Andrew Merritt and Paul Smyth are the founders of an artist collective called Something & Son. They work on socially driven projects that often involve building a community around a common goal. Andrew and Paul designed an installation called EK BİÇ LIBRARY for the Istanbul Design Biennial back in 2014 that became our first public intervention, and the seed of our community. We found a lot of the answers we were looking for in permaculture through Shaul Shaham‘s guidance, who had adopted it as his way of life. We started our journey with him, and covered quite a bit of ground in learning how to work with nature–not against it–to build a healthy, enjoyable, and sustainable life in the city. Until he moved to Mallorca to start his own eco-farm… Well, he did deserve a vacation after trying to tame the hustle and bustle of a city like Istanbul! 😉 With the help of the brilliant architect/urban researcher/artist Sinan Logie (and a bunch of other smart/knowledgeable people), he built our indoor farms where we grow various greens for our kitchen and salad bar. After Shaul left, Mónica Pereira took charge of our farms. She was also well-traveled, and like Shaul, a permaculture designer, as well. But she has her own way of whispering to plants. On the rooftop of the Akmerkez Shopping Mall in Etiler she helped develop an urban farm. In a part of the city where real estate is so valuable that no land is left undeveloped, this rooftop farm became, in a fairly short period of time, a haven of biodiversity. That’s obviously not one person’s doing; she got a lot of help from the rest of the EK BİÇ team, and volunteers of all ages. Mónica went back to Portugal in the Fall of 2018, first for more training, and maybe later to start her own dream eco-pig-farm there; but not before handing on the torch to Batuhan Olguner, an aquacultural engineer and Burcu Arıkan, a permaculture designer. Like our YE İÇ operations, or maybe even more so, EK BİÇ is quite labor-intensive. So we strongly depend on the help from volunteers who in return get to learn–hand-on–how to grow our food right where we live.
Eat well, drink well, listen to good music, read; spend time with good friends, engage in passionate conversations; stay close to nature, let nature give us a good workout, nourish us, calm us down.
Make our choices to create more desirable options in the future; support local production, avoid wasteful consumption; protect social and biological diversity around us because no one should have to live in a monoculture
Create value, don’t worry about maximizing profits–just be sustainable in our finances as in everything else; let our suppliers and our customers–even our fellow citizens who may not be aware of our existence–be a little better off while we get better off
Be curious, do research, experiment, share our learnings; support people who want to contribute; try to help little dreams come true so that we all can dream bigger dreams
These are two questions we feel we need to ask ourselves on a daily basis until we can give honest, straight-forward answers. Answers that make sense in relation to our own wellbeing as well as the wellbeing of future generations…
We operate with these ambitions. We realize that these goals are often in conflict; it’s harder to find local produce in a big city that’s organic, for instance. So, we’re routinely forced to make compromises; and that’s what we try to highlight in our daily business. When we understand the trade-offs we’re facing, and make conscious choices, we believe that we can significantly reduce the harm we’d otherwise inflict on our bodies and the environment.
Why do we insist on local? Because we’d like to minimize our carbon footprint. Because we’d like to avoid the use of unknown (or quite well known!) chemicals to preserve our food on a long journey. And because we believe that helping our producers afford to live close by enriches the social fabric of our big city.
We sometimes put organic in quotation marks; that’s because the word has been overused and hollowed out of its intended meaning to some degree. We respect and value the certification process, but at the same time, we’re concerned that it may favor industrial-scale enterprises. That’s why we also choose to work with small producers that adhere to the principles of organic production even if they can’t afford the certification. But we’re always careful in indicating that distinction in our labeling. Whether or not the word organic appears in front of each ingredient that’s in our end-products, is not a marketing ploy; it’s our attempt at being as transparent on this issue as possible. With or without the organic certification, our goal is always to serve fruits and vegetables that are free from GMOs, chemical fertilisers, chemical pesticides, and chemical preservatives. And of course, we’ve the same princeiples regarding the chickens, eggs, and dairy products that we serve.
Last but not least, we aim for sustainable production and consumption. We realize that we’re very fortunate to have a lot of resources. If we’re smart, those resources should allow countless generations to lead increasingly richer lives on this planet. Of course, we also have the option of wasting our resources, and ruining our chances for a pleasant future. Every day we make hundreds of choices that’ll ultimately determine which path we’re on. Our goal is to show that it’s not so hard to make the right choices.