My friend Carla and I have always let our ostensibly similar interests take us in more or less opposite directions. She studies socially responsible supply chains. I study responsibility for the soil, and how to reduce supply chains to a single link. In a class on How Stuff Is Made, she researched the gold mines where Balfour college rings begin their global journey to students’ fingers. I documented a shop on the Lower East Side, where gelato is made from the milk and eggs of upstate New York. When Carla went to Shanghai, China, I went to Berkeley, California. When she got a real job in the social responsibility office of ABC Carpet & Home, I got a real job as the cheesemonger Anne Saxelby’s apprentice. In a way, Carla thinks global, and I act local. We proposed separate projects to the Sustainability Task Force, and they rather predictably put the two together.
Radishes and Rubbish is the magnificent (if rather lopsided) combination of our complementary desires: to expose students to the processes of production, and disposal, embedded in the way we live our daily lives. It is the melding of two propositions: Mine to take students to several small-scale food production and processing sites within the five boroughs. And Carla’s, to take students to some of the city’s enormous waste management facilities.
I hope to engage students with an uprooted system that is now regaining strength, of foods that never know a bar code or a cardboard box, and that are eaten so fresh they barely touch the shelf of cabinet or fridge; foods grown, made, or processed locally, by local people, who are faithfully devoted to steady production for their community. We will visit urban farmers in Red Hook and East New York, makers of ricotta in Brooklyn, an Halal slaughterhouse owned by a father and son in Queens. We will give students a taste for the reasons these individual people consider it important to make food themselves, and to supply their customers’ kitchens with high quality, reliable, fresh ingredients.
Carla will expose students to the garbage, recycling, and composting systems upon which our urban population relies. The journey that our ‘stuff’ is on, and the impact that it makes, hardly ends in the trash chute, or at the curbside. Breaking away from the anonymity of where our garbage goes, Carla is inviting students to bravely follow the green truck out of Manhattan, to come face to face with the scale of waste produced by our community, and to meet the trash heroes that make these systems run on a dime. We will journey to a trash transfer station, a recycling hub, and a farm upstate that runs our composting program.
Each of our trips will include the first 13 individuals to RSVP. We will provide transportation as well as a picnic lunch, made with fresh ingredients from the Greenmarket or a locally owned shop or business. Please check out our website, Radishes and Rubbish, for more information. All students (and the occasional non-students) are welcome!