See the abandoned warehouse that transformed into a job-creating organic farm in Detroit's Brightmoor
"Resilience" is a word that comes up a lot at VEJ.
It's easy enough to talk about it, but how do you do it? Where do you go to see an example of it?
One of the most amazing examples of resilience (and resourcefulness) you will find anywhere just happens to be in a plain industrial building in Detroit's Brightmoor neighborhood.
That building, once a blighted and crumbling warehouse, is now home to Artesian Farms, one of the country's fastest-growing hydroponic organic food businesses. Artesian Farms leafy greens make it into grocery stores and onto plates at restaurants all over southeast Michigan and beyond. And while leafy greens are growing at Artesian Farms, so are career and job opportunities for the people of the Brightmoor neighborhood.
Read more about Artesian Farms here:
"The story of Artesian Farms hits all the right notes," said VEJ executive director BT Irwin. "It shows that you don't have to choose between economic opportunity and environmental stewardship. They can go hand in hand, even in a neighborhood that has to overcome a lot of negative inertia and real barriers to growth."
That's why VEJ is pleased to be hosting its first-ever Eco-Eating Tour at Artesian Farms on Saturday, March 23. Artesian Farms founder Jeff Adams will lead this exclusive behind-the-scenes tour and tell the story of how he started the farm in an abandoned warehouse.
Tickets for this rare inside look at one of the country's most innovative food businesses are $20. Proceeds support VEJ's educational, outreach, and volunteer programs.
Click here to get your tickets.
Michigan Green Industries founder Rev. Faith Fowler to headline Voices for Earth Justice Breakfast on National Day of Prayer (May 2)
Rev. Faith Fowler, a pioneer in the crossover between environmental and social justice work, will headline the first annual Voices for Earth Justice National Day of Prayer Breakfast on Thursday, May 2, at the Congregational Church of Birmingham UCC in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan.
The gathering will also feature interfaith prayer and a halal and kosher breakfast made by Chef Annabel Cohen using locally-grown organic ingredients.
Early bird tickets will be $55 each and go on sale March 20. Special discounts will be available for clergy, lay ministry leaders, members of religious orders, and students. Proceeds will support VEJ's educational, outreach, and volunteer programs.
"This event, like all of VEJ's programs, is about helping people believe in what's possible," said VEJ executive director BT Irwin. "When you come eat Annabel Cohen's food, listen to Rev. Fowler's story, and meet people who are different from you and yet share your hope for a better world, you will leave with fresh energy, more focus, and new friends."
Rev. Fowler is pastor of Cass Community United Methodist Church in Detroit and founder of Cass Community Social Services, Inc. (CCSS), a "Detroit-based agency with a person-centered philosophy, dedicated to providing food, housing, health services, and job programs."
Read more about Rev. Fowler here:
Under Rev. Fowler's leadership, CCSS started Michigan Green Industries in 2007 to create jobs for Detroit's underemployed and unemployed. Michigan Green Industries makes and sells consumer items by recycling or repurposing materials that would otherwise end up at Detroit's incinerator or in landfills.
In 2016, Rev. Fowler began developing a neighborhood of 25 high-efficiency "tiny homes." This development is making national headlines for its unique approach to solving the housing crisis for Detroit's homeless, poor, and working poor.
More recently, Rev. Fowler worked with Ford Motor Company to develop a "mobile farm," a portable indoor farming concept that can move from neighborhood to neighborhood in the city of Detroit. Mobile farming will allow residents to grow their own food year-round in Michigan's harsh winters.
"It's easy to sit back and say: 'There's nothing I can do. The problem is too big. It's too hard. I don't have enough influence or money or whatever," said Irwin. "Rev. Fowler shows us what is possible when faith, hope, and love go to work in a community of people who refuse to stop believing."
Chef Annabel Cohen is one of the hottest names in metro Detroit food. In addition to her catering company, Annabel Cohen Cooks Detroit, Chef Cohen is a frequent guest on radio and TV and writes a food column for The Jewish News.
Watch for the early bird ticket announcement on March 20.
In a nutshell, VEJ is about "prayer, education, and action on behalf of Earth."
The order of those three things--prayer, education, and action--is not random.
VEJ co-founder Patty Gillis explained it to me once. I'll paraphrase it for you: Action grows out of education. Education grows out of prayer. Prayer grows out of grateful and humble hearts that open to receive the gifts that God gives through creation.
What happens when action comes before prayer and education?
Action without education is often wasted action. It is like scratching a mosquito bite until it bleeds and spreads infection.
Education without prayer often does a lot of good for the ego, but not much else. What good is it to be the smartest person in the world if nobody wants to be around you or listen to you? The opportunity is lost to be influential for good.
So, right action starts with education, but only if that education grows up out of a grateful, humble, simple heart.
And nothing cultivates that kind of heart like prayer.
These days, it feels like we need to act, act, ACT!
Every morning brings us news of crises that seem to get more urgent every day: Injustices against people and planet seem to be metastasizing all around us.
The human impulse is to do something...now.
That's not the wrong impulse.
But at VEJ, we believe the first thing to do in crisis is to pray. Prayer reminds us that we are not God nor should we try to be!
And then listen to understand. Education reminds us, not that we know a lot, but that we know very little.
And only after we pray and listen will we be formed by humility and grace and informed by empathy and knowledge. Then we act...in courageous compassion, cunning kindness, and love that is lethal to all that is not love in this world.
This year at VEJ, we are taking a time out from the fast-spinning cycle of action/reaction in the world to focus on prayer and education. We are looking to serve those who want to pray and listen for awhile so that they will be ready to act rightly when the time comes.
We are not withdrawing from the crises of our age; we are simply affirming that sometimes the best way to deal with a crisis is to "be still and know..."
If this is what you seek, please let us know how we can serve you.
Grace and peace,
BT Irwin, primus inter pares