Meet Energy Innovators Michele Madison and Hillary Van Dyke
ReThink was founded on the notion that Floridians and communities can set the course of our future, and this belief is unwavering. We are time and time again dazzled by the acuity and generosity of our youth, supporters, and partners. Role models, emboldened by a vision for a sustainable and just livelihood, take root. Thus, it brings us immense pleasure to celebrate the changemakers in Florida each year with the Energy Innovator Award.
Anybody can nominate youth (17 or younger), individuals, or businesses that deserve recognition for their sustainable contributions. REF staff review the nominations based on merit to environmental justice, novelty, and relevance to REF’s mission. The finalists will be alerted about their selection and offered two tickets for entrance into the Energy ball, where the winners will be announced.
2021 Energy Innovator Award Business Winner:
Farming the Future
Farming the Future (FTF)“ Farming the Future, founded by Michele Madison, is a local organization that is changing the way we view sustainable food production. Michele experiments with farming through aquaponics, an urban aquaculture method where fish are raised and the nutrient-rich fish water is pumped into media beds to allow for plant growth. One of the largest projects she has created is the STEM program at the Leon County Juvenile Detention Center. Michele’s STEM initiative has given underprivileged and underserved individuals a chance to learn about creative efforts in sustainability and environmental entrepreneurship.”
Michele Madison (she/her) has battled financial hardship, autoimmune diseases, bullying, and caregiving from an early age to fulfill her dream of getting an education and fueling the world sustainably. Farming the Future, which educates K-12 and at-risk populations about agroponics and STEM, is Michele Madison’s brainchild. Through it, she seeks to give back to others less fortunate. Photo by Bob O’Lary
FTF’s blueprint spawns a curious blend of fish, food, and STEM education. The award recipient, Michele Madison, pioneered FTF with the aspiration to “give kids whose schools can’t even afford a beaker, a chance to find their own way out” through education and affordable, sustainable gardening. Overall, FTF has reached 50,000+ students in 12 states.
FTF designs and builds greenhouses and aquaponic systems for local sustainable food production. (Aquaponics refers to reusing water that aquatic organisms have used for nutrient-rich plant growth.) This has been the basis for later innovations in K-12 education and engagement such as hands-on growing kits and interactive digital learning platform.
FTF operates in many settings besides traditional schools, placing emphasis on underserved and at-risk youth. One of the largest projects FTF has created is the STEM program at the Leon County Juvenile Detention Center.
2021 Energy Innovator Award Individual Winner:
Hillary Van Dyke
One of our Energy Innovator Winners couldn’t make it to the ball last fall, but we finally caught up with them! Meet Hillary Van Dyke.
“Hillary (she/her) is the Founder and Executive Director of The Green Book of Tampa Bay Inc., a black-owned business directory that serves Pinellas and Hillsborough county. She helps people who are concerned with inequity in their community be intentional with how they spend their dollars, emphasizing the importance of nature in our lives and how to reignite connections between people and nature. Her work in Outdoor Afro as leader shows her compassion to connect her community to invest and reimagine the environment with our presence that has often been excluded, in addition to her inclusive mindset for creating sustainable communities and educating the people about current FL climate change issues and their impacts–both directly and indirectly– in our lives. Hillary has planned and led monthly outdoor trips throughout the Tampa Bay region including but not limited to hiking, kayaking, and yoga. She also researches and incorporates history into events and creates partnerships with local organizations including but not limited to the National Park Service and local park system.”
It only took 6 months, but REF finally caught up with Hillary Van Dyke (she/her), a 2021 winner who missed the pageant, in June 2022. Hillary launched The Green Book of Tampa Bay and connects people with nature through Outdoor Afro. REF featured Hillary’s energetic exploits in a June 2022 email. Photo Credit: Kim Ross