Be the change you want to see in the world ~ ~ Gandhi Photo by Courtney Paige
Spirituality & Community

Human Nature ~ From the Ground Up

Keep an eye out for road blocks ~ Photo by Courtney Paige
Keep an eye out for roadblocks ~ Photo by Courtney Paige

 

“No boy dreams of growing up without a dad, dropping out of school, doing drugs or going to prison, yet millions do,” Boys to Men USA.

The number of US urban fatherless children is astounding – 43%. And, a mere 1% of the 43%  have a relationship with their father. According to Journey Men – a male mentoring nonprofit organization located in Asheville, North Carolina – that number translates into a staggering 24.7 million children.

A profound phrase Frederick Douglass said echoes in every humanitarian’s ears across the nation from Asheville to Santa Rosa, “It’s easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.”

Be the change you want to see in the world ~ ~ Gandhi Photo by Courtney Paige
Be the change you want to see in the world ~ ~ Gandhi
Photo by Courtney Paige

Truth in that statement resonates for Boys to Men North Bay pioneer Shannon Leach because he has never known his own father. Boys to Men is a mentoring organization that offers young men a safe environment to share their stories with their peers. Not having a relationship with your father creates an inner struggle difficult to overcome on your own. 

Eight years ago the Sierra School of Sonoma County in Bennett Valley, a for-profit organization, offered Shannon a job as a landscaping mentor teaching troubled kids about gardening. Shannon said, “I learned very quickly how I was able to connect with the kids in a real way. Not only did I experience gratification, but the kid’s gratitude exceeded my expectations. Their eagerness to learn was evident, and I saw the benefits immediately.”

Mentors bridge the gap ~ Photo by Courtney Paige
Mentors bridge the gap ~ Photo by Courtney Paige

From that moment forward he became hooked on bonding with kids who are hungry for a human connection. Shannon said, “During my time as a landscaper and gardener, I saw the benefits of taking care of the earth in a healthy organic way. However, I look back now and realize despite my spiritual connection with the land, I felt a void. I actually felt vain growing flowers for privileged people.”

By the end of the day he felt linked to the land yet, at the same time, he felt disconnected with human nature. “Eventually,” Shannon said, “I realized a kinship with the soil wasn’t enough. I felt compelled to connect with my community in a more meaningful way.”

The road less traveled ~ Photo by Courtney Paige
The path less traveled ~ Photo by Courtney Paige

Shannon’s experience through the Sierra School opened the door for him to work first hand with troubled teens from organizations like Valley of the Moon, juvenile hall and even wealthy family kids who may have some type of dysfunction in the home.

Misfortune can strengthen a person’s fortitude if they are guided down the right path, which is the case with Shannon shepherding Boys to Men North Bay. His own fatherless experience, a spiritual connection with the land and a need to help others find emotional strength is the guiding force for his humanitarian endeavor.

Good guidance = good kids ~ Photo by Courtney Paige
Good guidance = good kids ~ Photo by Courtney Paige

Shannon’s epiphany transpired when he signed up for a Boys to Men Right of Passage camp mentorship program in southern Oregon last fall. In all cultures, there is some type of Right of Passage that initiates young men into manhood. The primary goal is to teach young men to become open-hearted, vulnerable and loving.

The Toltecs – a pre-Aztec civilization say their warriors shed the biggest tears and cry the loudest cries. This ancient Mesoamerican culture believed the last thing a warrior should be afraid of is his own emotions.

When asked if Shannon cried during the Right of Passage camping trip in southern Oregon he said, “Yes, actually, I cried, maybe I cried more than I should have, but that’s what it’s all about – getting in touch with your emotions in order to find out who you are.” The Right of Passage experience helps set these boys on a fresh path.

After Shannon’s emotional journey as a staff camp mentor with Boys to Men, he felt compelled to join a local Sonoma County chapter. With a little research, he found Boys to Men didn’t have a Sonoma County branch.

