Why I’m disappointed about Barack Obama

Why I’m disappointed about Barack Obama

He has a great smile, is a funny & elegant speaker, has SWAG and also made some decisions that shook the US  in its foundations. Barack Obama is for sure the coolest president the US ever had.

So, why the f*ck do I feel disappointed upon seeing such a phenomenon live at Seeds&Chips 2017 in Milan?

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It is not every day that you attend the same event as one of the most influential world leaders of the past 20 years. And I for sure was not the only one acknowledging the special occasion. Everyone had been talking about it for weeks and the excitement reached the summit right before Obama’s appearance.

The crowd in the conference room was just swarming all over the place. Everyone was walking around nervously, talking to everyone while looking around, taking selfies and not really wanting to sit down as if they had to be ready because the guy could be walking by them any second.

An interesting experience I completely immersed myself in.

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Me and Seppe Salari, taking selfies like bosses right before the special occasion.

Anyway, 30min behind on schedule, Obama entered the stage, thanked everyone and launched a furious and passionate speech about the importance of food and Climate change.

Here are some cool things he said:

1h21min into the youtube video
“We have to create a food culture that encourages the demand of healthier and more sustainable food”

1h25min
“If we can act boldly and swiftly than it is not to late, and we can leave a world behind that is worthy for our children”

So far so good. Zjef was very happy.

For the second part of the event, there was a Q&A with Sam Kass, chef and personal friend of Obama. In the beginning of that conversation I learned more awesome things about Obama. Like the fact that he is setting up an institution to empower the young leaders of tomorrow. And I also felt a shiver down my spine when he said the following:

1h31min
“The mark of a good leader, is somebody who is able to empower other people”

So far – still very good. Still muchos Obama Love.

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Yet, around 2h00min things started to change – Slowly but drastically.

It all began when Sam Kass brought up the biggest driver of Climate change: Beef production. They both agreed that it was an important issue to tackle. HOWEVER, when it came to talking about solutions, Obama was very very veeeeery vague. He basically avoided to talk about the bold and swift actions that are required to address this issue.

The bold and swift action for which he was advocating just 35min earlier.

I mean – common – It’s so fu*king simple.

To heal this planet you first start tackling the stuff that is the biggest contributor to its destruction. Just like when you are injured, the doctor will first fix that open leg fracture before the little cut on your arm.

Right?

Please stop me if I’m saying weird stuff here!

And that’s where my disappointment about Obama rose to the surface. After that moment, I started noticing that his responses were always very diplomatic, yet those responses never reflected the wisdom and boldness that our society needs so badly.

We all look up to the Obama because he is one of the best politicians we have seen in the past years. But the dude is still one of those politicians that are more a part of the problem, than a part of the solution. Their actions do not reflect their words.

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Sh*t, I’m complaining about politicians….how did I end up here?

People who know me, know that I never give that much attention or energy to politicians. So why did I start now? Well, maybe it is because Obama is not the real source of my disappointment.

The big disappointment is about us and the fact that we give so much attention to leaders whom we should not be adoring that much. OBAMA is no Gandhi, Jane Goodall, Aristotle or Lao Tze that bring themselves and this society back into balance with itself and this planet.

The big disappointment during Obama’s appearance is a resurfacing disappointment of a realisation I made long ago: I cannot rest until I know our society is in balanced human hands.

So yes, you are understanding this right.

The big disappointment is because I just want to chill out on a f*cking beach, enjoy this amazing planet and make love to beautiful ladies without having to worry about anything else.

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ps1: Don’t worry, I also find a lot of joy in life helping our society to transition and get into sync with our planet.

ps2: Learn about a way to produce meat that is good for this planet – check out the Soil Carbon Cowboys

The Big Why

The Big Why

On Saturday the 29th of April 2017, I was invited to the yearly conference of the International Association of Students in Agriculture and related Sciences (or in short: IAAS).

There’s a lot of beautiful things I can tell about this event, BUT there’s one thing specifically that stuck with me and it had something to do with The Big Why.

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For the afternoon group discussions of the IAAS-conference, all the participants split up into groups of their interest and one of them, of course, was about urban farming, to which I was assigned expert.

