Sustainability at Culver

Conserve – Reduce – Educate

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Marshall County Food Council Begins!

Mighty oaks from little acorns grow…

Building on a series of community meetings and many conversations over the last couple of years, a group of community members met on Friday, January 27, 2017 at St. Joseph Regional Medical Center in Plymouth to form the Marshall County Food Council.  Pictured below are some of the attendees representing Ancilla College, Argos Community Schools, Culver Academies, the Marshall County Neighborhood Center, the Marshall County Community Foundation,  the Purdue Extension program, County Line Products (a local produce grower), the Plymouth Farmers Market, and the Culver Farmers Market.  group-pic

While they take many shapes and forms, at its core a food council is an organization which connects food system stakeholders — growers, producers, consumers, distributors, and other interested people and organizations.  Food councils encourage ideas and advance initiatives to grow a sustainable food system that improves the health and well being of the community.  A number of such councils are springing up around Indiana, each with a focus on its own particular geographic area.  With the support of the Purdue Extension program and the Marshall County Community Foundation, we believe our initiative is off on the right foot!

We are at the very beginning stages of our effort.  We still need to take such basic steps as to craft a vision and mission.  This council is a group of “doers not talkers.”  This orientation to action is evidenced by our meeting on the 27th  whose purpose was to connect local producers and growers with larger local buyers.  A number of new, productive relations were established and we hope to build on this initial success moving  forward.

Our Council agreed to meet bimonthly on the last Friday of the month @ 3pm and welcomes all interested parties.   For more information please contact Sandy Read at the Purdue Extension office, or Chris Kline at Culver Academies,

Following our meeting, a number of us from Culver Academies visited the Oberholtzer farm (County Line Products mentioned above).  Take a look at these lucious greens from the Oberholtzer’s greenhouse.  Who says you can’t grow lettuce in northern Indiana in January!




Green Life is for the Birds!

This morning about 45 Green Life members did a simple, but effective, project for the birds on our campus (and probably squirrels too :).  Taking pine cones collected from our campus, students covered the cones with peanut butter, dunked them in bird seed and then attached the feeders to trees around campus.

You can now see several dozen of these pine cones scattered around campus.  Reply to with a picture of birds or wildlife munching on the cones.


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Sustainability, Empathy and Inclusion

Culver has participated in the Green Schools National Network, sending students and faculty to the GSNN’s productive and inspiring national conference each of the past two years.  Below is a thoughtful post from the GSNN Board written by Tim Cole, the Sustainability Officer for Virginia Beach City Public Schools.  Mr. Cole, a retired Navy SEAL, connects sustainability principles to many of the leadership principles to which we aspire at Culver.

Virginia Beach is a conservative community politically and home to several military installations.  The community is also one of the most at-risk communities in the country to sea level rise associated with climate change.

The large school system has  enthusiastically embraced sustainability in their curricular and operational practices.  Mr. Cole writes:


It’s been a tumultuous year in politics and the rhetoric around the election has provided us with… let’s just say, a multitude of “teachable moments.”

In a recent news story on titled “Post-election comments prompt principal’s letter to embrace shared values in Virginia Beach,” Dr. Alex Bergren, Principal at Princess Anne Middle School in Virginia Beach, recently sent a letter home to parents addressing an increase in what he described as “disrespectful and at times hateful comments.” Dr. Bergren did a great job addressing the issue in a thoughtful and non-partisan wayIn his letter, Dr. Bergren talks about respect and inclusion. These are subjects that are prevalent in any meaningful discussion around sustainability. Furthermore, by discussing sustainability in the context of the Triple Bottom Line, balancing social, economic, and environmental outcomes becomes part of our daily decision making process and allows us to explore the interconnectedness and interdependencies that we not only have with one another, but with everything within our universe. Expand this perspective and our discussion begins to explore larger issues around equity, inclusion, and empathy.

Recently, I was listening to a podcast on NPR of a discussion between David Brooks (Columnist, New York Times) and E. J. Dionne (Columnist, Washington Post) on Sinfulness, Hopefulness, and the Possibility of Politics. David Brooks quoted Dave Jolly, a veterinarian in Oregon. The quote resonated with the times. He said, “What a wise person says is the least of that which he gives. What gets communicated is the small gestures and the whole totality of their being, that is to say the small gestures of kindness, of grace, of honesty, of hard truth-telling. Never forget the message is the person.”

