EarthDancing - Finishing out June!

Jane is looking like the Miss Jane she is, I need a little waking up!

Jane is looking like the Miss Jane she is, I need a little waking up!

I wanted to make up the shifts I missed when I was traveling in late April so I signed up for a Friday morning shift.  I was walking to our meeting spot and noticed a familiar face, Jane Keating!

Jane and I met at Crossroads Presbyterian church many years ago and shares many loves.  Love of Jesus, of books, of gardening, of theater and so it was a treat to see her at EarthDance.  Jane volunteers on “Tidy Friday” and helps out in many ways.  She also referred me to some other people to connect with to realize other opportunities in the gardening and farming world of St Louis. 

I worked some different shifts to make up for time spent away in late April.  It's great to meet other crews and see the different ways the farmies fellowship!  Sarah and Steven enjoyed harvesting this fantastic garlic scapes.

    I used mine in a garlic scape dip made with quark, yogurt and a little cheddar cheese. I served it with summer squash and salad turnips as an appetizer for a dinner party the next day.  YUM!

 

I used mine in a garlic scape dip made with quark, yogurt and a little cheddar cheese. I served it with summer squash and salad turnips as an appetizer for a dinner party the next day.  YUM!

The heat is on…finally.  All of the shift so far have had wonderful weather, breezy and cool.  This last shift, not so much.  But I guess it is summer in St. Louis, right?   As I headed to our meeting area at the beginning of the shift, I noticed these gorgeous mushrooms near the rain garden.  Beauties aren’t they?

 

 

 

Monica explained what was going on with this kale.  The insect pressure had intensified so much that she had sprayed this kale with BT.  She carefully explained that this is the last line of defense against bugs in an organic farm.  Even though BT is organic, spraying is always a last resort on organic farms.  Crop rotation, trap crops and row covers are the preferred methods of lessening pest pressure.  You can’t really see the damage to this kale, but it was significant. 

 

 

 

 

Near the kale beds, were the nasturtiums.  Even though I knew they were edible, I had never tasted their leaves.  Spicy and nice!

 

While a lot of other amazing things happened at EarthDance, I'm moving into July...the eggplants...the tomatoes...the cukes!  

EarthDance - Day 6

Amidst the cool, moist days, EarthDance vegetation has been slowly gaining strength.  This week’s harvest was ample with more garlic scapes!  The new show stoppers this week: arugala and squash! 

Picking the squash was fun, serious fun.  Pulling apart the giant green lush leaves, finding the little colored gems inside and then using a razor sharp knife to cut them with an inch-sized stem.  Monica said that her mentor taught her that no sounds should be heard while picking squash…caring for them tenderly is the key to keeping them beautiful.  My favorite was the Zephyr, a bi-colored longer squash.  I plan on serving them Saturday evening at our dinner party…with a garlic scape cheese dip.

A funny looking Zephr squash with a funny guy, Chris!

A funny looking Zephr squash with a funny guy, Chris!

In the afternoon, we did a long field walk checking out the trees that have been planted on the farm.  Matt showed us the grafting marks from the fall’s work on the trees.  I look forward to watching them grow.  Matt also modeled a belt bucket...handy for harvesting fragile fruits.  

I learned how to use the walk-behind tractor.  Monica and I attached the rotary plow and I made this gorgeous trail in the bed.  Monica is a wonderful teacher, thorough and patient, listening to questions and answering with kindness and always ready to laugh.  She’s amazing.  I taped Katie running the walk-behind tractor.  It looks like an overgrown rotary tiller.

A newly furrowed bed, thanks to the walk behind tractor!

A newly furrowed bed, thanks to the walk behind tractor!

Evening class was by led by Missouri homesteaders, Eric and Joanna Reuter from Chert Hollow Farm. They were honest and inspiring…they are homesteaders because they like to eat good food, simple enough, but the work can be hard.  Very hard. 

Molly Rockamann, EarthDance’s Founding Director add some great advice to a question posed to the Reuters at the end of their talk.  One of our farmys asked what to contemplate when buying farm land.  Molly’s response was that there are three things to contemplate in the purchase of a farm:  1) Neighbors, 2) Code and 3) Existing Infrastructure.  Powerful words, thank you, Molly! 


