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Week 39: "Growing Families and Growing Power"

Daniel Barash


The alarm sounds, and it’s 3 AM on Saturday morning. We slowly and groggily wake Aviva, all get dressed, bring our luggage downstairs, and bag two fresh loaves of challah that Aviva and I made late Friday night. We get in the car, and drive in the darkness to SFO. Destination, Wisconsin!

A sleepy Aviva, at Abby and Robby's post-rehearsal dinner.

A sleepy Aviva, at Abby and Robby's post-rehearsal dinner.

Yes, we’re going across the country, and our Sabbath loaves are taking the journey, too! My cousin Marcy’s daughter is getting married, and to help Abby and Robby celebrate, we’ve decided to challah-it-forward our loaves to the post-rehearsal dinner, for all who’ve traveled near and far to enjoy.

The wedding on Sunday was meaningful in both profound and unexpected ways; first, the bride and groom were standing under the same chuppah (wedding canopy) that Mark and I stood under 14 years ago! Created by my dear grandmother Annabelle Argand, the corners of the chuppah include the embroidered Hebrew names of all who have been married within. Second, Abby and Robby were married on Father’s Day, and so were we! Except this time I actually AM a father, with perspectives and experiences (and countless sleep-deprived nights) that I couldn’t have imagined all those years ago. If I could turn back time and actually speak to my younger self, what would I say? What COULD I say? Sharing wisdom is so important and necessary, AND at the same time, I think it’s the living of a life that truly teaches us the lessons that ultimately guide us.

The day after the wedding, we were fortunate enough to tour Growing Power, a truly inspirational urban farm started by a renaissance man named Will Allen. I had initially learned about this farm thanks to an author event at our local library (yay to local libraries, so essential to healthy communities!). Jacqueline Briggs Martin shared her newest book, entitled “Farmer Will Allen and the Growing Table.” It recounts the truly remarkable true story of Will Allen, who as a young man decided to purchase six empty greenhouses in a part of Milwaukee that is considered a “food desert,” meaning that there is very little access to fresh, nutritious food. He transformed this little plot of urban land into an extremely healthy and abundant urban farm, which provides low-cost, nutritious food (as opposed to “food-like substances” that we find on most of the shelves of our grocery stores) to local residents.

When I found out that this remarkable story took place in Milwaukee, WI (90 minutes from my hometown of Madison), I promised myself that someday I would see this, and share its inspirational message with my family. Well, Monday afternoon turned out to be my “someday,” as my Aunt Eve treated us to a farm tour! Although there were very heavy rains in the morning that threatened to cancel, the weather magically cleared up right at noon, and we drove to Growing Power!

"Growing Power" Tour!

"Growing Power" Tour!

The tour was truly inspiring, in countless ways. The farm is essentially a zero-waste operation, with almost all waste from one part of the growing process being used to help another. What impressed me above all else was the fact that Will Allen had the special quality of “seeing things” that don’t currently exist, but could; as the book illustrates, Allen initially saw a row of empty greenhouses, and then imagined a table flowing with food. He saw the dimensions of those six greenhouses, and then imagined food growing not only within their horizontal footprints, but also vertically, from the ground all the way up to the ceiling! And finally, he saw a successful urban farm, and then imagined it as a model to be emulated globally, giving people around the world the tools and strategies to grow and provide healthy, nutritious food for all!

It’s that quality, of seeing things as they are, and then imagining how things could be, that I hope blossoms in Aviva over the coming years. I look forward to seeing how she (and really her generation as a whole) meets the challenges that they confront, with healthy amounts of creativity, grit, and compassion.