Thank you for your wonderfully helpful letter, feedback and vision. I
share with a few of our groups that have helped so much. Thank you to
all who helped with My Food Story!
I look forward to responding to your letter. Also, I hope that our many
participants might write about next steps. How might "food stories"
relate to our own interests, projects, values, questions? These next
few weeks I will be thinking fresh about my own priorities (and I
encourage us likewise) but certainly we will build on this work that has
energized our laboratory.
One idea that I have is inspired by your attention to us as "end users"
or "consumers" or "shoppers" who actually eat and/or buy all this food
and might care more about where it comes from. We might develop (it
would not be too hard) a website where people might enter the foods that
they buy or eat. People can take this information from their shopping
receipts and they can add more information, for example, the brands they
buy, or the foods they grow. We can store this and also generate an XML
file that they can post on their own website if they have one. We can
build applications that read the file and respond as desired, for
example, to explain which of the foods are more healthy and which are
less, which are local, which may hurt those who are allergic or have
dietary restrictions, which might one grow themselves, which can be
bought more cheaply or locally. Many such services might be free, but
we could also have paid services, for example, to engage the makers of
the foods to provide more information about them, including having us
engage their workers and get their stories. There is quite a lot that
we might do for $5 or $20 or $50 if we set this up intelligently and
rely on our global team.
Another idea that Rick Nelson http://www.solaroof.org has inspired is to
truly focus on "hubs" (places were individuals work alongside each other
on their own work and projects). I believe that these are the kernels
that grow to become "global villages". See Chris Messina's work
and Mark Kuznicki http://remarkk.com/category/creative-hubs/ Such hubs
are I think a natural place for us to invest ourselves and understand,
which ones care about "independent thinking" and what can we learn from
them? So this is one direction where I might invest some of our
resources, to connect these hubs with our researchers around the world,
especially with "food stories". Another group to engage regarding "food
stories" is progressive restaurant owners (such as those that serve
organic or vegetarian food) especially in areas that we want to reach
out more such as the South Side of Chicago. Who else might we like to
Greg, you have opened up a lot of opportunities for us. I have learned
quite a lot from pursuing your vision about its significance. We will
certainly include your challenges and look to your vision in our future
Thank you for this work! I and so many have grown!
> Andrius et al.,
> Much appreciation for the work on the MyFoodStory pilot project and
> congratulations on achieving the project milestones.
> Samwel's stories of Argwings Omuga and Elijah Odhiambo Onyango
> (http://origins.wikia.com/wiki/Fisherman) highlight for me the power
> of personal food stories. It's one thing to read about the decline in
> lake level and quite another to review the impact through the the eyes
> of a fisherman and his family.
> Can this first modest step in collecting stories become a positive
> force for change in a world of global food production and consumption? I
> certainly hope so despite the many challenges that lie ahead.
> There's clearly many more steps to go before we can really collect and
> connect the stories of producers and consumers around the world.
> However, even this initial project has created many new connections.
> So many people have an interesting food story if we find the time
> to ask, listen, and learn.
> It's good to see that the project has helped Minciu Sodas build
> resources and put together such diverse and dedicated teams.
> These teams will be crucial for success if this project is to grow and
> bear the fruits of informing everyone along the food production chain
> and improving livelihoods and the health people and the planet.
> I'm interested in hearing your suggestions of how we might:
> * improve upon the kernel of stories at origins.wikia.com,
> * put them in a context that connects with the experiences of people
> who may know food primarily through supermarket shelves, and
> * invite the participation of other groups that care about the global
> while maintaining the very personal and real qualities of the stories.
> Should we promote particular conventions for each of the stories,
> including for example the location of the storyteller and where they
> buy/sell their food? What types of incentives might be used to reward
> the editors who make the story accessible to a larger audience?
> Should we highlight one area each month or each week as a way of
> focusing attention? Should we pick a "story of the month" (maybe
> eventually a story of the day) to receive virtual applause and perhaps
> even a small gratuity?
> Of course, collecting the stories themselves should remain the core focus.
> But if there are recommendations that come out of this discussion, perhaps
> someone here might take it upon themselves to summarize and post those
> on the origins wikia for others to see and build upon?
> Once again, thank you all for joining in this small step and I look
> forward to continuing to walk along together on this timeless journey.
Thank you very much for providing our Minciu Sodas laboratory and
participants with work to create My Food Story
http://www.myfoodstory.com and the Origins wiki http://origins.wikia.com
I believe that we have met your targets for the bonuses. I look forward
to your evaluation of our work.