After an hour into the discussion, there was one person who asked the following interesting question that is the cause of this blog post:

You know, we’ve been talking about urban and vertical farming and I get that it’s nice and that it has many benefits. But, I’m still missing The Big Why. Why should we be doing urban and vertical farming?

I love a question like this and I was eager to answer it.

But, as I wanted everyone to think for themselves – rather than giving an answer before they could do so – I held back and deflected the question to the crowd. And it had the desired effect. Many students in the group answered and many interesting points were stated:

  • Urban Farming Brings people together.
  • It brings people into contact with their food
  • There are less foodmiles and a lower Carbon Footprint
  • It has higher yields per surface area
  • Urban farming projects can re-use waste
  • and so on…

I loved it.

Yet, even after a dozen people gave many reasons on why urban and vertical farming is needed, the two people still remained unconvinced about “The Big Why“. The dozen students had indeed brought up many valid points on “why” we should be doing urban and vertical farming, yet to be honest, I wasn’t satisfied either.

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So, when the 2 unconvinced students turned back to me with a gaze of hope mixed with desperation, I cleared my throat, took one last deep breath and let the true Zjef reveal The Big WHY via a loud and confident voice:

I can not tell you why you should do something. I can only tell you why I do what I do.

I do what I do because I see a very destructive human society. We are destroying nature. We are destroying people. We are destroying life. And thus….we are destroying ourselves.

This cannot go on and I want to be part of the needed change, rather than remain part of the structural problem.

Does this mean I think vertical Farming is the answer to all our prayers? Hell NO! Vertical farming is just what it is: a technology. It’s not inherently good or bad. It is defined by how we, humans, use it.

What I do believe is that vertical farming is a powerful tool for change because it touches the foundations of our human society.

Vertical farming touches our basic human needs: food, water, energy & Shelter. Hence, if we can do vertical farming in a creative, constructive and ecosystem-manner, we can transform the foundations of our society and spiral our species into a new era of beauty and magnificence.

Is this the big why? Did I go into vertical farming because of this rational reason? Well, partly, it helped me to form a strategy.

The real reason why I chose vertical Farming as my battlefield for societal transformation is very, very, very simple and much more down to earth. It is because, when I first learned about vertical farming and Dickson Despommier’s vision in an article in Scientific American (somewhere during 2010), my thoughts and feelings just screamed:

This is fucking awesome!

And that, my friends, is the essence of the big why!

Knowing and feeling why to do something, comes from no other place than within!

Peace!

Ps: So, If my first Blog post ever didn’t make that much sense to you, it should now.

Ps2: And just check all the images below, so AWESOME!

The enjoyable life of a presenting animal

The enjoyable life of a presenting animal

You ever had this feeling?

You’re sitting down in a group of people where everybody’s doing their own thing. But you, you’re super self aware. You’re self aware because you know what’s going to happen 30 seconds from now.

You’re sitting down and you feel your heart rate going up, you feel your blood flowing faster and you sense a kind of adrenaline rush filling every corner of your body, from your toes till the top of your head.

The moment has come, you stand up, walk to the front of the room and look into the eyes of the big dark monster that is the crowd. And that big monster is looking back at you with its hundreds of eyes, full of expectation.

You

You stand there with only yourself and your thoughts.

Then and there, in that moment of truth, there are only 3 choices: (1) you numb out and make it the most boring experience ever, (2) you think that that adrenaline running through you veins is stress and you let it traumatise you for the rest of your life, or (3) you embrace the rush of epinephrine as excitement and start enjoying the rest of the ride, whatever the outcome.

Of course option 3 is the best choice, but it is by far the most difficult one to make. I still struggle between option 2 and 3, but more and more I’m able to keep it at three.

And that’s why I love presenting so much!

In this post you’ll find an overview of me enjoying the ride in the form of some cool video’s where I’m presenting. You’ll find:

  1. New videos featuring Zjef at the 2016 AVF-summit
  2. A video of me presenting in India while staying at home in Belgium
  3. Zjef at the Aquafarm fair in Pordenone (Italia)
  4. A marketing video, yes a marketing video

New videos featuring Zjef at the 2016 AVF-summit

It’s already 10 months ago, but recently 2 extra video’s got uploaded where you can see yours truly on stage at AVF-summit 2016 in Amsterdam.

In the first video you can find me giving the introduction to Kasper Moreaux (Mycelia) who talked about the role of Mushroom production in Vertical Farming (one of my favorite subjects).

