Photo Friday: Meet Michael the Mushroom
April 13th 2012
Meet Michael the Mushroom. He's a Shitake by Breed. He likes fresh air, compost and joking around with high school students from Brooklyn. And apart from a few minutes of refrigeration to preserve him and one short truck ride, he had almost zero environmental impact between when he was raised in Catskill, NY by the Bulich Mushroom Company, and when we adopted him from the Union Square Farmers Market in Manhattan.
He also didn’t have a face until then – literally or otherwise. When the students from the Academy of Conservation and the Environment (A.C.E.) arrived at the market last week as part of a field trip with World Savvy’s Media & Arts Program (MAP), they looked as comfortable as if they were the ones in the compost. “Why doesn’t any of this look like food?” was one leaden response to our ice-breaker prompt. After a little more conversation, however, it became evident that there was some real curiosity about this foreign terrain in the middle of our city. And when they discovered that the farmers themselves would provide the answers to their questions, and would do so with respect and joy, I could feel their inquisitive energy growing.
Divided into teams, equipped with video cameras and questions they compiled, they set off to conduct interviews for our “Oral History Produce.” They returned forty minutes later with smiles, stories and a market full of vendors overwhelmed by their astuteness and courtesy. Even I was shocked by the enthusiasm with which they approached the next step of the day’s activities, collaboratively adorning morsels of food, generously donated by the selfsame vendors, then scripting and performing narrations of the life stories of our new puppet friends.
The video project will continue back on site at the school, but that experience alone was transformative, changing their understanding of their role in the food system and paving the way for a new dialogue. “We should all be grateful that there are people who care so much about food that they are willing to work this hard for us” was one particularly poignant final reflection.
It just goes to show you: never underestimate the power of a video camera, a young person’s curiosity or a piece of really fresh produce. Thanks, Michael.