I am obsessed with urban soil health, so when I got a phone call in mid May from Steven of the Seeds of Peace Collective, I realized a soil ship came in. Seeds of Peace (seedsofpeacecollective.org) is a collective of accomplished cooks and trained street medics who provide delicious homecooked food and logistics as supportive non-violent, direct action to social movements. They have formed in 1986 as a result of the Great March for Nuclear Disarmament and are based in Missoula. They were in Chicago to set up the free community kitchen to serve the thousands of protestors of the NATO conference and Steven said they needed my assistance with their food waste as they had already overwhelmed a small urban garden’s compost bin. ‘Sure, how much do you have? ‘Our containers are full, can you come soon?
It was late, so I waited until morning and drove my pickup to their site – a parking lot between a community center and an auto parts store. The scene was impressive: a maroon biodiesel school bus with windows dressed in curtains screenprinted with frying pans and butcher knives and hung with the largest wok and cast iron pan I have ever seen. A purple tent stretched form the bus into the lot forming an overhang for a to-code outdoor kitchen with multiple burner stoves, wash sinks, prepping area and stacks of boxes of produce, mostly organic. At least 12 people stood prepping food for the day. Gallons and gallons of salad and stirfry ingredients were being tossed and mixed in 30 gallon coolers with small wooden oars.
Every day for a week, I picked up the 100 or so gallons of food waste a day and provided them with extra large garbage cans to pour their waste into. Their kitchen was three miles form the rallying area and once the food was prepared, they would pack a flat bed with it and a few tables and trundle off to the park, the rallying point three miles away and serve their healthy, delicious food free of charge to the several thousand people there.
Once pick up was an entire garbage can of delicious looking chickpea and sweet potato curry that had fermented in the sun due to the police blocking their passage to the Park. It made me cry to compost that delicious looking curry. I had to steal from my stockpiled carbon source used for my humanure operation and use a couple of bales of straw and dumpstered cardboard to take care of so much nitrogenous waste.
The resulting compost pile is huge and I am grateful that so much healthy soil will be produced from such a heavy-handed affair.
Thanks Steven, Sarah, Patrick and the rest of you of the Seeds of Peace Collective. May you meet with strong hearts and hands on the road.