MEET BRADLEY SEIBEL – FOOD LEADER CERTIFICATE PROGRAM 2017
“Gardening is an active participation in the deepest mysteries of the universe.” -Thomas Berry
“He who understands nature walks close with God.” -Edgar Cayce
My name is Bradley Seibel and I am a recent graduate of Marian University in Fond du Lac, where I am from and now live. As I was finally coming close to completing my theology degree after eight years I was gripped with fear. For so long I had the one goal of graduating, knowing that if I made it to that point it would be a miracle. When I finished my junior year it dawned on me that I might actually get it done, after which I would have to figure out what the next step was. I was spending hours a day researching graduate programs, thinking I would go the route most undergraduate theology students go – ministry. A dearly remembered friend of mine, Kathy, used to always say something to me that didn’t make sense during the early days of my spiritual development, she would say, “If you want to make God laugh, make plans.” I understand that much better now than I did then. The main reason why I struggled with my decision to attend graduate school was because I don’t necessarily fit into any religion, although I do have a particularly strong affinity for Christ for reasons I won’t explain now. As a rather devout, but not religious, follower of Christ I believe we are all called to ministry. It’s naturally human to want to help others, no matter how covered up that may be by our egos. I knew I wanted to be of service, but how was the question. After much doubt and confusion that I would follow with prayer and reflection it seemed to come together on its own, the path was laid out so clearly before me.
I have always loved nature. As a teen, I practically lived in natural areas, partly because sometimes I had nowhere else to go but mostly because I loved being there. I got my first taste of gardening at a retreat center in Portage called Bumpity where I met Kathy and her husband Bob. I learned about meditation and began my slow but steady ascent towards healing. One of the things that helped me the most was being out in their 2 acres of gardens. My mind wasn’t quite clear at that time, to say the very least, but it was enough to plant the seed that began to sprout just last year. When it dawned on me what to do it was such a relief, such a weight off my shoulders. I didn’t want to go to graduate school, at least not now. I don’t want to get up on a pulpit and preach, I want to be on the front lines. I want to do practical things to help people transform their lives, like Bob and Kathy helped me so very much. There’s not a day that goes by my heart does not fill with gratitude for what they did for me. Included in that gratitude is my advisor, Joyce Bautch the head of the theology department, who found an internship for me in Portland, Oregon with an organization called Eco-Faith Recovery. Theirs is a blend of spirituality and sustainability that was salve to my searching soul. They promote a system of practices for awakening leadership, among which is conscious leadership development. With the internship came a 750 dollar stipend, the exact amount for a student in the Food Leadership Certificate Program of Victory Garden Initiatives. I didn’t think that was a coincidence and decided to use my stipend for the program. I have learned so much and have been so inspired by the food leaders I have met.
I am only one person and can only do so much. With that said I want to do the most good I possibly can with the one life I have to live. So, I put two and two together and realized that by growing food and helping to change the food system I can effect change in a myriad of ways. Growing food strengthens the local economy, creating opportunity for so many to support themselves. Growing food strengthens our sense of community, nothing brings people together quite like food does! Growing food protects the environment, up to 60% of greenhouse gas emissions are related directly or indirectly to unsustainable farming practices. And obviously, growing food makes people healthier, giving more people access to fresh produce. And when people are healthier, they are happier. So, I decided to start an urban farm named AeroAbundance, LLC; that is after my plans shifted and changed and rearranged so many times I can’t count. God sure got a lot of laughter out of me this last year, and I’m laughing at myself most of the time too. I kept worrying about every little thing and then when I would just let it go everything fell into place. Funny how that works, isn’t it? An angel investor, Louise Taylor, has paid for everything and I can’t thank her enough. I’m using an aeroponics system developed by Ben Staffeldt to grow food year round in an office space I’ve remodeled to grow and sell produce in. The plants grow so much faster and they are so much more nutrient dense than traditional methods. Also, the systems use very little energy and water to maintain, only about 55 gallons every two weeks. The sprayers were developed by NASA and they create a mist with particles so small the roots can actually take nitrogen and oxygen from the air itself! The future of food is amazing, and we get to be a part! How cool!
A part of me wonders if I am wasting my theology degree, but then I come to my senses and realize I’m using it more than some ever do. As much as this feels like my project it doesn’t at the same time. I’m just as curious as to how this is going to evolve as anyone else. It’s becoming quite an adventure and I’m excited to journey it together with other food leaders I have had the good fortune to meet.