The Co-Op Op

Justin Booz, The Co-Op Op, and Free Food for South Side Chicago
Written by Alisha “Bee” Forrester Scott

Click here to listen to this article at the SoundCloud @BNN Bees News Network page.

Introducing Justin Booz

Late one evening, I sat comfortably on my bed in Phoenix, Arizona, with a notebook and pen.  By telephone, I interviewed Justin Booz in Chicago, Illinois.  Booz (pronounced boose) is one of founders of The Co-Operation Operation. Justin is a living proof that with intention and focus, wild dreams may be made manifest.  At present, he and his twenty-something hometown buddies are making history and positive names for themselves; tending raised bed garden boxes on a toxic land plot in the Pullman neighborhood of Chicago, Illinois.

Justin Booz is a bona fide multi-talented artist, who also speaks French and plays the cello.  He has a healthy sense of humor and a promotional smile that attracts friendly people.  Justin is loved by many, and in my playful opinion would easily win if he ever ran as the Mayor of Chicago.  Speaking on the benefits of working in the garden and garden project, Justin shares, “Boy, oh Boy, is it worth it.”

I originally met Booz inside of a posh San Francisco building, while volunteering as a live camera operator at an annual French cuisine event.  He had arrived on-site before I had, and was also a volunteer cameraperson.

In between working, we talked and discovered that we both lived in the east bay of the San Francisco.  And, we were both living life as low-income agricultural-activist-artists.  We were supporting and amongst the citizens who openly protested Wall Street greed during historical movements such as Occupy Oakland.

Once, Justin and I had fun volunteering together on the lower portion of a public art piece drawn with sidewalk chalk, sponsored by the Chalkupy Oakland group.  For our part, we drew blue and white-colored ocean waves.

While still living in the bay area, I visited Justin during his residency at a local urban-agricultural collective in Berkeley, called P.L.A.C.E.  He was practicing the sustainable lifestyle that he admires.  As friends living in different “neighborhoods” in the east bay area, we often talked often about our dreams of sustainable creativity.  We agreed that freedom and free community food gardens would someday become a social staple.

Since that lifetime in the bay area, the last time I saw Justin was during Thanksgiving 2012.  I was visiting family in Arizona for the holiday.  He stopped for a brief stay in Arizona while on his way back home to Chicago.

Introducing The Co-Operation Operation

Are you living in the south side of Chicago?  Do you like Kale, Cherry tomatoes, Onion, Zucchini, Chard, Cucumber, Radishes, Basil, Lettuce, or Nasturtium (edible flowers that taste like pepper)?  Do you enjoy the positive physical and emotional benefits from consuming entire meals grown in organic gardens?

If you do, be prepared to fall completely in love with the creators of The Co-Operation Operation; a FREE organic food and urban community garden.  Neighbors are emotionally re-investing in the neighborhood itself, and are sharing their social energy to power basic garden projects.

The urban garden that is being established is currently 5000 square feet, and features 41 beds for food production.  The intention behind “The Co-Op Op” urban garden installation is to grow an organic garden that produces enough food for residents of the local neighborhood and surrounding community.

The Co-Op Op on FB already has 800+ Likes; mostly from the United States.  A majority of online response originates from the Chicago-area, but does include both coasts.  Booz reports, “People from over 20 countries like what we’re doing.”

About the Pullman Neighborhood and Garden Site

For general information about the Pullman neighborhood and its historic national role, search online for “Pullman rail cars”.  About 1000 households exist in the Pullman area, which is about four blocks by four blocks large.  The median age of the Pullman neighborhood is mid-thirties.  The area’s racially diverse neighborhood has a smattering of wealthy people, but is historically poor.

Booz says that the hood is, “…not a hip, or, up-and-coming neighborhood.  It’s kind of like a small town.  You could cross the neighborhood in a 10-30 minute walk.”  And, to be frank, no one living in the area ever expects community investment or the birth of profitable commercial potential.

The word “diversity” aptly describes the history of the Pullman area, and the many unfulfilled visions that have existed for this particular land parcel.  One previous land use proposal included plans for a park, but there was no community interest and no investment capital to power any changes.  A decade-long general rejection by The Alderman land council to incoming projects proposals, has felt morally degrading to the locals.

During the last 10-years, the local political system has been plagued with deadlock.  Constant infighting and open disagreement have prevented the community at large from finding a beneficial use for the land.  Environmental quality and local political leaders have been unable to unite the neighborhood.

The land parcel that The Co-Operation Operation is on had previously remained “un-zoned” because of a special designation by the Environmental Protection Agency as a “Super Fund Site”.  What is a “Super Fund Site”?  In a short description, a general health-hazard.  Any land parcel labeled as a Super Fund Site means that it is utterly polluted and contaminated.  Like many land plots in the county, the garden site was off-limits.  That is, until The Co-Operation Operation began toxic remediation.

