I met Tyler Sussman about 7 years ago. He is unlike anyone else I’ve ever met; talented, kind, thoughtful, and with an awareness of the world that is unusual to find in New York. He is an unapologetically unique individual who always has an aura of serenity about him, almost as though he is operating on a different wavelength from the rest of the world.  He continually inspires the people around him to think about the world, their place in it, and the responsibility that we have to the world and to each other. -Pongo Power Personal Trainer Sarah Arikian-Coe

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It is important for a child to understand the connection between their food and where it comes from. To know that we come from the earth when we are born, we return to the earth when we die, and that we are sustained by food from the earth while we are alive. To know, essentially, that we are all one.

I have lived in New York City for eight years. I am originally from California.

California is a very special place, literally Earth’s Garden of Eden. Food grows so easily there with all the different sub-climates and irrigation. It’s easy to grow many crops there year round. Much easier than in the Northeast, for instance, which has a limited growing window and additional weather challenges.

I grew up going to the farmer’s market with my Mom and having lemons and tomatoes growing in the backyard. Proximity to such abundant agriculture permeates through the culture and makes people more aware of where their food comes from.

Struggling To Find Good Food

When I moved to New York City, I struggled to find good food.

I was living in Manhattan at 30th St and 9th Ave and not feeling the area’s deli and restaurant situation. So I would travel to the Chelsea Whole Foods, which was intimidatingly crowded and expensive. Then one night I went to see a concert in Brooklyn (my first day ever in Brooklyn!), and I noticed the neon sign of the Park Slope Food Co-op.

I had been part of a food co-op in California and I really loved the community vibe and healthy food, so I was intrigued to see one here in New York City. I moved to Park Slope as soon as I could and joined the Co-op. Ever since my life has been great! The Park Slope Food Co-op is the best grocery store on the planet. I actually miss it whenever I’m traveling (even to California)!

Visiting A New York City Farm For The First Time

I was part of a CSA (Community Shared Agriculture) where the farmer at Growing Heart Farm would deliver farm “shares” (a big box of delicious veggies) every week to NYC residents who paid upfront for a season’s worth of produce.  After a year or two of eating this amazing food and being introduced to all sorts of veggies I would never have know about, I visited the farm. I was blown away by the beauty, abundance, and love that was coming out of the earth, sun, and rain. It was a very emotional experience for me. It just felt right.

Before my visit, I thought the CSA was simply a nice, convenient opportunity to eat healthy food. After visiting the farm I realized the significance of adopting this local farming lifestyle. This was how we did it for thousands of years. It’s probably a good idea to embrace this practice for the sustainability of our future generations.

Writing The Song & Involving The Children

I was writing music for my new album Spaceship Earth  and I wanted to write a song to raise the food awareness question without being another whining hippie. I recorded a simple piano part, and as I sat in the Growing Heart Farms’ treehouse, the lyrics effortlessly came through me.

Then there was a day when I wasn’t sure what I was going to do with my third-grade music class. This is a bit terrifying for a teacher minutes before facing a room full of energetic 8-year-olds! I’d recently taught lessons that included my partner Aya Trenier’s music video about saving a rainforest in Singapore, and the children had absolutely loved it. Inspired, I started to write the lyrics on the board while thinking, Well, at least it has a simple melody and lyrics.

The class loved the song. I was inspired by their joy.

The innocence and purity of the children singing is powerful.

A Child’s Experience Of Their Food

Before I teach any song or lesson, I usually ask my class to share their experiences. I found that nearly all the children had visited a farm before. Students mentioned that they had enjoyed being in the country (these are all NYC kids), seeing the animals, and being able to eat the food straight from the fields and the trees. Some students didn’t like the smells, and also saw some animals that didn’t look very happy.

Many children I work with have awareness and grow their own food in gardens with their families. The extent of their knowledge depends on their experiences. Some were aware that pesticides sprayed on plants could leak into the streams and therefore affect birds, fish, and entire food chain. However, I’ve also worked with High School students who didn’t know what kind of meat was in a hamburger or what ketchup or mayonnaise is made from.

A general rule of thumb is that if something still resembles the food that comes out of the ground, that’s good. If something is processed, packaged in a convenient wrapper, and has ingredients that you can’t pronounce, that’s not so good.

A peculiarity to me is how much children love candy. The type and amount of sugar in candy can really throw a child’s behavior and attention span out the window. (Jerry Seinfeld is spot on with his Halloween stand-up bit.) Every year Halloween is an enormous event in a child’s life. The repercussions are felt in the classroom. I understand why candy is so popular. It’s inexpensive, easy to manufacture, and has been part of the culture for many years. I feel it’s time to give our children alternatives that are still sweet, satisfy their cravings, and establish healthy habits that will prevent diseases and other problems in the future. (Check out my Instagram for ongoing recipes of delicious healthy food, shakes, and desserts that even kids will enjoy.)

Another peculiarity is how much children love cheese! Cheese is a beautiful thing that nourishes some people’s bodies; however, the factory dairy farm is not a happy sight.

Every single child I have ever met loves animals, almost as much, if not more, than they love candy.

I’m sure they would be horrified if they saw how the factory dairy cows (responsible for their cheese, milk, and ice cream) are being treated. It’s our job as adults to be aware of these unfortunate practices, avoid them, and inform our children in a way that is educational, yet not disturbing. There are plenty of alternatives to factory farmed dairy, even if you don’t live in an area that carries these happily farmed dairy products in the store, you can order on the internet from many different suppliers.

Gratitude & Respect

If children grow up with gratitude and respect for our earth’s abundance, many of our generation’s complicated problems could be solved.

I would like the video to inspire children to ask their families where their food comes from at the dinner table. I would like to see more food education in classrooms. I would like the purity and light of these children to inspire adults who didn’t have the opportunity to learn about food sources or are or ‘too busy’ to seriously care where their food comes from. And of course I would like people to share the video, and for it to inspire others to use art and technology to communicate important messages throughout our communities.

 

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