As we head into the holidays, consider how you can integrate the Triple Bottom Line into your sustainability efforts, be they in the classroom, the school building and grounds,  or in the decisions you make to improve the health, well-being, and culture of your school or district. No effort is too small.

You might also consider supporting the Green Schools National Network, as we translate the Triple Bottom Line for schools and school district leaders across the country.  Consider a year end donation that will support the 2017 launch of a new magazine for the K-12 community, the Green Schools Catalyst Quarterly, and our new K-12 Executive Education for Sustainability Leadership program.

Others will follow your example. It starts with you.

“The message is the person.”

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Culver Students Taking Positive Action for the Environment

Images tell the story and I’ll let a couple of pictures tell a couple of stories.

First, earlier today, a group of six Green Life Club members traveled to Plymouth to the Marshall County Recycle Depot to help Marshall County Solid Waste Director Marianne Peters and other volunteers plant a dozen large spruce trees on the Depot property to serve as a windbreak.  These were not your 1 year old sticks, but approximately 5 year old balled and burlapped spruces.  As you can see below, our kids were up for the task!

Great Job !!

Another student’s effort for the environment deserves mention for the creativity he employed.  Ignas Masiulionis (CMA’17) constructed and installed 6 wood duck boxes near ponds, the lake, wetlands and streams on Culver’s 1800 acre campus as part of his service leadership project.   Wanting to encourage other students to enjoy the natural beauty of our campus, Ignas organized a scavenger hunt to find as many of the boxes as possible.  Three teams of two were successful in locating all six boxes this past Sunday, with the aid of a rough map.  It was a great day to tromp through the woods!

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Reflection on World Food Prize and Global Youth Institute Trip

Over the course of my career, I’ve had the opportunity to participate in scores of fascinating conferences, professional association meetings, and educational events.  As a Congressional staffer, I organized a couple dozen US Senate hearings.  Having just returned from the World Food Prize and Global Youth Institute meetings in Des Moines, I am certain I have never participated in anything as meaningful or inspring as these two events.

With this post, I will try and provide a perspective including pictures and commentary from our 3 day trip.  Suffice to say, I’m still processing the breadth and volume of information presented to us, as well as learning more about the people with whom we met.  I will plan to add to this post over the next few days.

A confluence of factors created the positive dynamic at the World Food Prize and Global Youth Institute.

Where else to begin but with the challenge… 800 million people on our planet are food insecure, and our population is expected to grow from the current 7.3b to above 10b by 2050.  These slides from the Association of Land Grant Universities underscore the disproportionate impact food insecurity has on children.

The World Food Prize brings together, governments, non-governmental organizations, academics, corporations and activists to address the challenges of global food insecurity.

The four 2016 World Food Prize Laureates

Dr. Maria Andrade, Dr. Robert Mwanga, Dr. Jan Low and Dr. Howarth Bouis

“At a time when malnutrition, stunting and early childhood death remain a scourge for millions on our planet, the four 2016 World Food Prize Laureates have uplifted the health and well being of more than 10 million persons through the biofortication of staple crops, particularly the vitamin fortified orange fleshed sweet potato, Ambassador Kenneth Quinn, President of the World Food Prize said. “They have truly fulfilled the dictum attributed to Hippocrates from almost 2,400 years ago – to “Let Food Be Thy Medicine.”

laureatesThe three-person team from the International Potato Center (known by its Spanish acronym CIP) – Dr. Maria Andrade of Cape Verde, Dr. Robert Mwanga of Uganda, and Dr. Jan Low of the United States – were honored for their achievement in developing the single most successful example of micronutrient and vitamin biofortification – the orange-fleshed sweet potato (OFSP).

Dr. Andrade and Dr. Mwanga, plant scientists in Mozambique and Uganda, bred the Vitamin A enriched OFSP, while Dr. Low structured nutrition studies and programs that convinced almost two million households in 10 African countries to plant, purchase and consume this nutritionally fortified food.

