Rev. Michael Pergola, MA, MBA, JD
In 1945 John went with his scientist parents to eastern Europe. There he helped feed life-giving food to people being liberated from the concentration camps. He went on to build regenerative agricultural economies in many areas under threat of famine, most notably in the 80’s in Ethiopia. John inspired Michael to reconnect with his love of food and to begin learning about soil, human health, and the health of the earth. As his understanding of climate change grew, Michael felt compelled to design an approach that would make a difference, providing an opportunity to take practical action, in addition to programs and protests. It became clear to Michael that the human species was at a crossroad and that tangible action was necessary. He saw that local agriculture and healthy soil were vital for a thriving planet, healthy people, and a more reGenerative economy. He also saw that a vibrant future demanded truth telling and real collaboration between “Geeks” (Millennials) and “Geezers” (Boomers)
Then he became primary steward of a 200-year-old Mill that was once a stop on the “Underground Railway” and is now a retreat center and Inn. He turned over a large section of the property to a non-profit in 2020. He also forged a deep relationship with a fellow Penn graduate, Chuck Lazarus, a Millennial with uncommon wisdom, a passion for the earth and prodigious energy. The non-profit began a Market Garden and periodic Soil to Soul dining experiences, taking inspiration from the wisdom of the ancestors that healthy and delicious food was a way to bring people together around a shared table in ways that can open hearts and minds.
The recently launched Center for Ecology, Education & Enterprise Development (CREEED) aims to launch a network of cooperative enterprises across the food supply chain. A thoughtful and experienced team has assembled with a leadership team of Millennials and Boomers . They are excited by the important work around the soil sponge and the gut biome. They see this understanding as one key to the wellbeing of the earth and the health of the human species and they expect to put that understanding into tangible know-how and to spread the word.
CREEED’s vision is to offer an alternative to the short-term focus of global capitalism. The skilled team is pursuing that vision in a way that: (1) provides a life and a living for worker-owners; (2) builds a sustainable network of entrepreneurial cooperatives across the supply chain of the food system in the spirit of the European cooperatives; and, most close to Michael’s heart, (3) builds healthy soil that re-sequesters carbon in ways that embody the phrase of Teilhard de Chardin that inspires them, “the Age of Nations is past... the task before us now if we would not perish, is to Build the Earth”.
Michael has experience in law, banking, nonprofits, and hospitality. He is an ordained interfaith minister, taught high school, worked in software, served as a community organizer, ran a small energy company, studied the Enneagram, and was a member of the Society for Organizational Learning. Michael received degrees from Cornell University and the University of Pennsylvania.
A child of farmer's markets and summer camps, Chuck has always felt a connection to the natural world and a shared table. In high school, Chuck learned about hunger, food deserts, and the disconnection between production and distribution of food in the United States. At UPenn, he coordinated student volunteers to conduct outreach work with the Urban Nutrition Initiative and interned with the Philadelphia Coalition Against Hunger and The Food Project. Chuck has worked on farms and served as a FoodCorps Service Member in East Palo Alto, CA. As he aged and traveled, it became clear that a new vision was necessary centered around building tangible skills and employment opportunities across the food supply chain. And now, he has returned to food justice work and community building. It is with a renewed sense of purpose, brought on through mentorship opportunities with Michael, that Chuck is ready to play a leadership role in the new nonprofit, the Center for reGenerative Ecology, Education & Enterprise Development. CREEED is a model of a new relationship between food producers, cooperative entrepreneurs and diverse intergenerational communities.