I overview the work that we have done:
* 1800+ Directory Entries
* 60+ FeaturedStories
* 6+ Communities
* 6+ Stories at Wikia
1800+ Directory Entries
At My Food Story, http://www.myfoodstory.com, we have collected 1923
entries for our directory of storytellers. Each entry includes an
excerpt related to the storyteller as well as the copyright status,
related tags, related urls, the people who have brought their story to
us, and what we know of their interest to participate. More than 400
of these entries are from people our teams interviewed on-the-ground and
up to 1500 are from excerpts discovered online. Most of the entries are
in English, but perhaps 200 are in Arabic, Lithuanian or other languages.
Sasha Mrkailo, a beekeeper in Serbia, collected 1150 stories and
uncovered many sources for stories. About 35 major sources and hundreds
of minor sources can be found at:
And we collected 40 major sources (some included above) in our list at:
We are expecting quite a few more stories which have yet to be entered
from Cameroon, Kenya and Nigeria and also Sasha Mrkailo will collect 100
We have tagged the stories using a total of 2993 tags:
We are using TouchGraph to visualize the relationships between the most
commonly used tags:
60+ Featured Stories
We are using the ProWiki engine to present articles and are using
metadata to indicate featured stories. We have:
* 61 Featured Persons
Which are available from the list on the main page. And the list can be
changed to show:
* 25 Featured Crops
* 9 Featured Locations
* 10 Featured Values
* 5 Featured Technologies
We have also a list of about 100 photos in the Public Domain:
We have set up a Social Agriculture working group led by Steve
Bosserman, an agricultural knowledge broker in Columbus, Ohio. His
group has received 532 letters since the start of work in October and is
averaging about 3 letters per day. The group has 78 members (not all
added yet) of which 23 have written at least one letter.
Our Minciu Sodas laboratory and our participants have made a long term
investment in My Food Story. This is evident in the uses of My Food
Story that various individuals and groups are making or intend to make.
The food stories help us document our networks, understand our reality
on-the-ground, investigate our empathy, learn to work together and lay
the groundwork for on-the-ground experiments.
* Awne Abo Zant leads a team in Nablus, a city in Israeli-occupied
Palestine, that collected more than 350 first-hand accounts from farmers
in the area, including dozens of photos. These accounts document the
daily life of the farmers and others in the food supply network, but
also the hardships that they are facing because of the occupation. Our
network has proved supportive and inspirational for Kanaan Al-Jamal, a
villager who has discovered ways of "fighting peacefully" from
organizing olive farmers to organizing bicyclists. We have helped link
Kanaan with Israeli bicyclists. We are seeking ways that they might
trade olives, olive oil and olive oil soap for new or used bicycles. We
are active at our lab's working group FightingPeacefully
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/fightingpeacefully/ and our Arabic group
* Samwel Kongere leads a team in Rusinga Island, Lake Victoria, Kenya
which includes dozens of researchers. With their help he has written
insightful reports on six local crops. They have agreed to invest their
earnings in developing a local wireless network and are experimenting
with their first two wi-fi routers. The goal is to link with the
Internet which is several miles away. Samwel is recognized as a leader
and mentor for Minciu Sodas participants in Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda and
around the world, and the improved connectivity will allow for increased
investment in Rusinga Island as a base for experimental activity both
online and on-the-ground. Samwel has also started a working group
"Mendenyo" http://groups.yahoo.com/group/mendenyo/ which means "Men
without food" and expresses his deepest value of "motivation through
sacrifice", which is to say, rather than eat everything today, we can
save and invest for a better life tomorrow. Samwel is also active in
the opening of a new school for orphans in his AIDS ravaged land.
* David Ellison-Bey leads the Moorish Cultural Workshop of the Moorish
Science Temple of America (he is a former Grand Sheik). His house is a
breath of inspiration in the Englewood neighborhood of Chicago which has
suffered the decimation of the racial caste system. David is a
renaissance man and has worked as a cook and grows a garden which is a
rarity in his neighborhood. We now have an official office for Minciu
Sodas at his home with a video bridge capability including a room with a
projector. Guests are welcome: 6726 S Parnell Ave, Chicago, IL,
telephone: (773) 874-3332. Steve and Linda Bosserman of Columbus, Ohio
have visited his home and are keen to build on our contacts here to make
advances in urban agriculture. Together we went to Goodness Greenness
which is the largest organic supplier in the Midwest and has its
headquarters and warehouse a mile or so away. David and I also visited
Time Dollars Tutoring http://www.timedollarstutoring.org and the
Building Our Posterity Technology Consortium incubator where we spoke
with Dr. Malakee Gray of the Life Movement, a self-reliance movement.
