessary?
Ajayan Borys: True, true. Well first off, it’s not necessary. It is nice. I’ve been a very passionate, dedicated meditator since 1970 and I’ve explored meditation and studied with various teachers all around the world. And for four years, I lived in India and I taught at an ashram there, I taught meditation. People, some of the listeners may know as ‘Amma’ she is sometimes called ‘the hugging saint’, anyway I was the meditation teacher at her ashram for four years and when she would leave the ashram and go on a world tour I would head up to the Himalayas and I would find a cave, and take a retreat. I did this because of course on a retreat it’s just a chance to take a giant step in your progress. What I recommend to people who aren’t as extreme as I am, a weekend retreat from time to time. Maybe a couple times a year, is just fabulous. It does help to kind of step back, get out of your normal routine, and really dive deep into meditation and you just get super charged. So that’s definitely of value. You don’t have to do the silence and you certainly don’t have to live in a cave but- by the way I will say- if anybody is interested in October I’m taking a small group to the Himalayas and we’re going to have a meditation retreat up to the source of the Ganges. Which is where I did my meditating up there. We don’t stay in caves, we stay in the best facilities available. It’s just a wonderful experience, a cultural immersion, and of course you have the beauty of the Himalayas and it’s just fabulous. And again, if people have an interest in that they can look at my website www.effortlessmindmeditation.com .
Caryn Hartglass: You’re a family man and you have children now
Ajayan Borys: That’s true.
Caryn Hartglass: And how old are your children?
Ajayan Borys: Let’s see one is 35 and one is 27. They actually both live in India. They came, those four years that I lived in India our whole family lived there. And so that was a very formative experience for them and now they’re just very keen on their spiritual growth and they live in India. At least for now.
Caryn Hartglass: I just wondered when they were really young did you go through some sort of meditation techniques with them?
Ajayan Borys: Yes absolutely, they’re both fabulous meditators.
Caryn Hartglass: Because I’m thinking that if it was part of our culture it would be so much easier. If we were raised with meditation it would just be like breathing and eating and watching television. Meditation would just be one of those normal things and it would be so easy.
Ajayan Borys: Yeah, it should be taught in schools. I mean in many cases it actually is. There are schools that teach meditation and it’s becoming more a part of the culture than it was say 20, 40 years ago. We’re getting there. We’re slowly but surely getting there.
Caryn Hartglass: Great. So you said you had a question about green juice and I thought now would be a good time for you to ask it.
Ajayan Borys: I do. So I juice every morning and I love it. It does feel very healthy. But the one thing I just don’t like about it is all of the, grindings that come from the juice and of course we’ve tried different things with those. We’ve composted, we’ve fed them to our dogs, I’ve even made soup out of them. But what do you do with the leftovers after that juicing process.
Caryn Hartglass: Right. So I know many people think it’s wasteful, so not everyone needs to juice. People can blend those foods and get the fiber and then they would be eating it. For many people, that’s very good. But for people that want more energy or are in a health crisis, or just like it, there is this left over fiber. And composting is a great thing if you can do it because then it’s really not wasted because the nutrients go back into the earth and that’s fine. I used to compost but I live in an apartment in New York City and it’s just not designed for composting. So unfortunately for right now I just put it in the waste and wish it well.
Ajayan Borys: Ok. We’ve also found composting to be kind of difficult. We have one of those barrels and you have to add other stuff into it and it’s a bit of an exercise and we don’t always have the time.
Caryn Hartglass: Now it depends on what I’m making in my juice because I typically use Kale and collards and celery and lemon but if I’m heavier on the celery and carrots for example, I might juice them first and save that fiber and make vegetable broth with it. But I don’t use the dark greens in vegetable broth that can get a little skunky.
Ajayan Borys: Ok, well great. Is there much nutrition left over in the fibers that are left?
Caryn Hartglass: I’m going to say I don’t know. There’s certainly fiber, and it depends on how efficient your juicer is. Here’s one thing that I do depending on the juicer that you have, some are better than others, I take that fiber and I run it through the juicer several times to squeeze out every possible juice that I can get from it. That kind of wastes a little less.
Ajayan Borys: We’ve done that too.
Caryn Hartglass: Juicing is really a luxury and I’m grateful to be able to juice. I really think that it has a tremendous impact on my survival and my health, I’m glad that we’re able to do it.