Interview with Justin Booz of The Co-Operation Operation

As I questioned Justin Booz about his personal experience living a sustainable lifestyle, I was surprised when he described his current existence, “Like living a mystery novel and thriller novel all at once.”

Alisha:  What is the message you are sending, and whom are you sending it to?  

Justin:  The message that we are sending to the entire local neighborhood is “come and take vegetables!” In this way, the garden is benefitting the local neighborhood by improving it, and offering nourishment to the neighbors that want to become involved and fed for free.

A:  How do they know to come and take vegetables? 

J:  Word of mouth invitations.  Members of The Co-Operation Operation project are integrated into the established neighborhood network.  The neighborhood response to the project is openly positive, and one staff member is typically on-site at the garden each day to greet and invite neighbors and curious others as they stop-by.

A:  How do you describe what the project is accomplishing?

J:  Providing a place for neighbors to nourish themselves with garden fresh produce is in itself a simple idea.  Metaphorically, the garden space is opening a community door that was previously unable to be opened, and is filling a void.  Symbolically, the regeneration of this working-class neighborhood is unexpected.  It is hard for many locals to see that there is “Life” growing where people didn’t expect there to be. Everyone is excited at the early and present success of the project.

A:  Who performs the ever-important social media tasks?  

J:  Monica Wizgird, another founder who is on The Co-Op Op’s Outreach Committee, is the one who consistently posts vibrant photo stories on Facebook for everyone to enjoy.

A:  Do you and the group work to accomplish any specific food production goals?

J:  No.  The goal is to continue upgrading and developing the non-profit’s strategic organization and planning, and garden infrastructure.  Operating a high-functioning garden is the focus of the non-profit.  Currently, the The Co-Operation Operation urban garden project is protected by a 5-year land use contract signed in agreement with City of Chicago.  At the end of the term, members operating the site have been told that the non-profit will be given the option to purchase the garden site.

A:  Does The Co-Operation Operation plan to purchase the site?

J:  Yes.

A:  Please report on one unexpected and positive personal benefit from your participation in the project? 

J:  I’ve gained a deeper understanding of the importance of community and volunteerism.  And, I’m learning to build a more sustainable community through focused and collaborative development of a simple idea.

A:  How about one unexpected personal challenge that you have encountered while working on The Co-Operation Operation project? 

J: A rascal neighbor stalked members of our group, and attempted to sabotage the project by spreading very vicious lies.  It was a draining, drawn-out experience.

A:  What is The Co-Op Op planning to do during the Chicago winter? 

J:  A greenhouse made of common corrugated and greenhouse plastics, wood, steel, and concrete will help us to continue growing food in the cold.  So, the group will be nurturing winter crops.  We will continue with site improvements, including the exciting construction of a large water reservoir.

A:  What are your personal plans for winter? 

J:  I plan to work on getting our residential row house off of the grid using recycled materials.  First, gas; then electrical.  I will be working at the garden as a paid staff member through a city-funded “Designated Work Site” program.

About the Angels

Some members of The Co-Operation Operation are currently living near the urban garden in an old row house.  Busy with actively planning and documenting the project for historical purposes, project participants intend to duplicate their program at a second site.  Everyone living at the old row house helps at the garden.

Erin Delaney:  Co-Chair Garden Operations, Education, Events, Outreach and Volunteer Coordination

Viviana Gentry:  Co-Chair Garden Operations, Press Relations, Outreach and Volunteer Coordination

Monica Wizgird:  Secretary Fundraising Chairperson, Social Media, Photography, Press Relations, Education, Events

Justin Booz:  Treasurer Building and Design, Press Relations

Elizabeth Nerat:  Garden Operations, Outreach and Volunteer Coordination, Education, Events

Jessica Gorse:  Education, Events, Outreach

Sara Koperdak-Meekins:  Outreach and Volunteer Coordination, Legal liason

The Co-Op Op ribbon cutting ceremony  |  Photo by Alicja Wizgird "Pullman IS magic," echoed a child, to everyone's delight

The Co-Op Op ribbon cutting ceremony | Photo by Alicja Wizgird
“Pullman IS magic,” echoed a child, to everyone’s delight

Reach The Co-Operation Operation

Website http://coopop.org

Phone number  (773) 609-3389

E-Mail  cooperationoperation@gmail.com

Facebook  https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Cooperation-Operation/601185756574486

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Milestone: Campaign Update

***** CAMPAIGN UPDATE *****

Written by Alisha “Bee” Forrester Scott
Founder, Pollinator Support Movement

❤ The “Bee-Friendly: BeeSWeek 2013” Indiegogo fundraising campaign has been canceled. ❤

Managing an Indiegogo campaign on my own has proven unsuccessful.  Those that have contributed to the campaign will be contacted after 10/31/2013, and will receive the packages which they have so graciously purchased.  But, I’m not giving up!  NEVER!  In fact, the “Bee-Friendly: BeeSWeek 2013” educational DVD will be released and made available for sale online this fall 2013, through a regular sales online and in booths.

