On the bus with peppers and worms

On the bus with peppers and worms

Best part of my day today: meeting Emily Nelson and Graham Evans, two local artists who are getting ready to set out on a very excellent adventure. They’ll be driving around the country in an old school bus, powered by waste vegetable oil, with a garden on top and a whole bunch of interesting projects inside: worm compost, yogurt-making, sprout-growing. Everywhere they stop, they hope to talk with locals about what they’re up to, collect ideas for a manifesto on nourishment, and hand out free food.

Emily’s a rising fourth-year art student at UVA, and Graham just graduated with a degree in American studies and anthropology. They call their project Nourish(meant), and think of it as a work of art: "art where the medium is in personal contact and relationship rather than something like paint," Emily says.

Here they are inside their ride, a 14-passenger bus they bought in North Carolina and have outfitted with a kitchen, bed, and storage areas. (That sink you see will be fed by a five-gallon tank overhead, and will drain to a bucket underneath. Then Emily and Graham will use the graywater on their plants. You can see how they’re thinking like permaculturists here.) It contains some cabinets they rescued from dumpsters and others that their architecture-school friends built. As for the veggie-oil conversion, they’re working on that now and are feeling good that they’ll start out on their trip with a decent stash of fuel: 100 gallons from the roving donut truck Carpe Donut.

These two are beyond likeable, and that’ll go a long way to helping them connect with passersby in the towns they visit. (They hope to start out at the White House, and then their route will take them north to Vermont, west to Michigan and Wisconsin, then back to Charlottesville via some larger cities like Chicago and Canton, Ohio.) Then again, a bus with a garden on top is sure to attract attention.

The garden is the plywood structure; it has a lid to protect the plants when they’re driving. The plants aren’t in there yet, but they’re growing happily:

They’ll be blogging their trip (which starts July 10) here; meanwhile, you can join one of their work parties if you want, or donate something they need (or money), or volunteer to write one of the 40 info sheets they plan to produce. (Emily will be drawing them in—I love this—graphic-novel format.) Or just follow their progress on their website.

Besides the obvious green aspects, Nourish(meant) aims to nurture community. "Food is one of the best ways to bring people together," says Graham. I can’t wait to read about what happens when they pull into a McDonald’s parking lot, jump out of the bus, and say "Hey, free food!"  

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