The Second video (and even more awesome video) is of a panel about my all time favorite subject: The Circular Economy Vertical Farming concept by AVFami.

This AVFami concept looks at the biological processes in nature and tries to combine 4 different food producing industries to design a completely sustainable Vertical Farm. AMI = Aquaponics Mushrooms & Insects (and for those who wonder how I get to 4 different industries: Aquaponics is Aquaculture and Hydroponics combined).

Ow yeah: I was the moderator of this panel of superstars –  so cool!

Presenting in India while staying at home in Belgium

I love going to India, but I cannot always do it. Moreover, I do feel guilty to travel by plane, it is still unsustainably using lots of fossil fuels.

So on the 14th of January 2017 I did not go to the “India national seminar on smart farming technologies” in the Ramnarain Ruis college (Mumbai). Instead I made a presentation at home in my couch and send the video to Vijay Yelmalle from CRAFT. He, as the main organiser, made sure the people visiting the seminar learned all about Vertical Farming and international collaboration.

The funny thing is that instead of going far away abroad, I went back to the town where I grew up and gave a presentation there.

Zjef at the Aquafarm fair in Pordenone (Italia)

There’s many reasons to love Italy yet there’s one for me that sticks out above all.

Because of my extremely low self-esteem while growing up, I’m very bad at….seducing. It’s hard for me to overcome my fears in most settings (especially my fear of rejection). YET, in Italy seduction seems a part of the daily life, and because of that, the timidity disappears and the seduction beast in me just gets unleashed.

And I love that seduction beast.

When I was in Pordenone for the Aquafarm fair in January of 2017, that’s exactly what happened. I was there to moderate the morning session for the Vertical Farming conference, and I had a presentation on my own. As a moderator I could introduce awesome people like Dickson Despommier, Bill Barber and Diane Esvan! As the presenter I talked about Circular Vertical Farming and international collaboration.

Watch the presentation below, especially the cool thing I did in the beginning.

Second video is about yours truly giving a small interview talking about the Association for Vertical Farming and the fact that the Aquafarm fair is awesome.

(I was wondering: would it be coincidence that there are so many beautiful women in this short video? 😉 )

Introduction to the 12 steps to become an Urban or vertical farmer

So since the summer of 2016 the KIKVORS team has been doing interviews for an educational video-series called “the 12 steps to become an Urban or Vertical Farmer”.

We’ve released the first product at the end of March 2017, but we quickly had to pivot when things went wrong. Now we’re working hard on a different format to release the series (so watch out for more on this later).

In any way, we still made this awesome marketing video to show off.

#FuckingProudOfThis

So yes, I’ve been busy, I’ve been very busy presenting, getting a lot better at story telling and enjoying the rushes of adrenaline flowing through my body. And hopefully soon, I’ll be able to show you some more video’s with even better stories and presenting skills.

When I know where I’m going but I don’t really know where I’ll end up, that’s when I’m truly enjoying my walk.

 

The 30 days Challenge: Waking up Happy (part I)

So in the past days, months, years,…yeah, basically all my life, I’ve been suffering from a quite negative mind.

And that negativity reaches its peak when it transforms into self-pity. The worst part is, that for me that self-pity is like an addiction. Yes it’s true, in a way I like feeling down and full of self-pity. Hence the downward spiral!

However

This mindset is exhausting for me and it’s exhausting for the people around me. Moreover, it keeps me from creating stuff that makes me happy now, and in the long term.

Time for some solutions.

In the past years I’ve been experimenting with how to get over that, how to change that mindset and really become more happy, optimistic, joyful,… These experiments have definitely improved that general negativity, yet the past days showed that I’m not there yet.

In the past days I was very very very negative, and I was so resentful towards everyone and everything around me.

SO

Time for the first 30 days challenge.

I’ve noticed that it’s especially hardest for me in the morning. Most of the time I don’t want to get out of my bed because dreaming is more fun than starting the day. And so I can keep on snoozing for a couple of hours.

So, let’s focus on those mornings, let’s try to change those!

How?

1 word: Gratefulness

Every morning I will wake up and will do 2 things, 2 very simple things

  1. I will find something that I’m grateful for (wiki-how link)
  2. I will find something what I’m excited about for that day

And just to show that I’m doing it, I’ll make a 30sec video every day.