 

Farm parcel #2 - Across the street from original Clayton Farm

So, it gets better.  As I walking back home from walking Glen to work on Monday morning, look what popped out.  Another property for farming - just across the street to the west from initial parcel!

Best thing about this property, it has a house on the top of the hill. It looks solid and has been recently used as a business office.  10 S Lyle could be the caretaker’s home for the Farm.

Found my farm...in Clayton!

Great news on the farming side of things.  As I was walking to church last Sunday, I asked Jesus to show me how he wanted me to employ my passion for growing things.  As I was waiting to cross the street about 4 blocks from our home, I noticed an empty parcel of land.  It is between our house and Glen's office at Centene.  What an incredible answer from the Lord.  A farm within walking distance from our house?  

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The first thing I noticed was the pathway worn through the land from the footsteps of the workers who take the Metro Rail to their jobs in Clayton. Most people are in the service industry.  My first step is to create a nice pathway to keep them from walking in mud.  If they wanted, they could work on the farm and take home produce as they left Clayton.  Shipping/delivery done.  As I looked over this property and started thinking of ideas, I walked through the Ritz Carleton to enjoy some of it's beauty.  Then, I remembered the relationship Glen and I have with the executive chef, Melissa Lee.  I could source her kitchen with the produce we grow on the farm.  Her chefs could pick their own produce.  Next step, farm to table dinners at the Ritz.  

When I posed my idea to Glen his first response was to ask who owns the land.  Great question, but how was I to know.  We drove by the land after church and Glen again asked who owns the land.  I still had no idea.  We were enjoying a cocktail and making dinner, Glen asked one more time about the ownership of the land.  This time, he gave me the answer.  He know who owns the land...it's Centene.  The company where he works.   

The star is our house.  And Cen Corporation Health Solutions is Glen’s office.  The words Forsyth Metrolink highlight where the farm will be.  So, as I was sketching out the farm the next day, I realized that the county courthouse and jail are just several blocks beyond Glen's office. Work release programs...folks can come to the farm and work...for pay and for real food. 

My mentor, Sunny Schaefer, invited me to a luncheon at the St. Louis Club three days later.  I was able to show her the farm from the 16th floor, just two blocks away.  Her response, "It's perfect"!

Now, onto that pitch!

The Design of Healthy Lifestyle Living at Bucking Horse & Jessup Farm Fort Collins, Colorado - June 10, 2015

In December 2013, NPR explained how suburban farms are popping up instead of golf courses in new developments.  Several dear friends made sure I heard this show

It changed my life.

It made me believe that there was something out there for me to weave my life around…farming in the city.  Audrey can live with Glen.  Or, city living while farming.  Glen can live with Aud.

Suburban farms are ways for living creatures to enjoy the outdoors, and the fellowship of healthy living in community.  #1 way to do this, grow the food for your table….and your neighbor’s and his neighbor and …  #2 sit down together and eat those great foods you’ve grown.  Great idea, don’t you think?  This is one of my interpretations of what a suburban farm could be.

The NPR show told how many suburban farms (~200 then) get started and thrive.  It also showed each farm as slightly different.  Many are truly woven into the fabric of the community.  I saw two of those this past week: Bucking Horse/Jessup Farm and Lyons Farmette.  I started at Bucking Horse/Jessup Farm.

chickens living easy at Jessup farm

I researched this development in interest as it was near my old stomping grounds of Colorado.  Plus the description was interesting.  So, off to Fort Collins I go!  Plans were made to meet Anne at a coffee shop before a tour.  The coffee shop had good coffee and engaging with Anne easy and interesting.  Anne is an amazing woman doing great things for kids…families…and real food.  She is my new hero and she has a GREAT TRUCK!

Anne explained starting the Fort Collins’ “Sprouting Up",  not-for-profit.  It teaches kids how to grow, cook and market vegetables.  This provides for a free farmers’ market in the neighborhood and adjoining areas.  In Ann’s case, she started with mobile home parks.  She employs kids who live in/near these parks to apprentice in the garden.  In addition to eating and cooking together, the kids prepare meals and invite families in as well.

She’s a gem.

Anne is also the farmer of Jessup Farm, the farm inside of the Bucking Horse development.

