“Together We Stand” started with the acknowledgment of a need and a search for a solution.
My name is John Mears, and I am the Executive Director of “Together We Stand”. My training and skill set was not in farming or education, but was in the automotive industry. I own and run a small auto repair shop in South Florida. “Together We Stand” started when my wife, Anna, and I were helping out at a food bank which was sponsored by a local church. We began to see that the ministry was being abused by the “greedy” and really not helping the “needy”. This forced the shutdown of the project. However the truly “needy” individuals suffered from this action. However, mixed in with those many people looking to get whatever they could for free were a couple of elderly ladies that really needed the help. They were the ones usually working side by side with us to help to box up and distribute the food to others. We also noticed that what they needed the most was protein. Meats and fish were too expensive, so to survive they were forced to cut them from their budgets and diets. This was not an acceptable situation and an answer needed to be found.
After much research and investigation, my wife and I had decided to try and develop a more agrarian way of life as a hobby and possible solution to the food bank problem. This hobby started simply with the raising of rabbits for harvest in our back yard. This turned out to be so much fun and the beginnings of an effective solution to the food bank closure. We then decided to expand our operations and tried to raise tilapia, however we needed more land than our small yard could offer. So we started to look for a larger alternative.
One of my customers had a 5-acre nursery with a large fresh water lake located in North Hollywood. The nursery had been abandoned and neglected for several years. The property was beautiful, but almost totally unusable, due to the fact that several years earlier it had been rented to some tenants, whose primary business was disposing of construction debris. Their solution was to dump the debris on the back side of the property. Over time they just kept moving further into the nursery and limiting the natural resources that this land had to offer. The first time we saw the property the debris was 3-4 feet high and the nursery was totally inaccessible, creeping potato vines and Brazilian pepper trees had grown up through the rubble and had over taken most of the property.
So with little to lose and much to gain, we began the process of reclaiming this beautiful piece of land. Together with the help of a couple of hard working men and a lot of trips to the landfill - we were able to bring usefulness back to a beautiful nursery.
As we worked on the land, the vision and details of what we wanted to build began to formulate in my mind. With the intention of raising fish on this property my first group of questions started to arise - how do I filter the water from the natural lake to operate productive fish tanks? Using hydroponic as a natural biological filter seemed like a great idea, but how are we going to power the pumps? Could we use solar power? What about bio-fuels? Could we make our own fuels? What about rain water? Could we build something which would operate completely “off the grid” with no carbon foot print? And what do we want to grow in the hydroponics? Food plants of course, but what about plants that offer medicinal benefits. As I started to ask and answer these questions, and many others, I began to see that this project had unlimited potential.
When we started to implement some of these beginning steps it became clear that none of this was overly complicated or hard to accomplish. At this point I began to get excited as I realized that this type of knowledge and technological development was exactly what we need on a grass root level to bring new solutions to the problems around us. I started to realize that we had the answer to our problems right in front of us. All we had to do was to take a fresh look at the resources, technology and the opportunities and apply them to our personal community. We decided to start to take action - to stop waiting and expecting someone else to solve our problems. We needed to start thinking about what we can do to bring about change in our lives, our homes, and our communities. It was clear we had everything we needed. There was no reason to wait anymore.
The “Together We Stand” project is designed to educate, promote and provide the resources and inspiration to adults, teens, children, and community leaders that have the courage and desire to make a difference in their world. “Together We Stand” offer us the opportunity to reevaluate the effective use of the land, water, and energy around us and to take a leadership role in the advancement of this knowledge for the benefit of the community.
I invite you to stand with me and many others who have determined with their hearts and minds to take a fresh look around them, change the way that they have been taught, and start to make an impact on the world around us. We can make a difference when “Together We Stand”!