Ajayan Borys: Yeah me too. I love it. And sometimes we do make shakes. It just depends. But mostly we juice. Well great alright. We’re on the same page it sounds like. If I could just mention one last time. The way to find that webinar which is www.effortlessmindmeditation.com , then go to the classes page and you’ll see the button. It is available until August 11th. At least until then you can click on that button and see the free webinar.
Caryn Hartglass: Ok great, well thank you again, Ajayan for joining me on It’s All About Food. I hope we do meet up in New York like we were talking about earlier.
Ajayan Borys: Absolutely. I’m going to connect with you next time I come to New York City. And thank you, so much, for having me. I really appreciate it Caryn.
Caryn Hartglass: You’re welcome, thank you, take care.
All right, that was Ajayan Borys, the author of Effortless Mind and the creator of Effortless Mind Meditation. You can also go to my website www.responsibleeatingandliving.com and there is a link to that webinar if you want to find it and listen to you and you can as he said, listen to it until August 11th. I really recommend it. Just find the time. Then all of a sudden you’ll find you have more time for everything. Let’s take a little break, shall we? Then we’ll be back with Grace Kim and we’ll be talking about Urban rooftop farming.
Transcription by Alissa Giambrone 8/17/2015
TRANSCRIPTION PART II:
Caryn Hartglass: Hello everybody! I’m Caryn Hartglass, and you’re listening to It’s All About Food, Part 2! Okay. Were you meditating during that little break? Why not? You know what I like to do sometimes? When you’re standing in a line somewhere, and it’s a really, really long, aggravating line. You have lots of things to do and lots of places to go, but the line’s not moving, you’re not moving, and whatever it is, you have to get it done so you have to stay in that line. You’ve been there. I know we’ve all been there. Well that is a great moment for a standing meditation. Once you get into it, it really shifts your whole awareness, perception, and I promise you, you will be feeling fabulous because all of a sudden you get into this calm. What is a silent meditation? You just stand straight, good posture, do some low deep breaths, smile to yourself, and just don’t react to everything around you. All of a sudden you’ve made a choice, and it’s a positive choice for yourself where you’re not buying into all of the craziness. It’s really powerful, and it can be a really wonderful, joyful thing. I recommend that the next time you are standing in some ridiculous line. Okay? Just remember, Caryn told you. Standing meditation. All right, that was a little tip. Now let’s move onto second guest today, we have Grace Kim. She’s the founding principal of Schemata Workshop and has been practicing architecture in Chicago and Seattle for more than twenty years. She is a consensus builder, helping her clients and project stakeholders envision how a completed project will be experienced. She is a compassionate listener and sensitive designer, paying attention to both the present and future needs of her clients. She is the author of The Survival Guide to Architectural Internship and Career Development, and in 2008 was a recipient of the National AIA Young Architect Award. She served for four years on the board of the Cohousing Association of the U.S., and we’re going to be talking a little bit about cohousing and urban rooftop farming. Thank you for joining me today, Grace!
Grace Kim: Hello!
Caryn: Hi. I know you’re busy, so let’s just get right to the point, okay? Now, I wanted to talk about this urban rooftop-planning project that’s going on with this cohousing group. Can you explain what cohousing is?
Grace: Sure. Cohousing is an intentional neighborhood where people know each other and have the desire to share different aspects of their lives together. Everybody has his or her own private home. Privacy is very much valued in the community. But outside of the private home there are shared amenities like a common dining room and kitchen, places for the kids to play, generally some outdoor space, guestrooms, and then larger communities will have larger facilities. The idea is that you can have all the privacy you need inside your home, and as soon as you step out your community is at your doorstep, waiting for you to engage.
Caryn: Now I’ve heard of intentional communities before, but what I was surprised to hear about is it happening in urban environments.
Grace: Our community is very much in an urban environment. We’re in Capitol Hill, which is a very urban neighborhood just to the east of the central business district in Seattle. I think we are the most dense neighborhood in Seattle. It’s quite a vibrant street life. There are lots of restaurants and bars and shops nearby, lots of coffee shops. Our Walk Score, I think, is 97 or 98. It’s a very urban setting. We are on a very small lot. Our lot is about 4,500 square feet, so one-tenth of an acre. That’s quite different than most cohousing in the U.S. The other projects tend to be more suburban. Even if they are considered urban, they are sort of in smaller cities or in the outskirts of some of the larger metropolitan areas, so they’re not quite as dense. They’re more in single-family neighborhoods of cities. So we are quite dense and quite urban, and I think that’s one of the exciting things that has drawn people to our community. We are only, because of our small urban site, nine families.
