Today AIRE had the pleasure and honor to be invited to speak at the New Mexico Association of Grantmakers 2013 Conference. We shared the presentation with the Director of our primary funder, Sadaf Cameron of the Kindle Project. This session was organized by Adam Rubel, another affiliate of the Kindle Project. We also heard from Nicholas Mang of the Jessica Love Foundation, Story of Place Institute, and Regenesis.
The topic was about Innovation and Emergent Solutions. It was great to be part of this panel and articulate these ideas. For AIRE, we look at our programs using a Permaculture model. Basically, different projects within our operations are like ‘elements’ in an overall design. Every element has functions that it serves and has needs to fulfill those functions. As it fulfills the function, it creates products.
So we look to create products in each element of our programmatic activity that serve other needs in other elements, and thus other programs. For example, we have the Parr Field Garden Project which produces food like squash, which is a need to make pumpkin pies, a topic of our Food Traditions workshops. One of the products of the squash is seed, which is a need for our seed cleaning activities, as well as a need for our seed library program which gives this seed to elementary aged students in the spring. Therefore we are able to grow squash, make pumpkin pies, and save seed all while mentoring young people in these various aspects of agriculture and food traditions.
Ultimately our innovation is not about incorporating new things but doing old, or traditional, things in a new way. We are working to generate wealth in our programs through agriculture and use that wealth in a regenerative capacity to make more food, generate more seed, and in effect, mentor and inspire more young people into the vocation and practice of agriculture.
I also had to present on the artistic nature of our work, of allowing opportunities to arise and make changes to our programs depending on what is learned. For example, we are now engaging in projects that involve the youth that also feed into the school lunch program. This was not an opportunity when we started, much less an idea. But given the flexible nature of our primary funder, Kindle Project, we felt the latitude to make programmatic changes midcourse in our grant cycle to take advantage of an opportunity that has ultimately become cornerstone to our future programs…