Valhalla Organics: Resilience & Regrowth After Disaster

by | May 12, 2023 | Heartivist Of The Week

Ruby Reid was an environmentalist from an early age, but she never expected to become a double climate refugee. “I’ve been concerned about climate change since I was a tiny kid. I had the book 50 Things Kids Can Do to Save the World and I did all of them.” As an adult, when she and her partner, Chris, decided to start a small urban homestead in Oregon, their focus was on self-sufficiency, stewarding the land, and, soon, growing fresh food for the community. They quickly began selling out of their homegrown pickles and produce, and made the decision to expand with a larger off-grid farm.

Farming in the Time of Climate Change

Their farm, Valhalla Organics, was growing beautifully thanks to the love and hard work they put into it until a devastating wildfire struck in 2020. The fire took their home and the mini-farm—sending thousands of dollars of produce and all their hard work up in flames.

Heartbroken but undeterred, Ruby and Chris moved closer to their off-grid farm and focused their energy on rebuilding the business and their lives. However, it wasn’t long before climate disaster struck again when, in June of 2021, they lost everything to another wildfire. This time, relocating was not a mere conversation but an immediate decision. They looked at a map of the United States, considered where it would be safest to live and farm as the climate continues to change, and purchased a property across the country in a beautiful and still largely wild area of Virginia.

A New Chapter in Virginia

Their new home came with many pleasant surprises. “I hadn’t seen a monarch for four to five years in Oregon,” Ruby recalled, “and in Virginia they were just all over our marigold blossoms, which we had planted with our cucumbers as companion plants to encourage pollinators and deter garden pests.” Along with monarchs, she spotted many swallowtail butterflies, bumblebees, and other pollinators at the new farm. Inspired by their presence and the magic of pollination, Ruby began to consider what she could do for the pollinators in her area. She was especially fascinated by a native blueberry bee that has co-evolved with the southern rabbiteye blueberry bush.

Realizing that a steep hill on their land would make for a perfect pollinator habitat, Ruby and Chris began envisioning a blueberry hill that could serve as a food source for these native bees. When they considered how to fund this vision, Ruby remembered that, several years ago, The Pollination Project had funded a “buzzway” in Oregon’s Rogue Valley — a project that created a continuous pathway for pollinators. Ruby and Chris submitted an application for the project “Native Blueberries for Native Bumblebees,” which was selected for a TPP grant to kickstart their vision.

A Haven for Pollinators

With spring in the air, Ruby and Chris got to work preparing the land and, although it meant a two-hour drive, found a local small business that sold the blueberry bushes. As Ruby explained, it was important to them to purchase from a local seller rather than a big box store. Mindful actions like this illustrate Ruby and Chris’ heartivist approach to their work, creating a project that has positive ripple effects that reach far beyond just the pollinators on their farm. To this end, they are documenting their journey in a series called “Blueberries for Bumblebees” on YouTube. Through this series, they will share their progress and give advice on how to start your own blueberry and bumblebee garden. Since blueberries also grow well in containers, they have the potential to feed pollinators and people in both urban and rural areas. Ruby and Chris hope that, with this video series, their farm can be a teaching tool to create a more pollinator-friendly world. 

Despite all of the challenges they have faced, Ruby and Chris are determined to continue pursuing their dream of growing food in a way that sustains their community and the ecosystem. Reflecting on their long road, Ruby explained, “We were given every opportunity to quit or to fail but no one wants this more than us.” Ruby and Chris have created a beautiful example of adaptability and perseverance in the face of a changing climate. Their farm—now in its third life—is growing deep roots in the Virginian soil and quickly transforming into a haven for local pollinators.

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Academic professionals Carla Forte Maiolino Molento and Rodrigo Morais-da-Silva founded Cell Ag Brazil at the end of 2023 with support received from The Pollination Project. The objective of the newly created association is to reflect, contribute, and promote the development of cellular agriculture in Brazil through proactive promotion and unifying actions among different audiences interested in the development, production, and commercialization of food through cell cultivation processes. 
With a seed grant, they founded the organization and designed a logo that represents their mission. They are now inviting people and organizations to participate in the association so that it gains greater relevance. 
Their members will be distributed across three chambers: 1) academia, 2) private sector, and 3) third sector and civil society. With this, they aim for diverse representation and to create a positive movement to act in different areas to promote and accelerate alternative proteins in Brazil and Latin America.
Billions of animals involved in food production in Brazil will be impacted in the medium to long term from this work. Data from IBGE (Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics) indicates that approximately 6.1 billion chickens, 56.5 million pigs, and 30 million cattle were slaughtered in Brazil in 2022. 
With this association, Carla and Rodrigo may help reduce the number of non-human individuals involved in food production as they help to speed up the replacement process with alternative proteins.
In this World Day of Social Justice we celebrate the transformative impact of The Pollination Project and our dedication to seeding the essential change our world needs. Since its inception, The Pollination Project has been at the forefront of empowering grassroots initiatives, providing the crucial support needed for small-scale projects to blossom into powerful agents of social change.

Our unique model of micro-granting has enabled a diverse array of projects across the globe, touching upon various facets of social justice including environmental sustainability, poverty alleviation, gender equality, and human rights. From providing clean water solutions in remote villages to empowering women through education and entrepreneurship, we always believed in the power of individual action to create a collective impact.

Each project funded is a testament to our faith in the inherent goodness and potential of every person to contribute meaningfully to the betterment of society. These initiatives not only address immediate community needs but also foster a culture of empathy, equity, and inclusiveness - essential pillars for achieving true social justice.

On this World Day of Social Justice, let's draw inspiration from the myriad projects The Pollination Project has nurtured. Their work reminds us that each small seed of kindness and action can indeed grow into a mighty force for good, paving the way for a more just and compassionate world.