by Sonya Jongsma Knauss, photo by Peter DiAntoni

The lyrics from Lauryn Hill’s song fill the air as a precursor to our interview — “food not bombs, schools not prisons,” as I pull a stool up to the table where Dr. Dave plies the instruments of his trade. He pauses to reflect on the lyrics. Dr. Dave“You know, I always helped in those Food not Bombs kitchens, but they had two basic flaws,” he said. “Feeding people dumpstered food is okay in a crisis, but not on an ongoing basis. And giving people food is okay in an emergency, but you’re really not helping them by continuing to give them food. It’s better to help them find a job… but what do you do for people with limited capacities?” The answer is obvious to him, and he’s putting it into practice with some of the kids who hang around his place on the 2400 block of N. Bremen Street. “I believe that the true radical act in our culture is what most of us don’t do — grow our own food… It’s free; mother nature and the sun do the rest.” Dr. DaveDr. Dave is wearing a black shirt with the sleeves rolled up and olive pants that hang loosely. His sinewy arms move smoothly with the chop-chop-chop as he dices greens for his special recipe spring rolls. You can tell he’s done this many times before. The spring rolls are amazing. Each one has at least two cloves of raw garlic in it. The broccoli sprouts add some anti-carcinogenic properties, while the flax oil provides essential Omega 3. They’re just three of twenty-some stellar ingredients that give each little roll a powerful nutritional punch. He is taking the time to talk with me because he is on to something. It’s an idea that could revolutionize the way people in our neighborhood look at food. It could provide kids on the street with meaningful work and money to earn. Even on a small scale, it could provide a starting point to better health and more local food production. He points to Greenfolks Garden as an example. “It’s beautiful, compelling, a work of art!” he says. “Why don’t we have 100 of those here? We have hundreds of SUVs, thousands of homes being remodeled — but who’s working on gardens?” Dr. Dave is part of a neighborhood group — GreenSalad Organic Gardens, Inc. — that’s doing just that. They’re hoping to drum up business to help keep a couple neighborhood kids busy in a productive manner this summer. Two neighbor kids come around every day, and they’re always asking for something to do. One of them comes by twice during our interview. “Got any work yet?” he asks. The kid is kindly shooed away. “He’s so smart,” Dr. Dave says of the 14-year-old. “He could run a job. But right now he’s so bored. These kids don’t have any money, not even a dollar. It’s sad because they’re talented but all they’re doing is walking the alleys, and that gets them in trouble.” He thinks. “If I had said, let’s go work on a garden, and they made 10 bucks, they probably would have bought cigarettes. But it’s better for them to work and buy them than to hang out on the street all day trying to bum cigarettes.” And they like the food too. “They come here and they eat tofu. They eat hamburgers at home, but here they ask for tofu,” he says. He looks at the vegetables he’s been chopping. It’s time to get out the garlic. “A little of this every day and 90 percent of your health problems are gone,” he says. He stops to ask whether I want carrot juice or a fruit smoothie. The juicer in the corner is well-used. I pick the smoothie. This is the life… one doesn’t usually get such a complex nutritional experience while out on an interview. “Healthy people don’t get sick — Schweitzer said that… or it might’ve been me,” he says with a grin. Food is medicine, and medicine is food, at least that’s what Hippocrates said. Dr. Dave was David Schemberger, MD, in a previous life, but he stopped practicing more than a decade ago. He became convinced modern medicine was causing more problems than it was solving. “I saw myself giving pills to people who continued to abuse themselves in habitual ways — it kept them from ever getting healthy,” he said, referring to patients with cardiovascular and other problems. Dr. Dave is a prophet of sorts for the gardening movement that is afoot. You only have to spend ten minutes with him to see how passionate he is about the issue. The company he inspired, GreenSalad Organic Gardens, Inc., has applied for non-profit status and has installed several organic food gardens in Riverwest and other neighborhoods in the city. Some of these projects were supported by donations. The group has imported organic soil and uses Seeds of Change organic seeds. A four-foot by eight-foot garden costs $250 installed, including plants, and will produce a good $450 worth of organic produce in one season. “If we rely on one person or one big corporation to grow all our food, we really are giving up our right to the pursuit of happiness,” he muses. “If you’re no longer near the garden, what’s left are highways, expensive pieces of property, and theme parks.” And if you don’t have time to get back to the garden, he and GreenSalad will be happy to do it for you. “Many people just don’t have the time,” he says. “Maybe they’re too busy saving the world or something… I’ll grow food for them.” Indeed. Just give him a holler. If you want to order a garden for yourself or donate a garden for a family in the neighborhood, call Dr. Dave or Jan Christensen, GreenSalad Organic Gardens, at 374-1972 or 803-4795. Visit their website at Riverwest Currents – Volume 2 – Issue 7 – July 2003
Dr. Dave

“I believe the true radical act in our culture is what most of us don’t do — grow our own food.”