❤ Bees and Personal Effort. ❤

Special Thanks

If you’ve helped in any way with the expansion of Pollinator Support Movement, to me you are an Angel.  Thank You to everyone who has made it possible for me and us to “get this far” on such few financial resources.

Those that have previously financially contributed, joined PSM during the summer membership drive, or have offered their special talents and abilities to the process, will be mentioned in the DVD ending credits.

Thank You to Lainie “Sevante” Quirk and Ivan Weiner of Albuquerque Film & Media Experience (AFME) for inviting me to present BeeSWeek 2013 on behalf of PSM during their inaugural film festival event.

Thank You to Cecilia Sadler and Scharles Wilder for providing me with comfortable accommodations during my temporary residence in Albuquerque.

Thank You to Alan Cronick and the team at The Mattress Firm (NM) for providing the capital donation which allowed PSM to afford filming of the BeeSWeek 2013 events at University of New Mexico.

Thank You to the staff at University of New Mexico (UNM) for their support of the BeeSWeek 2013 project.

Thank You to the members of the New Mexico, Hawaii, and Bay Area California public media, for providing me with opportunities to talk about BeeSWeek 2013 in print, television, and radio.

❤ And especially, Thank You to the BeeSWeek 2013 panelists, who contributed their own financial energy to this process. ❤

Learn More

If you are interested in tracking my personal story, progress, and creative adventures, catch me at my “Alisha’s Blog” website.  The URL is www.alishatheexplorer.com.

Contact

You are invited to reach me at (978) 254-7428 is (978) ALISHA-8, or, E-Mail to doyoulikefood@gmail.com.

Alisha says: “You can view the “Alisha Bee (Valley Girl)” promotional Indiegogo campaign video by clicking here.  There was very little response to this video, but I had fun making it, anyway.”

Alisha Bee © 2013

Alisha Bee © 2013

Secret Post

INTERESTING DEVELOPMENT on “Selling bees”

Written by Alisha “Bee” Forrester Scott
Producer, Pollinator Support Movement

“The idea of educating people about why they should purchase the “Bee-Friendly: BeeSWeek 2013″ educational fundraising DVD has proven very challenging.

So, I am going to have a little fun with the rest of the Indiegogo campaign… to try and get some more attention, so that my next online fundraising campaign works better. (Yes, I believe that this current Indiegogo campaign is failing — in many ways.)

Below, is a my latest audio post, as found at my SoundCloud song page. Enjoy.” –Alisha “Bee”

https://soundcloud.com/alishatheexplorer/ex-marks-the-spot-secret-song

♥ Bees and Music. ♥

====88888888====

This song was borne after a whole day and overnight of emotional and verbal incubation. The words poured from the page, and it was easy to understand where I was at with the whole idea of what love really means to me.

This song was originally recorded with my cell phone, in video format. This video is somewhere online, but has a secret video link. If you are interested in seeing the video, then please consider donating to save the bees.

Visit http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/bee-friendly-beesweek-2013-educational-dvd

Or, search online for “Indiegogo PSM Bee-Friendly BeeSWeek 2013”. And, there you can order a independently-funded and scientifically-accurate multi-hour discussion about the current state of North American bees and the food supply chain.

This discussion was intentionally recorded, after many months of preparation, in June 2013 at the University of New Mexico. The “Bee-Friendly: BeeSWeek 2013” educational fundraising DVD was co-produced by myself, Alisha M. Forrester Scott, and Dave Hunter (CEO, Crown Bees in Washington state).

The DVD footage was filmed in the university auditorium during “BeeSWeek 2013: Scientific and Community Panel Forums” events. These events took place as an extension program of the inaugural Albuquerque Film & Media Experience (AFME).

BeeSWeek 2013 was severely under-funded, but nonetheless featured many of our nation’s brightest experts in the bees industries.

Secret Video Info: If you purchase ANY DVD package athttp://www.indiegogo.com/projects/bee-friendly-beesweek-2013-educational-dvd, I will send you the secret video link… which I was told is “really cute n sweet!!!” ha

Enjoy.”

Alisha “Bee” Forrester Scott
Founder, Pollinator Support Movement (PSM)

Lyrics to “Ex Marks the Spot” by Alisha M. Forrester Scott:

If you really love me
Take care of my little big heart

And if you really like me
Allow me to enjoy my art

If you need to me free
Then I’ll be happy as can be
Just knowing you did what you needed

But if you call on me, again
And ask me if I can pretend
That you didn’t actually mean it

I’ll say no
I’ll say no
Did you know

That someone out there will love me
And help me to be strong and free
I feel that I deserve much better

Than you poor treatment of my heart
And zero interest in my art
I’m now free from passive rejection
I’m better without deep depression

So, if you really love
Take care of my little big heart

And if you really like me
Allow me to enjoy my art