South Florida's very own Farmer Jay — AKA Jason McCobb — needs your help growing something: his Indiegogo campaign for a TV series he hopes will change the way people everywhere view food.
McCobb gained most of his experience in Sonoma, California from Bob Cannard, a longtime farmer for Alice Waters and her critically acclaimed restaurant, Chez Panisse. But Farmer Jay is more than just your local, impassioned farmer. He's also a change maker in the local food scene, a sustainable agriculture expert who has spent the past several years helping local restaurants, businesses, and residents use urban gardening to create and manage their own food supply.
With the belief that the garden is an extension of nature, and something that must be protected and nurtured, McCobb's philosophy is to grow without the use of pesticides and synthetic chemicals. In addition to farming and building gardens, McCobb has also developed a program for children, dubbed Farmer Jay’s Jr. Sprouts, which helps to pass along the lost art of sustainable agriculture to the next generation.
"What we're doing here is special, and should be documented," said McCobb. "There's a huge disconnect in the American food system. At the end of the day, I want to change our relationship with how we get our food."
That's where his latest project, Grow Something, comes into play. The proposed TV series will follow Farmer Jay as he develops local food systems across South Florida and visits with like-minded farmers across the country. Each episode will include a "how to" and "do it yourself" segment that will show people how easy it can be to "grow something."
The idea to start a crowd funding platform for Grow Something was inspired by McCobb's participation in local TEDxTalks about sustainable farming. TEDx is a program of locally-organized events designed to give communities, organizations, and individuals the opportunity to stimulate dialogue on a local level. Through TEDx talks, live speakers offer insight into their various fields of expertise.
After participating as a speaker for one of these open-forum discussions, McCobb said he got the idea to create a show that would inspire the same action. Like the TEDx talks, Grow Something will begin on a local level, showcasing the growth of a local garden, and touring McCobb's Delray Beach-based farm.
"Future episodes would take a look at growing situations in other areas of the country, to spread the message and see how other people are doing it," says McCobb. "For example, I'd love to go to Cuba, where they have a beautiful food system in place. And California, where sustainable agriculture has been used for decades. Even in New York City or Chicago, where they're starting to employ rooftop gardens. Being able to show people all the different ways they can grow their own food is very important."
The 40-day campaign has a fundraising goal of $30,000, a budget that will help McCobb create a pilot episode for Grow Something that he will use to pitch the series to television networks. To film the pilot episode, McCobb will be working with Boca Raton-based Damage Studios, a team of professionals who have more than 30 years in the film and television industry and who are equally passionate about sharing Farmer Jay's message. Donated funds will help McCobb and his team to purchase filming equipment, hire camera and production crews, and market the pilot episode.
If successful, McCobb said he hopes the impact of Grow Something can extend beyond basic gardening to inspire people everywhere to grow their own food.
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"I want to encourage people to take more responsibility for our food, and understand where it comes from," said McCobb. "The show will spread the message of the importance of understanding how we grow our food, and how easy it can be."
If you're interested in hearing McCobb speak, his next TEDxTalk is happening Thursday, March 26, in Boca Raton's Mizner Park. Tickets are still available. Visit the TEDx website for more information.
Nicole Danna is a food writer covering Broward and Palm Beach counties. To get the latest in food and drink news in South Florida, follow her @SoFloNicole, or find her latest food pics on the BPB New Times Food & Drink Instagram.