North Powder Charter School has been selected to participate in the pilot year of an exciting student-driven project called Project Localize. Under the umbrella of The Lexicon of Sustainability, our Project Localize students will learn about existing words and terms within the lexicon (words like “locavore” or “composting”) while discovering the lexicon of their own local food and farming landscape. We will be heading out into the field equipped with cameras and questions to interview local farmers, ranchers and producers about agricultural practices and methods. These interactions with community members will help students create a lexicon relevant to the area; with photos and text they will create information artworks that explain these agricultural practices and concepts in a highly visual and accessible way. The artworks will be displayed in a pop-up show in the community so that students have the opportunity to share their hard work and create a dialogue with their neighbors and peers. At the end of the project, one of the pilot schools will be chosen to participate in a trip to Washington D.C. to speak with lawmakers and the USDA about local food systems.
There is understandable controversy surrounding projects such as these, especially if your own family’s agricultural methods fall outside of someone else’s version of “how to do things;” I know from firsthand experience coming from conventional pear growers and then moving to Portland where some would immediately condemn any and all conventional agriculture. But what we will come to discover is the overlap between these varied terms, practices and outcomes–especially through the lens of the local food movement. Farmers steward the land in a multitude of ways, and it’s up to us to discover what that truly looks like by experiencing it firsthand. I believe our rural eastern Oregon kids will be able to add a unique perspective to the lexicon and a new spin on the way we as a culture view sustainability.