How Do We Grow Hope? A Simple Recipe...


I remember my feelings of despair. Twelve years ago. Wondering what I could possibly do to help change the world; so much was going wrong. How could one person, myself or anyone, do anything to help?

And I had four beautiful children, ages 7 to 11 years old. I thought: "What kind of world are they growing up in? What do they feel -- to be looking towards their future on this planet? What right did I, or any of us, have to give them this kind of world to grow their tender hearts in?"

At the time, I owned a small fair-trade, organic coffee company. We imported some of the world's tastiest, most well-tended coffee beans from farmers around the world. They lived mostly in a band ten degrees north to ten degrees south of the equator. And they tended their plants using healthy, organic methods that enriched their soil and air and water, their lives.

These amazing farmers and their families lived high in the mountains in small villages. This is where the world's finest coffees were grown, under the shade of other trees. These small groups of coffee magicians carried on the farming that their fathers and grandfathers had before them.

They continued even though it was a deep struggle to grow these coffees, to do this masterful work, yet get paid via the commercial markets almost nothing for their product. We tried to create a purchasing model that worked differently, that paid them more because their work was worth more, their coffees were worth more than simple supply and demand dictated.

Their lives were worth more. This was what the fair-trade coffee purchasing model tried to do.

But these mountain people did something even more important than produce incredible coffee that tasted like the soil and sun and water that lived in those mountains. They carried on, these mothers and fathers and brothers and sisters, continued on their thousands-of-year-old cultures, their irreplaceable music and stories and dance and clothing and languages in the midst of an encroaching world that wanted them all to drink Coca-Cola.

I like to think that by buying their coffees, we, in some small way, helped them in these efforts to keep their unique identities, their cultures, alive.

And one day, twelve years ago, while sitting in a café in Louisville, Kentucky, drinking a cup of their organic, fair-trade coffee, I realized that I was changing the world as I drank that single cup. And my world totally, and forever, changed in that moment.

Because when I drank that cup of coffee, it added to all the other cups of fair-trade, organic coffees being drunk that day, all over the world.

And it added up to enough coffee to begin to give those coffee farmers a livelihood that, cup by cup, put shoes on their children's feet, put money in their pockets to spend on school and clothes and birthday gifts and a new roof and trips to town and, maybe, guitar strings.

Since that day, I've learned that the way the world changes is by small steps we take individually. We change the world by the simple choices we make in our lives every day. That's how we've always changed the world.

Big problems don't need big solutions. They just need small steps taken every day, by a lot of us together.

Lately, I've been talking to many local and national heroes, healthy food experts and food growers. They tell me the one small step we can all take to change the world right now is to grow some of our own food.

Shepherding these plants from seed to fruit and vegetable changes us. We reconnect with nature. We get healthier eating organic food and it helps us think more clearly.

When we grow healthy food, we join a community of backyard or corner-of-the-deck or on-a-window-sill farmers that helps reduce the transportation costs of shipping in our food from thousands of miles away. A community that helps bring back joy and celebration to sourcing and eating and sharing food.

But we don't have to think about all that or even agree with it all.

We just have to take a small step and grow some basil or a tomato or some other vegetable we like to eat. As one of our food heroes said in our conversation: "We're not asking you to grow everything. Just grow something.

So to help those thousands and millions of us who want to do something but aren't sure what, for those of us who want to grow some hope, we've created the free, online Grow Your Own Food Summit, July 7-14th. My partner, Valerie, and I recorded conversations with 30+ healthy food people with growing in their blood, to teach us how and where to start.

This makes me hopeful and I love the feeling of that.

How can I make any difference in this world where so much seems to be going wrong? What can I teach my children about growing up in a world where there is too much stress and anxiety and fear? Where everything is moving too fast?

I can show them how we can change the world by the small steps we take every day. And I can help them plant a seed. So can you.

We design our life, our world, by the choices we make every day. Join me at And share this with your family and friends and neighbors.