Dr. Howarth Bouis, the founder of HarvestPlus at the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), pioneered the implementation of a multi-institutional approach to biofortification as a global plant breeding strategy. As a result of his leadership, crops such as iron and zinc fortified beans, rice, wheat and pearl millet, and Vitamin A-enriched cassava, maize and OFSP are being tested or released in over 40 countries.

Our impressive students

Thanks to the guidance of Culver’s Global Studies Institute Director John Buggeln, two Culver seniors, Katie Driscoll (CGA ’17) and Julia Smith (CGA ’17) were successful in competing at the Indiana State Youth Institute conference held earlier this year at Purdue. Several Culver students competed in the state contest by submitting original research papers addressing some aspect of good insecurity.  Katie’s and Julia’s papers were accepted for presentation at the international conference in Des Moines.  During the Youth Institute, each student presented her paper to a panel of university faculty experts and were given feedback on her presentation.  Culver math instructor Sandra Reavill and I had the privilege of chaperoning these two accomplished young women.

Learning about Norm Borlaug

Prior to arriving in Des Moines, I had no idea who Norm Borlaug was.  No longer.  One of only 7 people to be awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace, The Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal (think Dr. Martin Luther King, Mother Teresa, Nelson Mandela).  norman-borlaugBorlaug grew up in Iowa, studied biology and plant genetics and is credited with developing strains of wheat and other grain which had draught and disease resistance.  These new strains of grain were widely distributed throughout Mexico and SE Asia during the 1960s, a time when hunger was claiming millions of lives annually.  Borlaug’s work is widely credited with saving more than 100 million people from starvation.

Borlaug used some of the prize money from the Nobel Prize as well as other resources to create the World Food Prize in 1986.  The purpose of the World Food Prize is to recognize the achievements of individuals who have advanced human development by improving the quality, quantity or availability of food in the world.   In early 1990, John Ruan, an Iowa businessman, permanently endowed the Prize.  Ruan’s son, John Ruan III, is now the Chairman of the World Food Prize and is guiding this impressive program into the future.

Meeting John Ruan III

While Norman Borlaug’s scientific insight and vision have propelled the World Food Prize forward, without the leadership and financial support of the Ruan family, this international collaborative efffort would be for naught.  John Ruan III, pictured below with Culver students and Culver instructor Sandy Reavill at the Global Youth  Institute luncheon, is Chairman of this effort and brings his considerable business acumen to the organization.

We had the opportunity to meet Mr. Ruan which was a big thrill as he is also a Culver Educational Foundation Board member.

Stimulating, compelling, accomplished speakers

Former Malawi President Joyce Banda’s speech was perhaps one of the most moving, humerous, urgent speeeches I have ever heard.  She leads an inspring life.  Her speech deserves its own post and I will write more about it once I track down a recording of it.

World Bank President Jim Kim’s speech

Another utterly compelling speaker was World Bank President Jim Kim.  Beginnng his speech wth the statement, “The greatest stain on the conscience of the world today is hunger in children,” President Kim went on to create a vision of a world in which hunger and malnutrition could be conquered.  Not an easy task as 156m chlidren around the world are developmentally stunted due to malnutrition and hunger.  Stunting doesn’t just refer to physical growth, but also mental — stunted kids have a vocabulary less than half the size of non-stunted kids.  Nonetheless, Kim’s realistic optimism gives hope these challenges can be solved.

Roger Thurow and 1000-daysThe First 1000 Days.

Author Thurow, a Wall Street Journal reporter spoke on his new book, The First 1000 Days.  Get used to this phrase, because I expect it will become a touch point for public policy. Thurow’s thesis that proper nutrition during the first 1000 days (from conception through a child’s 2nd birthday) can profoundly influence an individual’s ability to grow, learn, and work—and determine a society’s long-term health and prosperity.  Thurow tracks four families from around the world to help illustrate this point.

Food Waste

While many factors affect hunger and malnutrition, perhaps the most galling is food waste.  The slides below from Monsanto’s presentation illustrate the scale of food waste in our world and the array of tactics for reducing it.

More to follow.

I returned from Des Moines energized and enlightened.  I will continue to read and learn more about hunger and malnutrition and I encourage you to do the same.