November 2009 Reflections

November has been an interesting and intriguing month. And while I’d like to think that things aren’t as busy for me with as we’ve wrapped up our growing season for the year, my schedule still seems to be filled with things to do. And honestly, I enjoy having a busy schedule, though it’s never too busy that I don’t have time for friends and people who matter in my life. Now, on to the main monthly recap:

1. Volunteer Fairs
At the beginning of the month, I participated in two volunteer fairs at UT Scarborough and UT St. George. The purpose was to recruit volunteers for our non-profit enterprise Young Urban Farmers CSA for all aspects of our organization for the growing season of 2010 including sales and marketing, public relations, finance and accounting, operations, and more. We had a great turnout, though the UT Scarborough turnout seemed much better than the St. George one, and it was wonderful to see so many students who are motivated and interested in volunteering for a good cause.

2. Joe/Christina’s Wedding
Congratulations to Joe and Christina, who recently started a new life together. It was a pleasure to celebrate this memorable event with you, and hope you enjoy what I think is one of the most awesome wedding gifts ever. A number of us pooled our funds together to get the new couple a 15′ canoe, with a couple of paddles and life jackets to boot. The greatest moment – walking down the church aisle with the canoe to present it to them after the wedding ceremony and seeing the look on their faces. It was brilliant.

3. Guelph Urban Agriculture Symposium
Also this month, I had the chance to attend an Urban Agriculture Symposium in Guelph. It was a great chance to meet other people involved with urban agriculture, who are interested in local and sustainable food, and a chance to see what other people are doing in this emerging field.

4. Toronto Community Garden Network strategic planning event
Continuing on with the networking events, the day after the urban agriculture symposium was a strategic planning event for the Toronto Community Garden Network – a group that is made up of interested and energetic individuals and organizations from across Toronto who are committed to greening and organic gardening across the City of Toronto and to making community gardening an integral part of city life. Again, it was another opportunity to get involved in the local community, meet interesting people, and hopefully contribute some ideas and suggestions to the group.

5. Betterment Movement Toronto
The last networking event that I went to was a last minute decision, but I’m glad that I went. Somehow I heard about this event called the Betterment Movement Toronto. It billed it self as an opportunity to “Hear the stories of people in action, making the world a better place!” And it was indeed inspiring and a great chance to meet a bunch of designers, as the organization who put this together was originally a community of designers.

6. Potluck Parties
Potluck parties are one of my favourite types of parties. You get to eat a variety of foods, participate in some fun activities (we played this board game called Bang!), and spend an evening with a group of fun people. I ended up making a chocolate pudding, which turned out much better than I had originally thought it would. Despite burning the milk (just a bit) and not having fresh mint (it was supposed to be a mint chocolate pudding), it still turned out great, with people asking for the recipe afterwards. Maybe my secret weapon/ingredient of burnt milk (though you couldn’t taste even a hint of it) made it that much more tasty…….. And if you want that recipe – honestly it’s a good recipe – you can find it here.

In looking back at this past month, a couple of things come to mind. The first is that I’m grateful for all the people who have and who continually enrich my life. As much as I try to stay connected in the online world, life is best lived in the real world and it is these friendships and reationships that you make and experiences that you share with people that really matter and gives life that personal touch. Life is full of ups and downs, and having friends who can be there in good times and bad is essential. I think this was heightened by the number of networking events that I went to, and while I know that many people feel jaded and put off by these kinds of things, I think if you go in with an attitude of exploration, wonder, and open to opportunities, you’ll never know who you’ll meet, what you’ll learn, and where it will take you.

This reminds me of a quote by Shunryu Suzuki which goes like this:
In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s there are few.

The other thing that I think defined my November was that it was a month of learning. I’m not perfect by any means, and don’t pretend or try to be. And so with the idea of approaching things from a beginner’s mind, I was able to try to look at things from a more objective perspective, think critically about what worked and what didn’t work, and how to improve on things. For example, we’ve been on campus recruiting for potential franchisees for our business, and our initial efforts were relatively weak. We tried a bunch of things, and realized that it wasn’t working too well and so we modified our actions, and saw better results the subsequent times we went recruiting. Learning can come from both success and failure, though I think it is in failure that we learn the most. Sure it hurts to fail, it hurts to feel rejected, and it’s hard to stay motivated, but it is in these times when our character gets tested that we experience the most growth and learning.

If you’re not failing every now and again, it’s a sign you’re not doing anything very innovative
– Woody Allen –

Looking forward, December is going to be a joyful month, with the holiday celebrations getting into full swing. I’ll be taking some time to do an annual review, some in-depth goal setting, and just enjoying this time of year. So cheers to the holiday season and may it be filled with love, joy and happiness.