Umami Mart Barware
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PREFACE
OPENeducation: Napa Valley Bee Company


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My A-HA! moment during OPENeducation in Berkeley was when Bob Cannard asked me "Who was the last person that made noodles in your family?" When I became red-faced and unable to answer the question, he followed up with another: "Isn't it time that you started taking up noodle-making in your family's lineage?"

Bob Cannard co-founded Green String Farm in 2003, has been farming sustainably for over 30 years and provides lots of produce that ends up on the tabletops in Chez Panisse. Startled at first by his persona--Dubya on the outside/Pierre-Joseph Proudhon on the inside--I sat on the lawn of the Berkeley Art Museum to listen to his Q&A session to sort this out for good.

Cannard's passion for good soil and diversity on the farm cut through the pot-smoke-filled air of the museum, close to the UC campus. He devoted a good 10 minutes to the idea of an economy of scarcity vs. the economy of generosity which made me wish he was one of my professors back in my college days. The "economy of scarcity" is the one in which we live today: "Not enough jobs", "Not enough food', "Not enough money", "I need more...", "I don't have enough."

In contrast, nature abides by the economy of generosity one in which gives and gives and gives, for example: "Planting one seed which give us apples, so many in fact, that we must share", "Rain that falls from the sky", "Soil that replenishes itself if you let it". Cannard lives in this economy of generosity, letting nature flourish and acts as willing participant.

I approached him after the Q&A session and he expanded on the future, insisting that our generation must envision the future to make things happen. Well, this is nothing new coming from a wise elder, but Bob's dynamic, youthful energy and optimism was not only novel, but inspiring. I get the feeling Bob is the kind of guy who holds people accountable, and I hope that the next time I see him we can discuss some noodle-making techniques. (Stay tuned for some soba-making on Japanify.)

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$4 Sandwich with tomatoes and a strawberry agua fresca

I have to admit that before going to the event, I didn't really know what to expect. The explanations of OPENeducation were nebulous, that I feared would border pretension. But actually being schooled by small children and eating a $4 sandwich was a pretty clear and approachable concept.

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More kids cooking

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Alice Waters taking questions on live radio

But with all the talk of diversity in farms and the soil, both from Bob and Michael Lauher of the Napa Valley Bee Company, I looked around and realized there was a lack in human diversity, despite the fact that it was a free event. Isn't that just as important?

All in all, I was impressed by the OPENeducation event and its ambitious, progressive-thinking participants. I look forward to attending more OPENrestaurant events in the future (and joining them in Tokyo), and hope they can reach out even further for hands-on participation from the entire community.
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