This realization inspired Shannon to launch the first Boys to Men in the North Bay. The project is currently plowing full speed ahead.

The path of least resistance isn't always the most prudent ~ Photo by Courtney Paige
The path of least resistance isn’t always the most prudent ~ Photo by Courtney Paige

The program’s intention is to first create peer counseling groups within schools directed by mentors who are trained to facilitate the Boys to Men curriculum.

Over the last nine months, Shannon has orchestrated a dynamic team who is working closely with Boys to Men USA, Chairman, Michael Bonahan and Boys to Men Bay Area, Executive Director, Stephan Hermann to create autonomy for the North Bay branch. The Boys to Men leaders understand the North Bay is a progressive large geographical area and want to give Shannon’s team the open space they need to create a program that suits the community. This freedom allows the program flexibility to incorporate elements like meditation, yoga and the LGBTQ community. Boys to Men North Bay’s design is to be inclusive. Graciously, Bonahan and Hermann have given Shannon’s team the green light. 

Shannon said, “I am creating an army of volunteers for outreach programs who will connect with, I hope, every junior high and high school in the North Bay. If we can get key county schools on board, I feel they will create the pathway needed to get the ball rolling in our region.”

When asked how Shannon plans to facilitate community outreach and organization awareness he said, “You’d be surprised at how many people get involved with this type of mentoring. During the Right of Passage weekends, there is a higher ratio of volunteers to kids. The number ratio alone reflects a commitment to the kids. The kids feel this energy and thrive with it. Most of the young men who participate in the Boys to Men Right of Passage program go on to become mentors themselves.”

Teach a boy to fish and a man will eat for a lifetime ~ Photo by Courtney Paige
Teach a boy to fish, and a man will eat for a lifetime ~ Photo by Courtney Paige

Shannon’s team is currently in the process of setting up the groundwork for the program’s fiscal sponsorship. The plan is to have weekly meetings with peer groups. Shannon feels meeting on a weekly basis gives kids a place to check in and refuel. When more than a week passes by, emotions get stuffed, so this type of regularity helps the kids open up.

Serendipity isn’t just for lucky people, it can happen on all levels and in unexplainable ways. All it takes is for someone like Shannon Leach to plant the seed and nurture the being.

Would you like to become a Boys to Men mentor? Find out how you can get involved with Boys to Men North Bay on their Facebook Fanpage here.

~ by Courtney Paige

**Disclosure: Boys to Men Bay Area is supported by Boys to Men USA and the Stupski Foundation**

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Delight your senses with Tea & Trumphets local artisan teas.
Food & Wine, Home & Garden, Spirituality & Community

Farmer in the dell

Tea & Trumpets carry a beautiful bouquet of assorted teas. Photo by Courtney Paige
Tea & Trumpets carry a beautiful bouquet of assorted teas.                                                                                                                                                          Photo by Courtney Paige

For European countries like France, Italy, England and Germany, farmer’s markets aren’t a novelty, they’re an essential part of daily life. Europeans don’t stockpile their groceries in huge refrigerators or store massive amounts of toilet paper from Costco.

The primary reason is that Europeans don’t have the storage space for bulk shopping. Your first reaction may be to think they’re less fortunate. On the contrary, they’re better off by default for several reasons. I list five here, coupled with my favorite local Sonoma County farmer’s markets you won’t want to miss.

Mark Bowden sharing the favs. Photo by Courtney Paige
Mark Bowden, Tea & Trumpets owner, shares the favs. www.teatrumpets.com                                                                                                                       Photo by Courtney Paige

1. Less Waste

Shopping daily or even twice a week wastes less food. Buying in bulk harbors a false sense of security and isn’t advantageous. Admit it, we’ve all done it. We’ve all thrown food away because we didn’t eat it fast enough.

~According to a survey conducted by the American Chemistry Council, the average American household throws out $640 of food each year.~

2. Save Money

A 2015 Bureau of Labor Statistics report concluded the average American household spent $4,015 on groceries in 2015, resulting in 16% waste due to spoiled goods. At first glance, this percentage may seem insignificant. However, when considered collectively, this number equates to a whopping 80 billion tons of waste each year.