Fun times coming, fun times.

See you soon beautiful people!

Z_Jef

ps: Why 30 days? 30 days it’s the minimum amount of days it takes for your brain to solidify a new habit. After those 30 days, I will look on how to improve those new links in my brain – maybe with a 60 days challenge? We’ll see, we’ll see!

ps2: A post that talks about these similar feelings: Is this one of those thoughts that keep you from being a happily productive person?

 

 

Vertical Farming with Norm & Zjef

One year ago, Norm, a cool guy from the other side of the world (Alberta, Canada) contacted the AVF. He wanted to do an interview for his new youtube channel about a broad range of topics and one of those topics was: Vertical Farming

As I’m answering 99% of AVF’s inbound messages and because I make some youtube videos myself, I answered Norm with enthusiasm. I proposed to do something more fun than just a video-interview. I proposed to video-message each other, and every time respond to the others message.

During the process I got more and more into it and my video-responses became more and more fun with more interaction and guest speakers.

However, Norm disappeared in the summer of 2016, I thought the videos were never going to see the Youtube-light. BUT, yesterday (11th of January 2017), Norm came back to me after a holiday in South America. He had put the first three video Q&A’s online.

Enjoy the video – it’s fun and interesting!

Special thanks to BIGH (for the office and the projector), Vijay Yelmalle & Seppe Salari!

How Zjef will bring peace to Israel and Palestine – Chapter IV – NYC16

How Zjef will bring peace to Israel and Palestine – Chapter IV – NYC16

Click here for Chapter I & II
Click here for Chapter III

I want to bring harmony to Israel and Palestine, I want to end the war in the middle East and I want to end the corruption in Africa. As a matter of fact, I truly believe that I can do it and this series of blog-posts will tell you the story on how I discover the super-powers that can and will initiate world-peace.

Chapter 4 – New York City 2016

A couple of months ago I  visited New York City for the NYC Agtech week 2016. It was AMAZING, just check out the video below.

Yet this is not what this chapter is about – it’s about NYC, the people living there and my reaction towards them all.

On the 16th of September 2016, after sleeping of my long flight all the way from Belgium, my first full day in the big apple ended like a lot of Friday nights: By going out!

Adam De Martino, friend and Smallhold business partner of Andrew Carter (who was my host), took me on a tour through Brooklyn, the hipster-capital of the world. We went to many places to do some drinking, some dining, some more drinking and to meet a lot of cool and very interesting people. Eventually, the night ended at North Brooklyn Farms, just next to the Williamsburg bridge. There was a full moon party going on.

And it was truly a full moon, just check the amazing picture (yes yes, taken via a telescope).

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The night was like the photo: very cool!

However, the night did not end like an amazing night should end: While getting into my bed I felt exhausted and a very unsatisfied about myself. I had been in New York after a supercool night, yet why did these stupid feelings have to ruin the whole thing?

What even made it worse is that the self preservation mechanism in my mind went nuts. My mind reacted to the “low-self-esteem” vibe by generating a kind of  arrogant loathing towards NY and most of its inhabitants. I would call it the”I-am-better-than-these-stressed-New-Yorkers” vibe.

In my consequent days in NYC, these 2 feelings came to the surface quite a lot. One moment I would be: “WOOWW New York is amazing.”And other moments I would be: “FUCK New York, what a shitty place.”

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This seriously undermined my joy of being there. However, Zjef would not be Zjef, if he did not investigate these feelings.

So I started investigating!

While being in New York I had to find out what made the New Yorkers into New Yorkers (the investigation of myself could wait for when I got home). During my investigation of the Homo sapiens New Yorkii, I had many many conversations with old New Yorkers, not so old New Yorkers, new New Yorkers and tourist.

There were many different opinions and examples, and the following two encounters really stuck with me:

Henry Gordon Smith, living in New York since 2011, runs a successful business (Blue Planet Consulting), hosts a very important Urban Farming blog (Agritecture) and is vice-chair for the Association for Vertical Farming (AVF). In other words: Henry is making it.

On the third day, after a quick lunch in a very trendy place, during a (fast) stroll through Manhattan, I talked to Henry about my feelings towards New York and New Yorkers.

