Monday, March 21, 2011

Read and Seed with Purple Asparagus

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Three years ago, the City of Chicago invited Purple Asparagus to host a week of activities at one of Chicago's newest and most beautiful attractions, Millennium Park. During the Taste of Chicago, we were to present a week of food related kids activities for the festival that didn't involve tasting tasting food.* Certainly, an offer that we, as an emerging non-profit, could not resist.

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I sometimes have a dangerous habit. I come up with ideas on the fly, sell them, without a real understanding of how to execute them. Read and Seed was one of these ideas.

I proposed that we would "Create your own bookmark made out of recycled paper and herb seeds."

Now came the challenge, accomplishing this task within our budget for 5,000 kids.

High profile opportunity, high stakes. Of course, just the right time to procrastinate.

In early May, I looked into buying pre-made embedded seed bookmarks. How could I not know that this would blow the budget out the water?

Of course, we could pre-cut the bookmarks from construction paper, 5,000 of them. Of course, I would spend night after night wearing my fingers to the bone at the paper cutter. Or maybe not.

Finally, a realistic thought. I could approach Paper Source, Chicago based maker of artisan papers. Surely they'd want their name on this. Ultimately, they did. It, did unfortunately, take some down to the wire negotiations. Two days before we were scheduled to arrive at the tent on Randolph Street, we picked up two cases of bookmark sized craft papers. Combining that with thousands of tiny glassine envelopes, pounds of teeny basil seeds, herb plants a variety of craft supplies, and a team of terrific volunteers, we were ready for the hordes to descend.

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We had a great five days, but city's estimates were inflated, substantially. Plus, Paper Source was far more generous in their donation than expected. As a result, we have supplies to lead Read and Seed to Chicago children for years to come.

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How does it work?

Take some beautiful craft paper - we have a multitude of patterns.

Decorate the paper with crayons, ribbons, flowers, stickers, whatever you've got.

Fill tiny glassine envelopes with a small spoonful of herb seeds. Glue the envelope to the back of the bookmark.

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The bookmark makes a great gift. And unlike an embedded bookmark you can actually use it to read AND seed.

We've now run our Read and Seed adventures at Green Festival, Family Farmed Expo, and, on April 23, at several of the Chicago Sears locations to celebrate Earth Day.

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*The City does not allow tasting or sampling at the Millennium Park Family Fun Festival or the demo stage of Taste of Chicago for reasons of sanitation.

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