How to Compost sign at the OSBG farm
Janae inside a green house
Erika setting a post
Students sorting carrots
“If you give me a fish, you have fed me for a day. If you teach me how to fish, you have fed me until the rivers are contaminated or the shorelines are seized for development. But if you teach me how to organize, then whatever the problem, I can join together with my peers and we can fashion our own solution.”
Some of the most challenging work I have done came from collaborations with my peers. We are young, fiery and ready to try different things. However, the work we are trying to do while simultaneously learning about ourselves can be difficult to balance. Yesterday’s debrief was definitely very powerful for me, and I am hoping it was powerful for the rest of the participants, as well. This debrief was designed to explore two essential questions:
1) What does your ideal community look like?
2) Why can’t we have that?
We documented everyone’s answers on a poster board and then asked for everyone to go around and explain why we cannot have the ideal community we seek; only we asked that people used “I” statements. For example, we used the prompt “We cannot have our ideal community because I….” It was powerful for me because I was both nervous and excited to see how the workshop would turn out. As an organizer, one of my main goals when designing workshops is to make connections for the students who participate and work towards authentic self-reflections. This workshop definitely conquered those goals because it promoted natural discussions related to self-reflection. I feel like right now, the Adelphi students are open to learning about the connections between growing food and youth empowerment, and I am excited to continue to construct more meaningful debriefs that produce more youth organizers who are dedicated to promoting positive change. I feel like we are definitely making a difference, and I am super excited for the partnerships with Adelphi University students and the projects going on at Our School at Blair Grocery for many years to come!"
As the glare from the rays of sun shined in my face, my eyes suddenly opened and I looked up. I ran past the rest of the group scrambling for cereal on the table, to the bathroom to get ready for the day's proceedings. I glanced at my clock and realized it was only 7:00 a.m, thinking to myself that if I was home I would have never been up this early. We then went out into the yard to begin the day's work. We started by trimming sprouts of herbs like arugala, cilantro and different types of mustard. We basically gave these sprouts a 'haircut' by holding the plants and cutting them a little after the leaf with some stem. This really put into perspective the fact that there are millions of people who live this lifestyle around the world. The fact that vegatables, fruit, and spices are actually picked by people somewhere in the world as we are engrossed in our blackberry's and iPads often escapes our minds, especially for us who are coming from a city like New York. It took me back to a quote that began the movie "Fresh" from a farmer, "Americans fear one thing: convenience." If anything, this experience so far has helped me understand what goes into not only a farm, but a community at large. There are political, economic and environmental factors that all impact society in one way or another and play a crucial role in the model of sustainable development.
After about two hours of dedicating myself to sprout harvesting, we then threw all the soil from the used trays into a huge compost pile. The compost pile was later used to refill trays in order to provide adequate soil for other plants. Like communities, farms are dependent on different aspects of team work. The next activity during the day was certainly the most exciting. Along with Corey - a dedicated AmeriCorps volunteer who is doing amazing work in the New Orleans area, we went to local restaurants to sell our products. He brought a list of restaurants with which he works to distribute and sell these herbs and vegetables. All proceeds go to the school where we are staying, Our School at Blair Grocery (OSBG.) This is a major source of revenue for them. These goods are locally grown, which cuts the shipping costs for these restaurants dramatically. It was nice to see that upscale, five star restaurants in this area are dedicated to giving back to the community, as well as supporting a worthwhile cause.
Today, our group went to Hammond, Louisiana, which is located about an hour away from the city of New Orleans.We were set to work with Queen Afi, or Sunflower, as she likes to be called if the sun is out, on her 10 acres of land. The school we work with mainly in New Orleans developed a partnership with Afi so that they could grow new crops on her immense area of land. Throughout the summer, Afi hosted over 300 students from across the country, along with our main partner - Our School at Blair Grocery, hoping to develop Afi's land into an urban garden and cultural learning and healing center.
Afi's land was given to her by her father, a native of Hammond who was a sharecropper of the same land. She tells the story of her acquiring the land as part of the 40 acres and a mule promised to hundreds of thousands of African-Americans post-slavery. Interestingly enough, her land has once been a place for young people to come and foster spiritual and artistic growth. She has a long fence between her sacred land and the highway, which was painted by her and students from a local high school in vibrant native tribal shapes and colors in order to decrease the number of accidents. We were all working on this fence creating an extension of the original fence-line so that Afi would feel more comfortable with other groups who will be coming down in the future to continue planting and growing and seeking out both the vision of OSBG and Queen Afi.
Some refer to Afi as a spiritual healer, some as a strong pillar of African poise and pride. I had met her once before when there was an initial interest in partnering with her last spring. And even after all of this time and only one meeting, she still managed to remember my name. Afi is a burst of positive vibes and constantly sends out wonderful signs of love. She can read your spirit and will often tell you things about yourself that are very distinct to your character. She can do this because she has a unique ability to connect with people on a spiritual level and explain the the connection with one's soul and how it correlates with one's body. I enjoyed spending time on her land and working with my group in such a historic place. I couldn't stay long enough to engulf myself in all of the great oral stories Afi gives of her homeland Dominica, and I am sincerely hoping that we will have one more day to work with her and to further the vision of this spiritually enlightening place.