Teachable Moments ‐ 31 August 2013

I have included below the story that I wrote on 25 August 2013 that I was going to tell during the Teachable Moments. Even though this story was not told, I did use it as a guide for the presentation, which I think worked out well.

"When you do the common things in life in an uncommon way, you will command the attention of the world."

‐ Dr. George W. (he never knew his middle name) Carver

Ahead of his time, Herbert Leslie Martin did common activities in an uncommon way, thereby gaining attention, recognition, and respect from others. I, Obiora Embry, am his great‐grandson and I am walking a similar path...not the same but similar. I was born to parents who are ahead of their time and have also done common activities in an uncommon way.

I embraced my uniqueness when I was younger. However, as I got older and wanted to fit in and be seen as "normal," I changed and tried to hide who I really was. It worked and eventually I became this pseudo person that I changed frequently for different reasons. And one day, I woke up not knowing who I was nor my own name! So I decided to take action and began making changes. I started to seek and befriend outsiders who welcomed me with open arms. Through these relationships, I started to find some of my former self.

While my father was living in Detroit, I went several times to visit him. When I went for the first time in 2001, I saw my past, present, and future. I saw urban gardening intertwined with visual art and an inter‐generational community helping to ease and relieve the burden on the land that had been contaminated by ignorance and greed.

I began to think about the pictures that I had seen of my twin brother and I working in our family garden at a young age. I recalled traveling here to pick Blackberries, pears, and other fruit, and throwing corn cobs at the hogs in the barn. I remembered using a dehydrator to dry fruits, the bountiful harvest from Karen Napier’s garden and other friends of my parents. I also remembered our own abundance of fruit trees, bushes, medicinal and non‐medicinal plants in our yard that had been forgotten because they were out of sight.

My present was Louisville, Kentucky, and I was working at GE Appliances. I had organized a group of co‐op students and we were volunteering with the New Zion Community Development Foundation, Inc. We were mentoring, tutoring, and working with the youth, primarily high school students with a few in middle school. After my trip to Detroit, I decided to implement a community garden that could benefit the youth and the community‐at‐large. The youth and counselors were interested but the Director who had farmed in his youth was not interested in the garden.

This saddened me but I knew that another opportunity would happen when the time was right. It wasn’t until 2005 that I put my hands into soil for the purpose of sowing seeds for the present and future. After feeling the warmth of the living and breathing soil, and my connection to It, I knew that I was home, and it was where I was supposed to be! In 2006, I started my business EConsulting™. Around 2007, I decided to focus primarily on gardening products and services.

While living in Lexington, I was involved in most of the community gardens started by my father through his non‐profit, Sustainable Communities Network for a few years or more. And through this relationship, my father and I have attended regional and national conferences dealing with food justice and sustainable farming. In addition, we have organized local workshops, conferences, and food summits.

Since I re‐connected with Mother Nature through gardening, I have sown seeds and plants in containers of different shapes, materials, and sizes; in raised beds; in water; and directly in the ground. Through my plot at a community garden, I gained the respect and admiration of others by gardening in an uncommon way. When I began my plot, I went to the garden with a blank slate and let Divine Oneness be my guide—similar to what was done by Dr. Carver—as I began to design, develop, and implement my garden within 34 square feet.

Raised Bed
Raised Bed (April 2010)

Today, my twin brother and I come to you, our family, still doing common activities in an uncommon way. As we are constantly growing, changing, and re‐evaluating our thoughts and ideas through continuous improvement, we have collectively decided to quit talkin’ about our ideas for Martin Acres and have decided to take action.

In doing so, we are leasing two acres of land from Martin Acres Inc. for a long‐term project that is initially five years but will be extended in the future. It is a combination of ideas that my twin brother and I have had over the years.

Over the last few years, I have been reading, researching, thinking about, and experimenting with diverse farming practices to better understand the way things used to be and how gardening/farming is done in other parts of the world.

While at a regional conference in Chattanooga, TN, I attended a workshop on soil. Yes on soil. In the workshop, our instructor who is the farm manager at Rodale Institute in Pennsylvania talked about different types of soil, some of the microorganisms and macro‐organisms present, and how it is the most important factor in the success or failure of your garden/farm. He said something that I tell others to help them understand the importance of soil:

"Soil is like an Olympic athlete. You wouldn’t ask an Olympic athlete to take two or three seasons off and expect him/her to perform well, so why do we do this to the soil?" In order for the living organisms in the soil to stay alive there must always be something growing as life in the soil dies when nothing is growing.

As this is the case, my twin brother and I have been securing and planting native plants, heirlooms, native medicinal plants, and native trees for the forest garden. Ajani, my twin brother, has been the primary person working on this endeavor as I have been too far away to assist in the manner that I would like. But nonetheless, we are trying to bring our individual thoughts, ideas, and sensibilities with regards to sowing food to work together as one on this long‐term project. We have a vision that is dynamic and will change and grow as we do, but the purpose will remain the same.

As teachers and students, and with this project in particular, we hope to teach Uncle Howitt and others about other gardening/farming techniques while becoming students of the ever changing ecosystem, landscape, and seasonal variability of two acres of land, while also learning from the vegetation, wildlife, and soil.

Our forest garden can and will morph into other projects spear‐headed by other family members. I have a few ideas that I would to bring to fruition in the near future, which can lead to diverse revenue streams for my business and also for Martin Acres Inc. but that is another story waiting to unfold.

Thank you for your time, patience, guidance, questions, suggestions, criticisms, and most importantly LOVE over the years!