Caryn: Okay. I think that’s a little easier to control, in terms of consensus, when you have a small number of people.
Grace: Yes and no. Everyone still has his or her own opinions. But yeah, I think it’s easier to reach consensus when there is a smaller group of people, most certainly.
Caryn: Is there a theme with this group? Something that drew you all together that you wanted to— Some rules or some ethics or something that brought you all together?
Grace: I would say that our site is actually the biggest thing that brought us together. We do have a vision and a set of values that do kind of bind us together, but those were created afterwards as a group, after we first started the group. I would say that a big central theme to that vision is sustainability, and that’s not just from an environmental standpoint, but also kind of how we work as a social network and recognizing that we have a significant impact to our local economy and that the way that we’ve chosen to live also impacts us financially in a sustainable way. I would say that that’s kind of the big, underlying piece is sustainability, and I would say that’s true for a lot of cohousing communities. Many of them would say that they hold sustainability high in terms of their values.
Caryn: Okay, so you’ve got a fundraising project going on right now on Barnraiser.us and you want to build an urban rooftop farm. I want to know more about that, and the first thing that I’m curious about is that you’re calling it a farm and not a garden. What’s the difference?
Grace: The big distinction in our mind was gardening is sort of a pastime or a hobby kind of thing, or could be seen as that or also could imply something ornamental. We wanted to make a statement that, while we are a very small rooftop farm, our intention is to produce food year-round and that it’s a commercial venture for somebody. That somebody right now is the Seattle Urban Farm Company, who is a local company that helps businesses and individuals and developers build and maintain urban farms throughout the city of Seattle. They are a for-profit company; they’ve started doing work with developers doing rooftop gardens on multi-family projects. This one is a little bit different in that we are going to be contracting with them to maintain the farm, and then we have a local restaurant that is interested in buying our produce at least for the first couple of years. So that’s kind of the distinction. We wanted to distinguish that we are a production farm; we’re not having lots of different types of vegetables. I mean, we may over the course of time, but we wanted to make a statement that it was a productive farm with a business model around it.
Caryn: And how much area is there on this rooftop for farming?
Grace: So our site is 4,500 square feet, as I said before. We are using about a third of the rooftop, or the site area. Something over 1,500 square feet is the total area, including the walking surface. And then the beds are probably half of that. It’s not a lot of dirt that we’re talking about, but it is a significant amount and we will be closely monitoring and analyzing the amount of food that we’re producing in that first year to really have an understanding of what that will look like long-term as we continue to manage the farm.
Caryn: Right. So that’s great. Now, people that want to support your particular project can find it at barnraiser.us. It’s the Capital Hill Urban Housing Rooftop Farm.
Grace: Mm-hm. And if you can’t remember that, you can just Google Barnraiser rooftop farm, and you’ll be able to find us.
Caryn: So for people that are in the Seattle area, if they contribute, there are some nice gifts of produce and dinners with a local chef. For those that are curious in rooftop gardening, I think it’s just interesting to check this out and see what they’re doing. I’m just curious about it. I live in New York City – we have a lot of apartments, a lot of rooftops – and am wondering how to take advantage of that to farm. Do you have to do anything special to the roof in order to be safe in growing food?
Grace: Right, yep. So it’s helpful to start off with a new construction project knowing that you’re going to be building the farm because the weight of wet dirt is actually quite significant, and it’s not something that most buildings are designed to accommodate, especially older buildings. Looking at an older rooftop in New York, unless it’s a high-rise that has concrete construction or steel construction, it’s probably not likely that you can support the load of a rooftop farm. But it’s certainly possible to go back and retrofit. In our situation, we designed the rooftop not only for the farm on one side, but also for future photovoltaic panels so that we can generate our own energy. So the weight of those things are roughly comparable, and so both of our rooftop areas will be able to support that load. But that was designed in advance, and it comes at a cost as well as just the engineering fees. Our hope is that we will be a catalyst, not only for Seattle but for other cities, that they might recognize that you can start small and have a small rooftop and just build from there, because our interest is in having a food network in our neighborhood so that not just this one restaurant, but hopefully lots of restaurants and lots of people would be able to get fresh, organic, sustainable, regrown produce right in their neighborhood and not have to pay for the cost of transporting their food across the country or across the state or paying for the carbon emissions from fertilizers and other things like that that are typical with our food production today.
Caryn: I love it, and I really hope that you get this project funded. It’s already at $8,300 and you want $10,000 by August 21. So it looks like you’re well on your way.
