Like a modern day Johnny Appleseed, Justin Cutter (and partner Nick Runkle) travel the country planting seeds and spreading the word about the benefits of organic, natural food. Unlike Johnny Appleseed, however, they do it from an 18-foot box truck complete with a fully functional greenhouse in the back.
The project, called Compass Green, introduces sustainable agriculture practices to students and adults through presentations and demonstrations given at schools, camps, and organizations across the U.S. The focus is on Biointensive mini-farming, a technique that can produce large crop yields in small spaces.
In 2011, Justin and Nick (also an MUM grad) were looking for an attention-getting way to get people interested in food production issues — and certainly found one. “When we roll into town, people who wouldn’t give a hoot about sustainability or farming say, ‘Why is that guy driving around in a truck with veggies growing in the windows?’” says Justin, 29, a MUM grad in 2006 and co-founder of Compass Green. “That’s our opportunity.”
Nick got the idea for the project when an artist who had been using the large-windowed truck as a mobile art gallery put it up for sale. At the time, Justin had been working in Mendocino, Calif. on a farm owned by renowned agriculturalist Jon Jeavons, the pioneer of Biointensive mini-farming. Justin and Nick purchased the truck, and Compass Green was started.
“People think that agriculture means pesticides, herbicides, genetically-engineered crops and tractor combines,” says Justin. “What we do is show them there’s another way, one that’s more beneficial for the farmer and the land.”
Justin speaks with conviction about sustainable farming and the harmful influence of the corporate food industry. He’s taught thousands of students, parents and farmers about sustainable practices. But back in 2002, when he was starting out as a student at MUM, he wasn’t as sure of his path. He had switched majors a few times, from theatre to business and finally to Maharishi Vedic Science (MVS).
In MVS, Justin knew he’d found the right program. Maharishi Vedic Science takes students deeply into the knowledge of the Vedas, the ancient wisdom texts of India. A program unique to MUM, it illuminates the nature of reality and the true makeup of the Self.
Some of the people in Justin’s life, however, didn’t see the practicality in such a degree. “My friends and family were saying, ‘What are you going to do, go into some big company, smack down your Vedic Science degree and ask for a job?’” says Justin. “I told them the kind of place I would want to work would ask me about it and what it means. Which would give me a chance to explain that I spent time learning the basic operating rules and principles that underlie all systems in life.”
Justin sees the degree as highly practical. “Those principles,” he says, “have been applicable to everything I’ve done in my life, from working as a sailor trying to run an efficient ship to starting youth groups and educational organizations. The same rules that allow a tree to grow and transfer nutrients can be applied to a business or a relationship.”
Maharishi Vedic Science takes students inward to the Self, rather than outside of it, for knowledge. “I’ve always understood that the most important thing in life is to find your own fulfillment and happiness,” says Justin. “Vedic Science allowed me to explore the big questions of life. Who are we and what is our purpose? What is this world and how do we move through it with grace and efficiency? The MVS degree was incredibly valuable.”
Justin says he developed life skills at MUM in a way that would not have been possible at other schools. “At MUM I learned how the world functions, and how I function. That has kept me stable and kept my creativity awake, so that when I see opportunities I can take them, and when I don’t see them I can make them.”
Article: “A Mobile Greenhouse Project Pit-Stops in L.A.” LA Weekly