Harmonies of Tomorrow

Ashland High graduates Brook Golling and Joseph Bornstein have got themselves a pair of green thumbs, in more than one way.

As the co-founders of the federally certified non-profit organization Semilla Nueva, Golling and Bornstein have been working with Guatemalan farmers to develop high yield yet environmentally sustainable agricultural practices in the Central American nation.

“Harmonies of Tomorrow,” a benefit event for Semilla Nueva will be held this Sunday, November 14th, at 7:00 pm at the Ashland Community Center. “Harmonies of Tomorrow” will feature presentations by local artists and musicians including: poetry readings by Oregon Poet Laureate, Lawson Inada, and local poet, Jonah Bornstein; live music from local musician, Bryan Holley and from band, Havana Club; prose and drama readings by Deborah Zaslow and Eileen Desandre.

An alliance for sustainability

“Harmonies of Tomorrow” intends to “bring out Ashland’s community of artists and inspirers” to gather support for sustainable agriculture, Golling said. Golling and Bornstein are both of the Ashland High School Class of ’03, and have been participating in the Guatemalan agricultural community for the past three years. During their first conference on sustainable agriculture on the coast of Guatemala, 50 farmers attended.

“The general sentiment was: ‘We need to take this opportunity and work together to provide ourselves a more stable means, because what we have right now isn’t working,’” Golling recounted. What Guatemala has right now is an agricultural system which for the past 50 years has depended on chemically intensive fertilizers. These fertilizers degrade the soil, sapping it of nutrients and undermining both the resiliency of the regional environment, and the farmer’s livelihoods.

A “Greener Revolution

Semilla Nueva, in partnership with enthusiastic local agricultural leaders, is applying new techniques of soil revitalization and organic fertilization in nine test plots along the coast and in the Guatemalan highlands. The organization uses strategies like “green manure.” A nitrogen rich cover crop, like beans, is reincorporated into the soil, replenishing nutrients as it biodegrades rather than tilling in petroleum based fertilizers. Such strategies intend to rebuild the local environment and produce sustainable crop yields.

Semilla Nueva is predominantly volunteer based, but it co-founders strive to expand the program to other communities in Guatemala. “2011 is the critical year to turn this into a stable program in Guatemala, to turn this into a career,” Golling said. “That’s why we are starting this campaign in Ashland.”

Tickets for “Harmonies of Tomorrow” cost ten dollars for adults and five for students and are for sale at the door or at the Music Coop in Ashland. The event will also host a silent auction of authentic Guatemalan art, tapestries ponchos, and jewelry. 100% of the proceeds go towards the Semilla Nueva’s efforts in Guatemala. For more information call 541-326-5443 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting              541-326-5443      end_of_the_skype_highlighting or visit www.semillanueva.org.