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Later on, Dino Campana is the Founder and President of Bellisimo, the development organization creating Bucking Horse stopped by and we spoke for quite a bit.  Dino was interesting…an entrepreneur since the age of 15.  He establishes and coordinates design-development teams, this time one to sustain healthy lifestyles.  Dino asked if Anne and I were aware that Bucking Horse/Jessup Farm was featured in an article in the latest Modern Farmer magazine.  I had it in my bag and handed it over. 

Dino is interested in developing Healthy Lifestyle settings that are sustainable and replicable. Simple as that.  He and his brothers are building this one in Fort Collins, Colorado in hopes to replicate it at some point.

Dino is a great storyteller, his story began with his teenaged boys not knowing how to work, so he bought a farm. Jessup Farm, gave the boys ample time in the dirt.  Then he decided to develop a community around the farm so others could learn how to grow, how to work together, how to eat and live well.  He developed a community with all types of housing options:  rentals to patio homes to estates. 

Then he asked me what I wanted to do.  I explained connecting ex-offenders with options to learn how to grow and cook food to eat and share.  Dino looked me squarely and said, don’t believe anyone who tells you no.  If you are making your vision come to life, don’t tell anyone what you are planning until you’ve got it going.  And more importantly, you don’t have to know what you’re doing to get it going.

After listening to Dino’s story and then answering his questions, I felt like Modern Farmer magazine portrayed Bucking Horse differently than what I saw on my tour.

Dino is a determined visionary.  He encouraged me to dream and go.

Adaptive Restoration is what Dino calls his application to the Jessup Farm property.  This building was the old farm house.  It will be a restaurant.

Adaptive Restoration is what Dino calls his application to the Jessup Farm property.  This building was the old farm house.  It will be a restaurant.

The farmhouse (becoming a restaurant) with a new kitchen.  Yes, almost the same size as the farmhouse.  

The farmhouse (becoming a restaurant) with a new kitchen.  Yes, almost the same size as the farmhouse.  

This is where the farm will be ... soon!

This is where the farm will be ... soon!

Adaptive restoration to the barn...it becomes a brewery and wine tasting loft.

Adaptive restoration to the barn...it becomes a brewery and wine tasting loft.

Next stop, Lyons Farmette!

EarthDance - Day 5 - Garlic Scapes and Goats!

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Harvest Day Again!  We harvested boatload of things this week: garlic scapes, carrots, head lettuce, mesclun mix and red bok choy.  Most of the morning is tied up with harvesting.  In addition to the CSA shares, we also harvest for wholesale customers,  usually chefs in the city.  Spinach was a big wholesale order this week.

Lily and Kristen with the red bok choy harvest.

Lily and Kristen with the red bok choy harvest.

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I learned how to spin the twice-washed spinach…in a washing machine relegated solely to this duty.  Matt explained the ropes to me and then I got started placing the spinach into large mesh bags, placing two at a time in the machine and then spinning for several minutes. 

They came out so much lighter.  I was a bit concerned about being so rough with the spinach but Matt explained that 99% of the produce is just fine, there is always some carnage in the process.

The afternoon field walk was to visit the goats.  They have been “lent” to the farm to eat a poison ivy patch.  These four wethers are sweet enough and I volunteered to do some goat shepherding in the afternoon.  This required donning large coveralls (protection from the ivy) and creating a tether line that we connected to the goats’ collars. 

We selected the two most docile goats first, leaving Colby and Freckles, the more rambunctious goats, in the pen for the second shift.  Putting the “she” in shepherding, Meredith’s term was a likeable activity. Goats are much more like cows than sheep…with dog-like qualities as well in the ways that they observe us. 

EarthDance - Day 4

Harvest day #2!  We harvested Red Russian kale, carrots, beets, turnips, head lettuce, spinach, chives, dill and chocolate mint.  This time, I showed the day’s harvest coordinator around and then got busy digging carrots.  I was working with Chris and we started finding “best of bed” carrots that we saved aside. It was a fun but tedious process.  Most of the carrots were the size of my index finger. 

Kale harvest was fun.  Monica showed us how to put your fingers around the crown of the plant and just push down and the outer branches just snap off.  It looked easier than it worked for me.

