Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Gardens as Schoolrooms. Schoolrooms as Gardens.

What do you see when you walk through a produce market? As you stand on a school playground what imaginings shape your thinking? What catches your sense of smell and sight and taste and touch as you stroll through a forest or when you're sitting underneath an oak tree in someone's back yard? Vegetables; where the children will be, what they will learn and what will become of them; ferns and shrubs and grasses; the afternoon shade and the friendly wave of a neighbor standing outside their home? So it is for Lisa Ludwigsen, but for her that's just a beginning. Japan born, Texas raised, Wisconsin influenced and California educated, this hardworking single-mom is setting a course and an example for others who are courageous enough to step into a dream of what could be.

Lisa Ludwigsen owns The School Garden Company; and with this burgeoning company comes her vision that blends life lessons and hard knocks, with a passion for healthy people and a healthy planet, and includes mindful insights into an intriguing philanthropic business model - mixed with the most important ingredient of all ... as much as possible juste be your positive-creative-watch-what-will-happen-if-you're-in-it-for-the-right-reasons self, ensure that others will win and, of course, enjoy the journey, even if it is sometimes terrifying! Last year she joined me to co-present a team-building program for Frank Howard Allen Realty, and it was a smash hit!! This July she will provide a special presentation for the attendees at the Allied Ronin 2008 Summer Leaders' Retreat.

The School Garden Company founded in 2005, manufactures and sells organic and herbal body products - lip balms and hand salves made from calendula, lavender, yarrow, comfrey, white sage, rosemary, organic oil and bees wax; and bath salts consisting of sea salt, baking soda, Epson salt, sweet almond oil, essential oils of lavender, rose geranium and grapefruit - all grown locally and all designed for the entire family. What makes this company unique? Its foundation, its current story and its potential future.

Ms. Ludwigsen holds a degree in Broadcast Communication Arts from California State University San Francisco. A long-time student of numerous disciplines (the list currently includes organic food production, therapeutic herbalism, mentor training, outdoor tracking, leadership, and the Japanese martial art aikido) she once owned and operated the Consumer Supported Agriculture farm in northern California. In 1996, she began developing environmental education and science curricula for children - which she continues to teach in two counties. She created and implemented a comprehensive gardening program at a public school in Petaluma, California, where she lives and known throughout the community. These things are foundational. Yet, it is a love for education and for youth that has become key to the current School Garden Company story.

Glimpsing the holistic and synergistic potential created Paul Newman and his company, Newman's Own (http://www.NewmansOwn.com). Ludwigsen decided to (and does) donate all of her company's annual after tax profits to school garden programs, thus maintaining alignment and integrity with her beginnings. This plow-it-back-into-future-generations mentality, though risky, established her and her company on high ground at a time when being on that high ground was not contemplated nor understood by most. For her this is not a marketing ploy, though marketing potential it has. It's about what she believes in. She understands that we care for our future (locally, nationally and globally) by educating and caring for our youth. Additionally and co-incidentally, The School Garden Company promotes its products as refreshing fundraising alternatives available to schools (all levels), their bands, sports teams and academic clubs. Contrast this with fundraising activities that employ chocolate, candy and gift-wrapping paper products to sustain their programs ... well, perhaps you see the potential and understand her grasp. Education goes beyond books and classrooms. It extends into the practices that finance books classrooms.

While watching a weekly television show popular with gardening enthusiasts (San Francisco KRON-TV's Henry's Garden) Lisa called the station and offered her lively insights. One visit was all it took for the station to invite her as a guest ... then again ... and then for more. She has become a rather regular and zesty repeat face bantering with Henry in her refreshing, lively and unscripted style. The San Francisco Chronicle caught wind of and reported on her passion: "I am trying to remind people of the great uses for these common plants that grew in our backyards." ("Boosterism from the backyard", San Francisco Chronicle, March 21, 2007). The Seattle Post-Intelligencer noted her efforts in "Wash up for a good cause" (May 18, 2007). In December 2007 her healthy herbal balms, salves, beads and bath salts appeared in Kiwi Magazine. The Chicago Tribune article "Giving green" featured her products on December 16th. Napa Style and Whole Foods, store chains located in northern California, have picked up her product lines.

What does the future hold for Lisa Ludwigsen and the School Garden Company? There are no guarantees. Perhaps as well as anyone she understands this. But certainly things are unfolding, and with that comes the good her idea can do for others. She's quickly entering a larger business arena where a garden can be invaded by an occasional snake, fox, or pack of wolves. Like any good gardener she will need to stand watch over her plot with a keen eye. But savvy she is, friends she has; and with any luck (always important) she'll do well. One person with an idea that is alive ... an idea that blends her past, her talents, her ongoing learning, her family, her children, her passion, her understanding of things others have created (thank you again Paul Newman), and her zeal for life ... all mixed with unexpected flashes of whimsy, healthy doses of persistence and perseverance and chuckles that seemingly come out of nowhere at just the right moments to keep things upright, on track and moving forward. She appears to be willing to give it a shot for the long haul. How far will it and she go? Who knows, but let's hope a long, long way!

Lisa Ludwigsen 707-762-5772 or lisa@schoolgardenco.com.

CALL the School Garden Company for product and Fund Raising possibilities.


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