History of Together We Stand
My name is John Mears. My wife, Anna, and I are the co-founders of Together We Stand.
My wife, Anna, and I were helping out at a local church sponsored food bank when we began to see that the ministry was being abused by the greedy and not really helping the needy. This eventually forced the shutdown of that food bank and some of the truly needy individuals suffered even more hardships. We believed there had to be a better way.
After a little research and investigation Anna and I had decided to try and develop a more agrarian way of life. First as a hobby but then as a possible solution to the food bank problem. This hobby started simply with the raising of rabbits for harvest in our small city backyard. This turned out to be so rewarding and the beginning of an effective solution. We then decided to expand our operations and tried to raise tilapia, however we needed more land than our small yard could offer. So we started to look for a larger alternative.
My training and skill set was not in farming or education, but was in the automotive industry. I had owned and operated an automotive repair shop in South Florida. One of my automotive repair shop customers had a 5-acre nursery with a large freshwater lake located in North Hollywood, Florida. The nursery had been abandoned and neglected for several years. The property was beautiful, but almost completely unusable.
Several years earlier it had been rented to a business that dumped construction debris on the back side of the property. Over time they just kept moving further into the nursery and limiting the natural resources that this land had to offer. The first time we saw the property the debris was 4-feet high and the nursery was totally inaccessible. Creeping potato vines and Brazilian pepper trees had grown up through the rubble and had overtaken most of the property.
This was the beginning of Together We Stand’s Hollywood Lake project.
Anna and I began the process of reclaiming this beautiful piece of land. This was a long and difficult endeavor. We made many deliveries to the public landfill to clear the land of the trash with the help of a few hard working people. We successfully returned the land back into a beautiful usable condition.
As we worked to reclaim the land, the vision and details of what we wanted to build began to become more clear. The intention of raising fish on this property raised many questions.
How do I filter the fish waste from the water? Can we use that fish waste as fertilizer to grow plants? Yes! We stumbled onto aquaponics. Aquaponics utilizes the fish waste to fertilize the plants, the plants in return were cleaning the water for the fish while creating a growing ecosystem that was producing multiple food options. Using aquaponics as a natural biological filter seemed like a great idea.
But how are we going to power the pumps? Could we use solar power? What about bio-fuels? Could we make our own fuels? What about rain water? Could we build something which would operate completely off the grid with no carbon footprint?
What can we grow in aquaponics? Which food plants work? What about other beneficial plants like teas, herbs,and natural remedies?
The search for these answers began to open our eyes to the unrealized potential of what we had started. We quickly realized the information needed to be shared.
We discovered that none of this was overly complicated or hard to accomplish. So we began to get excited! This know-how and technology was exactly what our grassroots project needed as well as others facing the same situations in our neighborhood. So we began to teach this. We spotlighted practical information that could bring new solutions to our local community. All we had to do was to take a fresh look at the resources, technology and the opportunities and apply them to our own home, school, and community.
We thought about what we can do to bring about change in our lives, our homes, and our communities. It was clear we had everything we needed. The Together We Stand project is designed to educate, promote and provide the resources and inspiration to adults, teens, children, and community leaders that have the courage and desire to make a difference in their world.
Today, Together We Stand offers us the opportunity to reevaluate the effective use of the land, water, and energy around us and to take a leadership role in the advancement of this knowledge for the benefit of the community. I invite you to stand with me and many others who have made a choice with their hearts, minds and hands to take a fresh look around them. To change the way that they have been taught. To make an impact on the world around us. You too can make a difference with Together We Stand!