This won the prize of prettiest of the day - Chive Flowers for a wholesale customer.  

chive flowers

After harvest was completed, I helped package the mixed lettuces and the spinach.  There were a lot of greens but the process EarthDance has developed is one of efficiency. 

Matt pointed out that if you always stack your bags of greens in rows of 10, there is no need to recount.  Sounds like a simple concept but applied across all of the separate of the harvest, packaging, storing, loading and selling, it makes a big difference.  You learn to eyeball crates and know immediately how many packages you have just by the arrangement.

Every week, I forget how much I enjoy being outside for an entire day, learning about pests or plants or implements, working with different people that are quickly becoming good friends.  Chris, in this picture is inspecting the herb spiral that we will be fixing is always sharing recipe tips with me.  He encouraged me to try roasted tomatillo salsa (turned out great) and then using that salsa to make chicken enchiladas (another winner).

I opened up my gift from Rebecca and Scotty this morning as I’d been saving it so a time when I could savor it…and this morning, I did!  Vegetable Literacy gets down to the botanical basics that the farm managers are explaining:  Brassicas, Solonaceaes,  etc. Now, I have the perfect book to explain these genus and species.

 

Vegetable Literacy

My first recipe to try from this book will be using the Apiaceae genus, making the Carrot Almond Cake with Ricotta Cream for our Master Mind meeting tomorrow!

EarthDance - May 12, 2015

First CSA Harvest of the Season!

Monica explaining what we will be harvesting and how we will weigh, wash and package the harvested produce.

Monica explaining what we will be harvesting and how we will weigh, wash and package the harvested produce.

Going on a harvest field walk is different than other field walks.  We were directed to the plants that we would harvest...and we learned how to harvest chard, spinach (it had been harvested 20 times before), cilantro, green garlic and other things.  

Going on a harvest field walk is different than other field walks.  We were directed to the plants that we would harvest...and we learned how to harvest chard, spinach (it had been harvested 20 times before), cilantro, green garlic and other things.  


Donned the rain pants and was off as the Harvest Coordinator!

Donned the rain pants and was off as the Harvest Coordinator!

After the tour, we had to choose our first Harvest Coordinator...everyone wanted to get out in the paddocks and harvest.  So, guess who was the first HC?

Weighing the harvested chard dry.  We weigh all produce dry.

Packed chard ready for the shares.

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We also packed up wild bouquets.  This is one of my new farmy friends, Chris.  He is an avid cook, storyteller and listener.  

EarthDance - Day 2

One week on the farm, two weeks away...returning to the farm and the new friends was soothing.

Some of the crew hula-hoeing the radish beds.  In the forefront is a paddock sewn to cover crops of rye and hairy vetch. 

Some of the crew hula-hoeing the radish beds.  In the forefront is a paddock sewn to cover crops of rye and hairy vetch. 

Watching this machine was incredible...!  It makes raised beds!  

And this is what it looked like afterwards.  The black plastic not only discourages weeds and keeps in moisture but is made from non GMO corn so it biodegrades in a year.

I'm finally getting caught up on my posts...so don't pay attention to the date at the top of the post...and look for several more soon!  

Echo Farms...Extraordinaire...

Echo Farms mission is to equip people with agricultural resources and skills to reduce hunger and improve the lives of the poor, globally.  

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Time spent touring Echo Farms in late April changed my life.  From the Tippy Tap to the Moringa tree to the Aquaponic Fish ponds to the bicycles powering corn grinders…I can see the vast effect ECHO is making through study, education and teaching in your global Impact centers.  David Erickson, ECHO’s Chief Organizational Development Officer first statement that ECHO’s goal is to support the 4.5 million small-scale farmers world wide which can in turn make a difference in 2.2 billion lives still resonates in my mind.  

The Tippy Tap allows you to wash your hands with soap without touching anything.  Designed in Zimbabwe, Tippy Taps are simple, economic hand-washing stations made from locally available materials.  They are not dependent on piped water and require a tenth of the water normally used to wash hands.

The Tippy Tap allows you to wash your hands with soap without touching anything.  Designed in Zimbabwe, Tippy Taps are simple, economic hand-washing stations made from locally available materials.  They are not dependent on piped water and require a tenth of the water normally used to wash hands.

