The Sol Food bus has made it all the way from Illinois to Montana in the last two weeks! We have been traveling hours every day in order to fit in as many great teaching and learning opportunities as we can on our way to our series of workshops on the west coast. Currently we are parked in Bozeman, Montana after spending a week in Yellowstone National Park, parks in South Dakota and the great city of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. We have also had to make a fair amount of grease pick-ups recently from local restaurants. Why grease pickups you may ask? Since we travel so extensively in our mobile greenhouse, we try to operate as sustainably as possible, while still covering hundreds of miles each week between different farms and gardens. To do this in a more environmentally friendly manner, we run our school bus engine on waste vegetable oil that we collect from restaurant grease traps. Even though we have been traveling through smaller towns out west, we have found our fair share of waste oil at Taco Bells and other greasy spoons! It has been a great practice in reuse for us and those we collect “waste” from routinely.
Once we picked up a good amount of veggie oil, we were able to travel willingly without the need for large amounts of diesel fuel. After leaving Chicago, we chugged northwest to Milwaukee, Illinois. There, we visited the Growing Power Headquarters, an extensive vegetable farm in the downtown area. Will Allen, the founder and executive director of GP, was brought to our attention when he made a visit to Durham last winter to attend the Local Food Symposium hosted at Duke University and UNC Chapel Hill. Since attending his lecture at Duke, we have made it a point to visit his innovative operation in Milwaukee. We were not let down! The Growing Power Headquarters is located in the heart of the city and has an array of enormous greenhouses, wind row composting fields and aquaponic systems. Will has worked tirelessly over the years to come up with unique and efficient systems for urban farming, wind-row composting, hoop house construction and large scale aquaponic systems. Growing Power now operates urban farms across the United Seas and internationally. For anyone interested in intensive, small-scale farming in an urban setting, the Growing Power Headquarters offers educational tours everyday of the week and online resources. For anyone interested in intensive growing within greenhouses or in aquaponics, Growing Power is a great place to get your feet wet. We learned a ton on their tour and can’t wait to spread that knowledge along our route.
After our weekend in Milwaukee we headed west to the Badlands National Park, the Windcaves National Park, and Mount Rushmore National Monument. We spent four days seeing the canyons of the Badlands, camping, touring the underground systems of the Wind Caves and climbing the bus to Mount Rushmore. It was an incredibly scenic and eye-opening week of exploring areas of our country that we had never visited and getting a breath of fresh air outside of the city centers where we have spent so much time. We then spent another five days in Yellowstone National Park seeing geysers, hot springs, rocky peaks and steep valleys that makes that area of Montana so famous. We are now gearing up to visit Glacier National Park this week before we jump into another month of work along the west coast.
The Badlands is a rare stretch of rock formations found outside of Wall, South Dakota. As you approach the park from Highway 90 you watch hundreds of miles of corn fields turn into lush hills of the Buffalo National Grasslands. Shortly after the scenery change you are met with a sudden formation of orange and red rock jutting out of the surrounding plains in long, spiny cliff faces. We spent three full days in the park, hiking through the canyons and enjoying some much needed fresh air.
From the Badlands, we continued west into the Windcaves National Park. The Windcaves is appropriately name given its elaborate underground cave system which can produce wind gusts up to seventy miles per hour. We took an amazing cave tour which sent us over sixteen stories underground. There we got to view unique “box work”, “popcorn” and “frosting” mineral formations only found in the Wind Caves National Park. We wrapped up our visit to South Dakota with a white-knuckle drive up the steep slopes of Mount Rushmore to see the famous National Monument.
Our next series of bus workshops and expos will be in Seattle, Washington and Portland, Oregon. There we will be volunteering with a variety of different community groups- assisting on urban gardens and farms and teaching nutrition lessons from the bus classroom. Until then, cheers!