Fresh berries & cherries ripe for the picking. Photo by Courtney Paige
Fresh berries & cherries ripe for the picking.                                                                                                                                                                                        Photo by Courtney Paige

3. Healthier Lifestyle

Produce consumed from farmer’s markets is more nutritious simply because nonlocal produce travel thousands of miles and takes at least a week to reach its retail destination. This journey doesn’t even include shelf time in the supermarket. Fruits and vegetables begin to lose nutritional value within three days. So in order for bulk import farmers to compensate for lag time, crops are harvested early. Local produce harvested during prime picking time reaps the most nutritious bounty. Produce nutrients are optimal when consumed within the first week of harvest.

~The Institute of Food Research reports that fresh vegetables traveling long distances lose up to 45 percent of their nutritional value between being picked and landing in a supermarket.~

    4. Reduces carbon footprint

Supporting local farmer’s markets equates to fewer food miles by reducing emissions from transport vehicles, including airplanes, ships, and trucks. Conventional food distribution uses more fuel and emits more carbon dioxide than local and regional systems. Local food systems, on the other hand, rely on a geographically desirable network of small family farms. Most are sustainably operated translating into minimized pesticide use, no-till compositing agriculture practices, minimized transport to consumers, and virtually no packaging.

~A comparison between locally grown and conventionally grown produce found locally grown produce travels about 50 miles to reach the consumer’s table half a day from harvest, while conventionally grown produce travels 1,500 miles and reaches the table 13 days past harvest.~

Strawberry fields forever or at least when in season. Photo by Courtney Paige
Strawberry fields forever or at least when in they’re in season.                                                                                                                                                       Photo by Courtney Paige

Indeed it’s awesome to have access to mangos, strawberries or blackberries all-year-round. The truth is though, not only do we cheat our bodies of essential nutrients lost during travel time, buying produce from across the world is a detriment to our local farmers. If we buy produce from a different hemisphere we are starving our bodies of essential nutrition and taking money from the pockets of our local communities.

~According to the USDA, since 2006, farmers markets have grown by 180 percent, regional food hubs by 288 percent, and school district participation in farm-to-school programs by 430 percent.~

5. Discover your local culinary treasures

However important reasons one through four are, I’m most passionate about number five because it’s what feeds my soul. I love strolling through transformed makeshift markets shaded with little treasure canopy kiosks. While eclectic aromas ignite my inspiration, each little-shaded tent creates curiosity and offers something new to discover.  

Plus, chatting with local artisans create a community connection like no other. This weekend, during a visit to our local farmer’s market at the Veteran’s Market in Santa Rosa, my daughter and I came across fantastic finds featured in the article photos.

Delight your senses with Tea & Trumphets local artisan teas.
Delight your senses with Tea & Trumpets local artisan teas. http://www.teatrumpets.com                                                                                                                  Photo by Courtney Paige

 

The Hue De Laroque Family Farm www.hdlfarm.com Photo by Courtney Paige
The Hue De Laroque Family Farm www.hdlfarm.com                                                                                                                                                                        Photo by Courtney Paige

When you get to know your farmer, you get to know your food. Heigh ho the derry-o the farmer in the dell. And remember, don’t let the cheese stand alone.

  1. Glen Ellen Farmers’ Market
  2. Healdsburg Farmers ‘Market
  3. Rohnert Park Farmers’ Market 
  4. Santa Rosa Farmers’ Market- Veteran’s Memorial Center 
  5. Santa Rosa Farmers’ Market – Wells Fargo Center
  6. Santa Rosa Wednesday Night Market
  7. Sonoma Plaza Farmers’ Market
  8. Sebastopol Farmers’ Market
  9. Windsor Farmers’ Market
  10. Living Drinks Photo by Courtney PaigeLiving Drinks – Photo by Courtney Paige