What sticks with me as I joyfully journey to Earth Dance organic farm in Ferguson where I’m apprenticing are the stories David shared.  From the doctor prescribing moringa powder to his pregnant patients, to the Mali farmer who learned from ECHO and is now the SRI (System of Rice Intensification) expert to the dramatic effects of Liter Lights in village huts, the effect of simple changes by human hands has a ripple effect on the people Echo serves.  

As I was leaving, David pointed out a quote that will have lasting effect on my next steps:   

The great aim of education is not knowledge but action.
— Herbert Spencer
                                                                                      This is the third station of the aquaponics system.

                                                                                      This is the third station of the aquaponics system.

Living in Eden

I’m going to start keeping track of how many times I say:  This changed my life.  #1. In early April, I attended the Food and Faith Convocation at Eden Seminary. It changed my life. Not only did I get to meet notable writers on this subject, Ellen Davis and Norman Wirzba, but I learned the vital connection that God is to the farm.

Growing up on a farm and going to church, I knew that we were to be thankful to God for many things, including the gift of the work he allowed for us, but I never saw the “soil as sacred”.  I saw dirt as something that was ubiquitous on my playground, for important things like making mud pies.

Dirt also created work for me as it grew weeds that I had to pull.  To learn that this dirt was actually referred to by God as fertile soil a few years later was a refreshing surprise.  God, man and the soil – a three way covenant.  This was clear during Ellen Davis’ speech Land as Kin: Renewing our Imagination when she quoted Leviticus 26:42:  “I shall remember my covenant Jacob, and yes, my covenant with Isaac, and my covenant with Abraham I shall remember—and the land I shall remember.”  The land is not an “it”, Ellen stated.  The land is a covenant member.  The land came first.  It is the first ancestor.  The triangle is:  God > Land > People.

Armed with this new knowledge, I reflected on my childhood in a different way.  Yes, dirt was everywhere…but this dirt matters to God.  Not just because it provides a livelihood but because he created it..just like the water I love…dogs…me! 

Ellen Davis started her talk with Genesis 2:7, “And the Lord God formed the human being (adam), dust from the fertile soil (adamah).”  Soil comes first; it is kin to the earth. 

Later, Norman Wirzba and Ellen held a round table and discussed why food should be at the heart of the church. “Agrarianism is not a way of thinking for farmers.  It’s for people who eat!”

“Never before have humans felt like the land was their stage.  This is new thinking.  Everyone before was connected to the land.”

Another speaker, Christopher Grundy, presented his ideas of “Our Daily Bread:  Recovering the Sacramentality of Radical Meal Practices”.   He led with a great quote:  “It’s never just about food, it’s about just food.” 

Then, it was time for my show-stopper, Norman Wirzba’s talk, “Food and Farmer: Why is Matters for the Church”.  He encouraged us to start by thinking about our cultural context.  We are in an experiment – for the first time in history more than ½ the population lives in cities. We have no connection to the ecosystem processes.  Therefore, we have ecological amnesia.

Norman pointed out something that Jaime from Fair Shares had explained to me. Consumers want food to be:  cheap, convenient and in big supply.  This attitude is destroying food. 

So, where do I go from here?  Echo Farms in Fort Meyers, Florida!  Next entry!

Learning about Sustainable Agriculture

My definition for Sustainable Agriculture - "Farming/gardening that returns the land to it's original state in the long term, profits the farmer and creates a locally based, self-reliant food community."  Fresh after completing my first online course from SARE (Sustainable Agriculture and Research Education), I realize how very little I know about sustainable agriculture.   Great place to start.

Speaking of starting...I had my first in-person conversation with Sara and Jamie, the curly-headed sisters who started Fair Shares 8 seasons ago last week. It was delightful to learn their history, joys and pains and entry barriers.  We walked away with new insights, creative ideas but no answers...yet!

FairShares discussion

  

Great Discoveries!

In my continued search to actualize my lifelong dream of feeding the hungry, I was connected to a gentleman in Memphis, by a friend in St Louis.  Noah Campbell of Memphis Center for Food and Faith, Bring it Food Hub and Grow Memphis, and a Food Missionary, showed me a new approach to providing access to good food.  In a conversation this week with Noah, he explained the different levels or "bases" of hunger relief.

