Happy New Year everyone! We are starting our second year of the NAPECA grant, and we are excited about the possibilities. Over the last several months, we have had great success with our zebra mussel shell compost, teaching the locals in Cleveland how to use it in backyard plots, urban farms and container gardens.
On October 29, we took our teaching to a whole new level. We began teaching refugee farmers from Nepal how to mix the compost and prepare it for spring planting. (Check out our latest photo gallery if you want to get up to speed so far.)
Our meeting in October was a precursor to workshops we intend to do with the children from Near West Intergenerational School. They’ve been learning about zebra mussel shell compost for almost a year now, and they are perfectly suited to teach our new refugee residents a new method of farming.
To get the process moving, I made a connection with Alissa Ostrove, Program Administrator for Migration and Refugee Services at Catholic Charities. Alissa works in an office within the Diocese of Cleveland and her staff provides a host of services for our friends from other countries. The beauty is, this office is located directly across the street from where the Near West students visit once a month. As part of their intergenerational learning, they meet with the senior residents of St. Augustine Health Ministries, which offers a warm and welcoming opportunity, all the way around.
Alissa introduced me to Brandon, who is quite knowledgeable about farming and working with refugees. He agreed that we would need to conduct a “dry run” without the NWIS students so we understood the challenges of communicating and describing things like chicken poop, organic compost, and why zebra mussels are so harmful to Lake Erie. I am thankful to Google Translate because we learned a lot from each another in our first workshop.
I was surprised how quickly they learned, and many nodded in agreement like they understood where we were coming from. Who doesn’t like the idea of free compost that can be generated to repurpose our earth? They get it and know we will put it to good use.
After mixing the compost, we moved it across the street to their urban plot and left it to cook over the fall and winter months. One thing you need to know about Nepalis – farming is in their blood and they are happy to transform a weeded and neglected garden into something that yields happiness and fresh vegetables.
We covered the compost with tarp, looking around at the overgrown plot that would soon get a makeover. A month later, we would meet with the Near West students and make our quick introduction.
How exciting this will be, to make our interesting idea come together!