Grace: Yeah, and $10,000 is our initial goal. We have two stretch goals that we are anticipating because the real cost of it is quite more. We’re trying to be realistic with the crowdsourcing strategy, to set a realistic goal we know we can achieve and then to do stretches because if we don’t meet our goal then we don’t get the money. So that’s kind of been our strategy. Even though we’re close to our goal, we’re hoping to max that goal out and push ourselves up a couple of stretch goals of $5,000 each.
Caryn: Right. Well this is really inspirational, and like you said, I hope this is really a model for others. We really need to take control of our food system and everyone, to some degree, needs to be growing food. Somewhere. Anywhere.
Grace: It’s important for our kids to know—
Caryn: I just love this concept. Not only will you be making food, but it’s beautiful.
Grace: Mm-hm. It’s also teaching our kids where food comes from, that it doesn’t come from cellophane bags and Styrofoam containers.
Caryn: Exactly. Children need to know where their food comes from, and they are more likely to want to eat healthy food when they are part of growing it.
Caryn: Yeah. Okay Grace, well thank you! Is there anything else you want to add about rooftop farm and cohousing?
Grace: I just want to add if anyone’s interested in learning more about the project, they can Google us, “Capitol Hill Cohousing.” That will take you to our website, where you can learn more about who we are and our vision and values. There’s a link to the Barnraiser from there. The Barnraiser has a great video, so please do check us out.
Caryn: Okay. I’ll also include a link on my website with this interview for anybody who wants to find out more. Great. Thanks for joining me on It’s All About Food and all the best!
Grace: Thank you, thank you so much.
Caryn: Okay. Take care. I am really fascinated by this. I live in a co-op building in Queens. We’re having a board meeting on Wednesday. I know the board would never go for something like this. But we’re in a very strong concrete building, and we even have some space on the ground floor that, oh my god, would be so great for a garden, but I don’t think anybody would ever go for it. But you know, maybe this is something to consider and if you are with some likeminded people and you have an opportunity to move into a space together and you want to grow food, this is a great project and a great concept and I hope more people do it. So there’s that.
Caryn: All right! Some really incredible things are happening. We had some breaking news yesterday. I don’t know if you heard about it, but I have to share it because it has to do with food. We’ve talked about the “ag-gag” many times on this program. I’ve had numerous people speaking to how dangerous it is. It’s basically a law that has been put into place; in I think it’s seven states now, which is anti-whistleblowing. So whistleblowing is when somebody inside an organization, either undercover or not, reports things that are illegal or problematic within a company. As you know, in factory farming, in animal feeding operations, in the growing of animals to feed people, many of these facilities, they’re completely closed-in factories and they don’t let anyone in and it’s impossible to know what’s going on. So there are some brave, brave people that do undercover investigation, and because of these ag-gag laws that are in place in a number of states, they specifically say that these investigations are illegal and there are significant penalties for those that are convicted of documenting animal cruelty or documenting life-threatening safety violations. It’s not just about documenting cruelty to non-human animals; it’s also about documenting violations against fellow humans. You’ll find that those that can easily cause violence to non-human animals will easily do it to humans as well. Well the good news – such good news – is that yesterday in Idaho, the ag-gag law was ruled unconstitutional. This is amazing, wonderful news. There were a number of groups that teamed up, including the Animal Legal Defense Fund and People for Ethical Treatment of Animals, the American Civil Liberties Union, and the Center for Food Safety. If you go to the Animal Legal Defense Fund website, aldf.org, you can read the details about this amazing decision. Read the court declaration. I think it’s really good reading. I don’t know how, if you’ve ever read a declaration or a court’s ruling, but these documents are really fascinating. Rather than read an article that gives you the sound bites, you can actually get the whole piece of information about what happened, and this one is so important that reading the entire ruling is, I think, really useful. One of the things that I absolutely love about it was that the judge paid particular attention to, as Will Potter put it in his blog post, the impact of the ag-gag on journalism and newsgathering. He talked about the story of Upton Sinclair, the author of The Jungle. I don’t know if you’ve read that, it’s a great book. It talks about the meat packing plant in Chicago in the early twentieth century. It’s a fictional story; it’s a really depressing story. Upton Sinclair focused actually on the plight of immigrant labor. Humans. The plights of very poor humans. And although he talked about what was going on with the non-human animals, he wasn’t really focusing on the treatment of non-human animals. It was about the working conditions for people working in the stockyards. As a result of that fiction book and the research that he did, we had the passage of the Federal Meat Inspection Act and the Pure Food and Drug Act. But the judge noted that Upton Sinclair’s conduct back in the early twentieth century, today, would expose him as a criminal. Prosecution under this ag-gag ruling. This is so exciting, that it’s been struck down as unconstitutional and this is something to celebrate. Woo! Now onto Utah and some of the other states that have this ag-gag. I plan on bringing on one of the council members from the ADLF and talk about this more in detail. I’m sorry, the ALDF. The A-L-D-F, the Animal Legal Defense Fund! Don’t want to mix up those letters in the acronym. We’re going to be talking about it more in detail next week, because I think this has great ramifications. So stay tuned for that, okay?