Connecting local congregations to their immediate neighborhoods is the beginning.  Teaching interested congregations how to make good food choices allows for grafting in of local farmers, sourcing food to your congregants, church kitchen, etc and keeping profit in the local economy is the home run.  

I'm excited for a couple of reasons.  First, Noah is a great teacher (and hopefully a soon to be mentor) and he has successfully launched this idea in Memphis.  Secondly, it brings together two things very dear to me...my faith and food.

Noah also shared work from Rev. Nurya Love Parish (great name, isn't it?).  She drafted a composite of the Christian Food Movement through her blog, Churchwork.  Her guide is the beginning of identifying the disciples living their faith through action for a sustainable food system.  

Noah encouraged me to find online education about sustainable agriculture and economics, as well as food production ethics.  EXCITED! 


Farmworkers Feed Us

Farm workers harvesting tomatoes in Florida make $42 a day on average and work a 16 hour day, this is about $2.60 an hour.  My dad, owns his own farm and works 14 hour days, and makes about double that an hour, alowoing for his farm expenses.  

Why the comparison?  Last night, we saw the film, Food Chains.  Learning about the disparity for the farmworkers was revolting.  In Napa Valley, farmworkers sleep outside in self-constructed makeshift dwellings due to high rent in the valley.  They do this if they cannot find suitable housing which involves driving for 2 hours to work.  Suitable is 15 people per building with few bedrooms.  These homeless, hard workers pluck grapes for vineyards that sell wine for hundreds of dollars each.  Rather than summarize the film here, I encourage you to see it.

Viewing this film allowed Glen and I (both farm kids whose parents still work/live on farms) to see similarities of these farmworkers and our parents.  Both work hard outside everyday, not meandering around to see what needs to be done, but rather moving fast from one job to the next and running into problems along the way.  They sacrifice their comfort to the elements depending on the sason - heat and humidity, wind and rain, snow and dampness.  Neither control how much they are paid for their hard work.  Yet the industry their toil supports makes billions of dollars and nourishes our nation.

Dad going for a different tool as he and Grandpa fix the corn planters.  Circa 1965.

Dad going for a different tool as he and Grandpa fix the corn planters.  Circa 1965.

Why?  For the farmworkers in California and Florida, Food Chains explains that there are four mighty Supermarkets who control the wages of the farm workers.

For our parents, the Chicago Board of Trade decides the price of corn or soybeans, dependant upon the crop yields and market needs.  In the end, its investors who are making money from the hard work of our parents.  Investors that never face the dark mornings of frigid cold or the intense humidity midday midfield.

What can I do in my own power to fight this?  For the Farmworker, I can begin by supporting Fair Food, a campaign to create Fair Food agreements with food retailers as a first step.   At almost 80, my dad works like a man 1/3 his age and loves his work.  He doesn't need to fight for him, but I can embrace farming in my own urban setting.  

Culturally competent ... what?

Cultural competency has been consuming most of my thinking capacity and I find it captivating. When I first heard of my new project, I wondered how I would develop an online course to teach how to be competent in culture.  What exactly does that look like?  After learning of the expectations, it was clear that no one is expected to become competent.  No, we are trying to change sensitivity towards others.  That's BIG!  



I met a gentleman, David Livermore, several summers ago during a seminar he held at our church.  His book, Leading with Cultural Intelligence helped me learn how sensitivity is changed in small degrees.  Inspiring.

Learning about world view, health literacy and medical interpreters has opened my eyes to new ideas.  One of the concepts a colleague shared with me was the idea of an "invisible backpack" and how being born into privilege (no matter what kind) keeps you from seeing it as a privilege and it becomes a right.

In addition to the rich teaching material, I'm able to experiment with another idea from my favorite learning blogger, Cathy Moore.   In her article titled "Throw them in the deep end" She explains that the common approach to online learning is to carefully show learners how to do something and only then they can be allowed to practice doing it.  She believes if you just throw them in the deep end, frustration and cognitive overload and squashed self-esteem will supposedly inhibit their learning.

However, several studies suggest that when we first challenge learners and then give them instruction, we can improve their ability to apply and extend their new knowledge. They could more effectively apply what they've learning to their job and to new situations.

So, this is my goal...use productive failure to teach people how to apply cultural competency sensitivity at work.