Malakee is supportive of the idea of shipping computers to our
participants in Africa, and also of finding African-American
entrepreneurs who might lead a local distribution of vegetables. We are
pursuing these ideas including computer assembly through the Mendenyo
group where we are also encouraging connections between Africa and
Chicago. I also signed up dozens of participants at the
FamilyFarmed.org Expo in Chicago for Steve's working group Social
Agriculture http://groups.yahoo.com/group/socialagriculture/ My Food
Story is a natural resource for recognizing African-Americans and others
who might work together to "irrigate" the "food desert" of the South
Side of Chicago.
* Jeff Buderer of One Village Foundation
http://www.onevillagefoundation.org leads our team on Integrated Farm
and Waste Management. This approach, advanced especially by George Chan
of Mauritius, is an essential ingredient in One Village's strategy of
creating "unity centers" to catalyze hope in African villages. Jeff has
written about a dozen articles for our wiki. Maria Agnese Giraudo works
near Rome, Italy as a research librarian in nutrition and she has also
contributed articles on aquaponics. She approached a variety of
Italians including in the Slow Food movement, without great success so
far. She is inviting Samwel Kongere to Europe in March 2008 and this
will strengthen our global efforts. Jeff Buderer and Steve Bosserman
visited Barry Adler's RainFresh Harvests greenhouse and recycling pond
near Columbus, Ohio. Ken Owino has written a series of remarkable
articles from the Kibera slums of Nairobi. He leads youth (acrobats!)
and is exploring how urban agriculture might help urban youth connect
with the countryside. Ken's articles on the sewage in Kibera have led
to our discussion of what kind of on-the-ground application of
Integrated Farm and Waste Management we might work on together.
* Markus Petz leads our tisane team on tea drinks of all kinds. He
started a new working group on his deepest value "Meaningful inclusion"
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/meaningfulinclusion/ He gathered about
fifty entries from online sources and has engaged some of them in
correspondence. He is investigating the economic arrangements and how
they enhance individual liberty or not. Janet Feldman of our "Holistic
Helping" group http://groups.yahoo.com/group/holistichelping/ alerted
us to our friends in Cameroon of the women's organization ACTWID
KONGADZEM who grow artemisia, a tea drink. We sent them money to buy a
computer and they have provided personal stories from their region about
artemisia and other crops. We also received a fine story about
artemisia from Fred Kayiwa in Uganda along with many others. We learned
about community-to-community exchange (such as tea for silk, but I think
especially the exchange of business opportunities) from Stan Thekaekara
of http://www.justchangeindia.org and I imagine this is an angle that we
will surely pursue further, as we engage more independent thinkers in
India and Sri Lanka (such as the Sardovaya village movement) but also
local tea drinks as Markus reminds us.
* Our laboratory is based in Lithuania, but I was not able to settle on
a leader, in part because of my time spent abroad. However, a group
from Minciu Sodas did visit and photograph Valdas Kavaliauskas, a
poultry expert and now maker of cheeses. Zita Milkamanovic of the
historic Lithuanian minority of Tartars contributed basic contact
information for several dozen local farmers in the village of Forty
Tartars as well as some photos. We made contact with Vytas Sliupas of
the Auksuciai Foundation which provides support from California for
Lithuanian farmers. Our Lithuanian group
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/minciu_sodas_LT/ also received letters
from newcomers who are organizing against Genetically Modified foods.
Our lab has deep roots in the villages of Lithuania and so I expect My
Food Story to grow in importance.
There are quite a few other areas where My Food Story is or will be
relevant for us, especially as a "public asset" that our farflung
participants can work on as we get to know each other.
* Pamela McLean leads our working group on Learning From Each Other.
She is just returning from her journey to Nigeria where she planned to
speak with farmers who might contribute food stories. We have earmarked
1000 USD for their work. We're especially interested in ICT for
distance learning and how we might include and support those with the
worst Internet access. * Pamela also introduced us to Surya Prakash
Vinjamuri of the Life-Health Reinforcement Group in India who wrote us
* Tom Ochuka is working with the deaf in Kenya and is contributing stories.
* Helen Mahoo and Josephat Ndibalema have contributed stories from
Tanzania and are part of a larger group that has met there and is
encouraged by Maria Agnese Giraudo and Samwel Kongere.
* Sasha Mrkailo in Serbia will continue to work for us as an online
organizer and trainer but also supporting our efforts in the Balkans. He
is a beekeeper.
* Lucas Gonzales Santa Cruz of the Canary Islands is dedicated to
preparing for a pandemic flu that might strike as a result of the bird
flu. He provided Samwel Kongere with 100 USD of work to interview
Kenyans how they might constructively respond to such a pandemic. We
have a long term interest in these issues and Pamela McLean is helping
us explore how they might link to distance learning in Nigeria.
* Rick Nelson is the inventor of Solaroof greenhouses that make use of
soap bubbles to keep heat in. He leads our new working group on his
deepest value of "Opening ourselves to direct knowledge" which will be
our center for hands-on innovative projects in science and technology.