Caryn: All right, we just have a few more minutes left. Something I wanted to talk about that bugs me. Have you heard about some of these food products that are coming out, these… I don’t know how to describe them, they’re kind of like drinks or shakes which free people from not only hunger but also from having to eat food. I’ve read a variety of different articles how these high-tech engineers in Silicon Valley, for example, they want to work at their computers all day and all night, and they don’t want to focus on eating. Some creative folks have come up—there’s a number of these different companies that are making these liquid meals: Schmoylent, Schmilk, People Chow, and the one I’m going to talk about today is Soylent. Have you heard about this? It’s crazy and I find it so depressing that there are these investors that would actually support a project like this. Soylent is now on their 2.0 version. They’ve had a 1.0 and a 1.5 and now they’re on a 2.0. Of course they’re making it sound like software upgrades, ‘cause that’s what they’re all about. It’s like they dialed in to hit all of the recommended daily allowances for a variety of nutrients so that you get a quarter of what you need in a serving of this drink and it’s supposed to have been crafted with the help of some medical doctor who has some background in nutrition. Well you read the ingredients in this thing and it’s a disaster. A disaster. Why is it a disaster? Because more and more evidence shows that if you want to eat healthfully and live a long, happy, quality life, you want to eat whole foods. Not processed foods. This Soylent liquid meal is all processed. The first ingredients on this list, the first ingredients are canola and sunflower oil powder. Sunflower oil. And then it goes on and on, it’s a disaster. And of course, they say on their website that this product is not organic and it is not GMO-free. They use GMO ingredients. I’m thinking, maybe there are some people that just don’t like eating and they just want to eat to live. Well, fine. But I think… I look for food to be my only enjoyment in life. There are plenty of things that I love to do: run, jump and play, breathe lovely air, feel the sun, et cetera, be with family and friends, hear music, there are so many wonderful things to do. But we need to eat. Why not make it enjoyable? That’s all part of life. This whole concept bugs me. Now the last thing that bugs me, if it doesn’t bug you, do you remember the movie, Soylent Green? They actually named this product after Soylent. And if you remember that movie, Soylent was people. It was during a time of overpopulation. It was a sci-fi film where they took people that were dying and dead and ground them up and fed them back to people in this nutritional drink called Soylent. Euh. Major euh. All right, that’s Soylent, now you know about it. Please. Don’t support it. If you like the idea, let me know about it. But the thing is, there’s all these nutrients listed here that they have, but the thing we know about whole foods, is that there are nutrients we have not discovered yet. There are nutrients we don’t know the name of, that we get when we eat the whole food, and when we isolate vitamins this way, we’re not getting what we need. There’s research that shows when we isolate vitamins like Vitamin A and Vitamin E and folic acid, for example, they don’t work the same as when they come with all kinds of other nutrients. It’s not healthy. In fact, it can be a negative result. It can promote disease, when we eat these isolated forms of nutrition rather than the whole food. A disaster.
Caryn: All right. I just have a minute left, and gosh, I wanted to talk about all the wonderful foods that I’ve been preparing this week. Please visit responsibleeatingandliving.com. I have some wonderful delicious new recipes. A carrot bisque, which I’ve actually been enjoying eating cold since it’s so hot. It’s delicious, creamy, cool. Great hot or cold. So, so easy to make. And then I made this wonderful frozen treat. I call it Popeye’s Sweet Sensation. It’s one of these frozen soft-serves that I made with frozen spinach and blueberries and cocoa. And it’s delicious. Okay, thank you for joining me. I’m Caryn Hartglass. Send me some emails, will you, at email@example.com, and please don’t drink Soylent. No, no, no, no, no. Have a delicious week. Bye-bye.
Transcribed by JC, 8/27/2015