Henry understood my feelings as he is a world-citizen that has already lived in many different countries. He acknowledged that the  New York life is competitive, hard and that it can be very stressful. Yet on the other hand, he said that it’s also an extremely innovative  environment and that if you’re able to handle the stress and competition, you get a lot of cool things done. And that gives you a lot of satisfaction.

It made sense.

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The conversation with Henry took me back to the first night.

During the group-conversations on the first night, the atmosphere was indeed more competitive than I’m used to. I got carried away in that competition and because I was very far from my usual scene, in a very different culture, I quickly exhausted myself. Or in competition words: I lost.

My mistake was that I was not not a very good loser. Instead of seeing the competition as a fun learning opportunity, I saw losing as a failure of my personality and character. Hence my self-loathing and the “low-self-esteem” vibe.

The opposite one, the “I-am-better-than-these-stressed-New-Yorkers” vibe came into existence because of what bad losers tend to do: They start to hate the competition.

Two destructive vibes alternating, that’s not how world peace is achieved, right?

Luckily for me, there was Andrew Carter. Originally from California, living in NYC since 7 years. As a horticultural expert, he is a superstar within Blue Planet consulting, he has been AVF North America Regional manager, and is now starting up his own and very very interesting urban Mushroom business in NYC (Smallhold).

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Henry (white t-shirt on the left) & Andrew (red shirt on the right) together on a Panel in the Lowline Lab during NYC Agtech week 2016.

Andrew shared his couch and apartment (kitties included) with me for 10 days, so I saw him in action a lot.

And Andrew is very different than most New Yorkers I encountered. He is relaxed, open, smart, fun and confident: A very powerful combination. He showed me that you be calm, while at the same time be very present in a group, and that you can be chill in stressful situations while getting a lot of shit done.

A bossman, that is what Andrew is.

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Andrew, Zjef  and a full American breakfast!

I’ve already read a lot of books on how to use human psychology to find happiness & balance. Yet NYC definitely put me to the test and forced me to apply that theoretical knowledge.

It took me a while to process the whole experience and to come to terms with myself and those two destructive feelings. However, I’m pretty sure I learned a lot from it and next time when I’m in NYC, I’ll be much more myself and I’ll be able to enjoy the experience much more.

Or at least that’s what I hope 😉

Does anyone else have some similar experiences with other cultures and mentalities in general?

ps: here are some extra pics from NYC – fun times:

How Zjef will bring peace to Israel and Palestine: Click here for Chapter I & IIClick here for Chapter III.

Is this one of those thoughts that keep you from being a happily productive person?

So, I guess this post is about something that haunts many of us. Time to write those thoughts & feelings down instead of keeping them battling in my head.

This morning, as many other mornings, I had the problem again: waking up and not feeling like waking up, not seeing or feeling the joy of the day to come.

What is this shit about? Why the fuck am I like a diesel that needs to warm up and am extremely reluctant to even start?

Is this in my DNA? Am I just like this? Or is this something that became a habit, hence I can get rid of it through some serious mind-training.

Because

I am a very ambitious man, the dreams I have are big and I know I can reach them. Yet I also know that I will have to work hard, learn a lot and be smart about it.

On the other hand, it’s also very important that I can live this short and fleeting life in happy way.

I’m definitely not the only one struggling and writing about this, check out this article for example. Quote: “How to strive and grow and be ambitious without getting caught up in a rat race against your peers—in other words, without becoming obsessed with your relative status, as that is an obsession that I believe can seriously dent your happiness.”

Part of the ambition is that I like acknowledgement, attention & I would definitely like to be famous (in other words: “status”). Yet I also know that becoming famous and known is not a real good driver for my life’s purpose.

Who will care about what I do, a 1000, or a million years from now? Or who cares about this on the other side of the universe?

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So yes, ambition & hard work opposed to just enjoying my life as much as possible. Can those things be combined? Is it possible to be happy with this life while also trying to make this society a happier place? And is it a matter of training my mind and learn to enjoy the things in life in a different way?

Or should I just be happy with life, not be too ambitious and not care too much about the future of our society?

Or should I not complain, work my ass off and achieve stuff?

All these questions, all these questions. They are running through my head and are constantly making me question the way I do stuff. Which is also not very good for finalising that stuff.

Any advice from anyone?