Hearing Stephen Ritz of Green Bronx Machine speak is a sensational experience. Stephen’s energetic style fully engages by binding the listener on a journey of wide ranging emotions. There will be moments of intense sorrow and despair where the world seems hopelessly broken. Rest assured though, Stephen guides us to emerge from rock bottom with a powerful realization: a movement to grow away our problems is achievable and gaining more momentum every day.
Stephen Ritz is a South Bronx educator / administrator who believes that students shouldn’t have to leave their community to live, learn, and earn in a better one. Moving generations of students into spheres of personal and academic successes which they had never imagined — while reclaiming and rebuilding the Bronx — Stephen’s extended student and community family have grown more than 40,000 pounds of vegetables in the Bronx while generating extraordinary academic performance. Recently named a 2015 Top Ten Finalist for the $1m Global Teacher Prize, Stephen’s accolades include a 2016 Project Based Learning Champion Award, 2016 Health Champion Award, 2016 Dr. Oz Award, 2015 BAMMY Laureate – Elementary Educator of the Year Award, 2014 Greenius Award, 2014 Green Difference Award, 2013 Latin Trends Award, ABC Above and Beyond Award, Chevrolet / General Motors National Green Educator Award, USS Intrepid Hometown Hero Award, NYC Chancellor’s Award and various others.
Do all those awards get you excited to try Stephen’s flavorfully compelling speaking style? Taste it yourself straight from the source by listening to Stephen’s TED Talk, which has over one million views. During his talk, Stephen discusses how he began his journey as a teacher working at a school in a tough neighborhood. He knew nothing about growing produce, yet he was able to learn alongside his students and eventually shape his organization into an influential thought leader for youth food justice.
Did you just watch the TED talk? If so, we understand that your chest may be bumping like a dryer with shoes in it. By all means, take a deep breath and let that feeling sink in.
Now that we’re on the same page with what Stephen Ritz and Green Bronx Machine are capable of, we at Agritecture are thrilled to announce that Stephen will deliver the keynote at our upcoming Aglanta conference on Feb 19th. Although it feels like we’re stating the obvious at this point, we must say we are filled with honest-to-goodness jubilation about this development.
Our goals in organizing the Aglanta conference are further highlighted here, but in one sentence the target is: to connect the opportunities of urban agriculture to the community of Atlanta. One way we aim to achieve that goal is with an education workshop, which will help Atlanta educators learn to implement a Farm in School model in their city. We view Stephen’s work with Green Bronx Machine as an ideal node in the advocacy for the farm in school model. Stephen’s experience offers ‘been there done that’ insights as a role model in our movement to grow hope, which is a significant part of what Aglanta is all about.
Green Bronx Machine began as a way to engage at-risk youth, to make cultivating food as exciting as an iPad or Snapchat. But Green Bronx Machine isn’t a technology; it’s a way of life that has since expanded to reach many more children. Students at Ritz’s school have grown over 30,000 pounds of vegetables inside their fourth floor classroom using 90% less water than conventional agriculture. “My kids are all losing weight,” Stephen was quoted saying in this article. “They’re eating things that they’ve never eaten before. They’re getting critical nutrition where they need it most: in school. It affects their academic health, their social health and their physical health.”
Stephen recognizes that the best way to really help a child, though, is to have an adult who supports and cares about them. So with Green Bronx Machine’s Health, Wellness and Learning Center vegetables are grown so that parents can come in after school and cook the freshly harvested produce with their children. It has become an adult workforce development program where parents and children have the opportunity to eat, learn, and cook together.
Stephen’s vision has now gone global, taking him and his students from the Bronx to as far away as Dubai. Earlier this year, Stephen was campaigning his green education vision at the White House’s South by South Lawn event. President Obama described South by South Lawn as an event that seeks to tackle the task of “building a future that’s more inclusive, tolerant, and full of opportunity for everybody.” We can’t think of a more perfect fit for what Green Bronx Machine does.
As Stephen AKA El Capitan would say, “Si Se Puede!”
We hope to see you at Aglanta on February 19, 2017
at The Georgia Freight Depot in downtown Atlanta
Register for Tickets here.
Early bird Ticket sales end Jan. 18th, 2017
Or contact Jeff Landau for Sponsorship Information