* John Rogers leads our working group on his deepest value
"participatory society" including community currency
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/cyfranogi/ He is a founder of the Wales
Institute for Community Currencies which earlier funded work at our lab
on an online learning environment with a collection of stories about the
"money mind". He appreciates the reality provided by food stories and
looks forward to our collecting such stories as they relate to community
* Steve Bosserman lives in Columbus, Ohio and is interested that we set
up My Food Story in his region. He is also engaging potential clients
for our work around the world.
* Our Spanish language group
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/minciu_sodas_ES/ has some new energy
thanks to Synnove Mathe and Roy Lent and my own efforts to organize
independent thinkers in Oaxaca, Mexico. Roy lives in Costa Rica where
he is growing Jatropha curcas for the production of vegetable oil as
fuel for diesels. In our group, he exchanged some letters with Ray
Pacheco Jarquin and Moran Legales regarding sharing various kinds of seeds.
* Maria Agnese Giraudo is organizing our laboratory's meeting on
e-learning in Italy in March 2008 on the occassion of Samwel Kongere's
visit. We are working to engage a variety of contacts including those
who might be interested in My Food Story, such as Andrea Mills of the
Italy Innovation Lab in the agricultural region of Piacenza.
* Franz Nahrada is linking us with the new Bioversity in Austria.
The variety of contributions points to the vitality of My Food Story and
our own flexibility. We can point to the different kinds of value and
consider where to put our further efforts, both work for free and work
I have learned that the food stories are so universal and so concrete
that they provide a benchmark for what is reality, what is "ground
truth". We are as if wired to appreciate the complex questions that
pervade our food, where it comes from and why we might care.
We have made connections for MyFoodStory as attendees at various
meetings and conferences:
* Andrius Kulikauskas at the MIR learning partnership in Cyprus
* Markus Petz at the launch of the Living Labs Network in Finland
* Samwel Kongere at the World Social Forum in Nairobi, Kenya
* Fred Kayiwa at the Omidyar Network Conference in Uganda
* Andrius Kulikauskas at the Oaxaca Chamber of Commerce meeting on peace
in Oaxaca, Mexico
* Andrius Kulikauskas at FoodCamp in San Francisco, California
* Andrius Kulikauskas and Jeff Buderer at the Tech Policy executive
summit in Silicon Valley
* Andrius Kulikauskas at the Green Drinks evening on organic food in
* Andrius Kulikauskas at the FamilyFarmed.org Expo in Chicago, Illinois
* Andrius Kulikauskas at the Living Labs meeting and the iCity Expo in
* Pamela McLean in her travels in Nigeria
We are leveraging the work of:
* Helmut Leitner, inventor of ProWiki http://www.prowiki.com who has
created especially at our request the metadata capabilities which we
make extensive use of for MyFoodStory
* we are using the open source TouchGraph http://www.touchgraph.com
invented by Alex Shapiro who was earlier active at Minciu Sodas
We have engaged for future possibilities:
* Guillermo Payet of Local Harvest in Santa Cruz, California who Andrius
Kulikauskas and Jeff Buderer visited http://www.localharvest.org
* Anthony Judge of the Union of International Associations in Brussels,
* Kevin Jones, Gary Bolles (both in Silicon Valley) and Mark Beam
(Oaxaca, Mexico) of Xigi http://www.xigi.net
* Robert Scaman, Warren King and others of Goodness Greenness in
Chicago, Illinois http://www.goodnessgreenness.org
* Malakee Gray of the Life Movement and BOP Technology Consortium in
* Vytas Sliupas of the Auksuciai Foundation in Burlingame, California
for Lithuania's farmers http://www.aukfoundation.org
* Adrian Bowles of the OMG Regulatory Compliance Alliance
* Steve Cayzer of Hewlett-Packard labs in Bristol, UK
I am speaking with three potential clients for further work in the
spirit of My Food Story on an equal or larger scale and have signed up
ten such prospects for our working groups. Clients are especially
interested in our ability to organize work in increments of 100 USD and
on a large scale. We also have prospects and participants interested in
funding work on a smaller scale.
6+ Wikia Articles
Sasha Mrkailo and I have organized and started the Origins wiki
http://origins.wikia.com as you wished. He has added from My Food Story
ten articles about people and ten articles about crops.
I look forward to your response there. We certainly have more material
that we might add.
In summary, Greg, thank you for this work and for your vision! We have
all benefited in so many ways, but especially in appreciating how these
concrete and universal stories help us understand each other and support
each other in much more real ways.
We look forward to your continued vision and care in the coming years as
My Food Story evolves. We have achieved a lot with your basic direction
and minimal supervision, but certainly your inspiration will deepen our
Thank you for this work!
and thank you to all who have helped us!