With each passing year, I become more interested in living “green” especially in terms of the food I consume. When I was a child my family grew vegetables in our yard. As a Master of Social Work candidate in the Graduate School of Social Work at the University of Denver in Colorado in the US; I explore the connection between human health and nutrition in relation to personal wellbeing. My interest in organic food specifically has come from growing my own vegetables and herbs.

“Organic” has a simple meaning but is a complex idea. Organic food is natural, traditionally-grown food with no chemicals, pesticides, or herbicides. Growing organic food without chemicals means using natural fertilizer, weeding by hand, controlling pests with non-chemical household ingredients, and often smaller crop yields than chemically-grown food. In spite of these possible inconveniences, this movement is gaining popularity in the US. However, the majority of food in the US is not grown organically. Even when I was growing up, my family sometimes used chemical fertilizers to help grow our food. But, after growing my own produce for several years, I became interested in using organic fanning to help others gain horticulture skills, explore leadership opportunities, and build communities around food.

As part of my Masters program I had the opportunity to experience organic farming in Sichuan. In June 20121 visited a farming cooperative in Anlong County, just outside Chengdu. The cooperative community of Anlong Village was launched in 2006 with the help of Chengdu Urban Rivers Association (CURA). The project involved collaborating with farmers who lived upstream of a river that feeds into Chengdu to switch from chemical farming to eco-farming. Eco-farming in China refers to organic farming with a high land productivity in order to avoid pollution, to conserve resources, and to create healthy food. Farmers in the cooperative have created a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) to deliver produce regularly to families in Chengdu.

I had a fantastic homestay experience in Anlong, where I was able to enjoy local, fresh, organic food at every meal and had some opportunities to work on the farm. I also had the opportunity to speak with four heads of households about their switch to eco-farming, through the translation assistance of a colleague. One farmer spoke of the improved health his mother has enjoyed since switching to organic farming. Another farmer spoke of how he began eco-farming to protect his family s health and spoke of the concern he now felt for others who consumed chemically treated produce. In Anlong and even back in Denver, farmers also spoke of their connection to their land and the act of farming. Members of these two groups considered themselves stewards of the earth, and I have been fortunate to work with them.gre