Mushroom Farm!

Today is an exciting day for us: this afternoon, CityLab7 will gather at Olson Kundig Architects' weekly Thursday critique to discuss the installation of our pop-up mushroom farm in their street-level space, [storefront] Olson Kundig Architects.
In February, we will grow community and food as a shared activity in an evolving exhibit that includes mushrooms growing on repurposed coffee grounds gathered from local cafés such as Zeitgeist, Starbucks and Caffe Umbria, and a series of eat-and-learn events with local and national food experts, including our grant partner, MacArthur Genius Gary Nabhan.
This partnership heralds a significant moment in our three-year collaboration -- and a twist on a longstanding joke. In our initial proposal to Invoking the Pause in 2009, we built upon Maggie's idea about the need to take time out to think -- in essence, "Don't just do something, stand there."
Now, at the beginning of 2012, after months and years of brainstorming, researching, and gathering for work sessions in cafes, living rooms, and co-working hubs across Seattle, we are stepping forward to put our plans into action. Standing has been great --and necessary--  but we're ready to take this idea and run with it. 
Stay tuned for news of openings and events beginning in February, and thanks to all who have supported us over the years.

¡Viva Viva Farms!

There's almost a little bit of "Groundhog Day " (the movie) to this year's Thanksgiving gratitude as we learn of the repeating good fortunes of our friends Sarita and Ethan at Viva Farms.

Earlier this season, they scored a huge win at Social Venture Partners Fast Pitch, and just last week they were the focus of this eloquent Sightline guest blog, "Grow Your Farmer"

As the Sightline article details, they've harvested much bounty since we walked those fallow fields together early last year.

Then, before any student-farmers had gotten into the fields, Ethan and Sarita invited CityLab to help them imagine taking best advantage of the site and its great highway visibility. 

So we helped them organize (in a concept plan somewhat more formal than back of the napkin) the working parts of the farm as well as locating the now-wildly successful Viva Fresh Market right on Route 20.

Since then, our collaboration has grown, with consultations on CityLab's Fertile Grounds Urban Food Utility Pop-Up, and providing fiscal agency for our ITP3 Blossoming Possibilities grant.

While winter is settling in around us, its a sure bet we'll be growing more through this relationship soon. 

¡Viva Viva Farms!

- Stephen


Taco Diplomacy Truck is Fertile Grounds for cultivating CityLab

Taco Diplomacy Truck is Fertile Grounds for cultivating CityLab

It completely made sense that Citylab's own regional food system investigation (Fertile Grounds) should point us south to compare notes and engage in the launch of the Taco Diplomacy Truck at the Tucson Meet Yourself festival. Invited to provide a qualitative "user experience assessment" to the Truck's creators/"curators", we quickly found them open to us unleashing our predilection for playful exploration and interactive experience. 
Taco Diplomacy Truck is Fertile Grounds for cultivating CityLab
Without even asking where it would take us, by 8:00 am we were sitting in Epic Cafe designing "Taco Diplomat" stickers to share with festival-goers, and scripting a photo documentation essay to capture soon-to-be-appointed "Taco Diplomats'" whiteboard rejoinders to the prompt of "A Taco Is…"

We had a great time (despite the 95-degree heat) cajoling curious strangers to commit for us something of a personal food experience, memory or impression on the whiteboards. But more, we learned just how richly CityLab's skillage can--with just a little effort and creative prop/prompting-- elicit so easily what  people want to share. 

Taco Diplomacy Truck is Fertile Grounds for cultivating CityLab
For our next move, we are planning how we might tell the tale of the Taco Truck when Dr. Nabhan and his coffee colleagues come to visit our Fertile Grounds Pop-up as part of the HUB Seattle opening.

Taco Diplomacy Truck is Fertile Grounds for cultivating CityLab
And we are already scheming a "Border to Border" Taco Truck Tour, excited to taste the rich and various food challenges from Southern California seaside fisheries and the plights of farmworker communities from Central Valley to Eastern Washington.


Where seasonal and sensual food experience align

Ignore the sartorial mismatch of the man in the tie-- a solar powered ice cream production+vending cart elegantly aligns late summer heat (read: solar electric harvesting opportunity) with late summer appetites for cool and creamy artisanal treats. Yes, the schematic on the side of the cart speaks to those needing to geek out on how the PV-collected juice is used in both production and refrigerated storage of ice cream. More, the "umbrella" over the cart might even be overlooked by others as being the rig's power plant. And perhaps that is the more instructive design solution: do we always need to be hammering on the "interpretive value" of an innovative solution to connect people with our "foodprint" issues? August ice cream at this Amherst farmers market delivers the goods more flavorfully to my taste.

Stephen M Antupit

Trash | Recycle | Compost | Coffee grounds


Where’s the tipping point between diligence and annoyance?

This is one of the questions we’re investigating as part of our Fertile Grounds project. Would it seem burdensome to add one more container next to our recycle and waste bins? What if there were a bin for salvaging coffee grounds?

Coffee grounds are a valuable resource that can be put to good use (e.g., urban agriculture projects) rather than being trucked away to a compost facility or worse—to a landfill.

Unfortunately, sorting waste can sometimes be a major pain in the butt, so we are working to develop simple operational strategies that make it easy for coffee shops and carts to keep their coffee grounds clean enough to recycle. (By “clean” we mean free of food waste and/or paper products.)

After visiting coffee shops around Seattle to learn about their existing composting systems, we believe that creating a pain-free methodology for recycling grounds is actually easy to achieve. By employing a few simple design strategies when planning a coffee shop or cart, these nutrient-rich grounds can be recaptured and repurposed.

Curious to learn more? Follow our progress online over the next several months as we work to brand an urban food system process that is profitable, replicable, less wasteful, and less carbon intensive.

Or—better yet—contact us if you run a coffee business and would like to join in on the fun.

- Posted by Chris

Waste as resource.

How much of what we consume makes it's way down the collective waste pipe? Can we find ways to break down the silos around produce, consume, throw away? What if our morning cup of coffee could be the feedstock for multiple downstream benefits - if the waste grounds produced in the brewing of our morning lift was used as a resource for further food production and waste treatment? And then imagine it all happening in a local loop. Maybe that hot cup would taste just that much sweeter.

(image from the side of the soon-to-be Irwin's Cafe on the corner of 65th & Latona)

When source disclosure becomes a series of collateral delights

Seen at a college town cafe, this informative poster confirms that there is ready space for us to launch the Fertile Grounds Urban Food Utility model.

We can enrich the local food system by using the coffee grounds to cultivate tasty mushrooms! We will divert coffee grounds from the municipal waste stream! We will remediate damaged urban soils with the post-production, inoculated mushroom compost! We will connect people to ever more pieces of the puzzle of the food system, in ways that capture multiple returns on relationships! We will Do Things About Carbon Without Talking About Carbon--and with multi-sensory delights!

Stephen A
from Amherst MA