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Mud Baron

Mud Baron

I was prepared to be awed by Christina Kim’s exquisite clothing when I arrived at her Dosa showroom in a downtown Los Angeles penthouse loft to join, perhaps, one hundred guests attending a fundraiser for Chez Panisse Foundation’s Edible Schoolyards last Sunday.  The chic crowd of stick thin Westsiders lined up, first, to have Alice Waters sign her book commemorating the 40thanniversary of her iconic Berkeley restaurant.  Later they joined the queue at the cash register to buy armloads of clothing made from scraps of recycled materials priced to emphasize the high cost of piecework.  $500 was not too much for this crowd to pay for a recycled fabric shawl.

Forty percent of the day’s receipts went to support school gardens.  Everyone was thrilled to be there. The only thing missing was Larry David and the cast and crew from “Curb Your Enthusiasm.”

Then I noticed a guy with a scraggly blond goatee, a slight paunch and dirty jeans.  He was dripping water across the polished cement floors as he pulled flowers from dozens of plastic buckets and made bouquets he tied together with rubber bands.  A mess of discarded stems and clippings were piling up at his feet as he worked furiously to make certain that everyone left with a free bouquet.

Meet Mud Baron.  The flowers are the result of his tireless work at the Los Angeles Unified School District’s garden in San Pedro.  A former policy deputy for the LAUSD, he was fired earlier this year after sounding off one too many times about the nasty food in school cafeterias.  Since then he has devoted himself to raising support for school gardens.  By his estimation, he’s distributed $5 million worth of seeds, seedlings and equipment to school gardens across the L.A. basin.  Among the people in the know at the Edible Gardens fundraiser, Mud was every bit as big a celebrity as Alice.

“I should have been fired long ago,” he said with a big grin.  He writes about school food for the blog LAist and otherwise lives to be a thorn in the side of Los Angeles County school officials who think students should be thrilled to eat whatever the district dishes up.

I went searching for some of his writing and found this description of the LAUSD’s response to the criticisms levied against the district in the Season Two Premiere of the Emmy-award winning “Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution.”  In addition to providing a much needed grace note to the highfalutin Alice Waters event, Mud has a wicked pen.  Bravo Mud!

Corie Brown, the co-founder and general manager of Zester Daily, is an award-winning food and wine writer. "Start Your Own Microbrewery, Distillery, or Cidery," a book she wrote with reporting from Zester Daily's network of contributors, was released by Entrepreneur Books in June 2015.