Hello members, volunteers, and interested readers!
I acknowledge it’s been quite some time since I have last posted. By now we have had multiple hard frosts, bizarrely warm days-and certainly, the “end” of the season has come and gone. I put end in quotes because the evening I arrived home, on the last day of official workdays on the farm-I received a Johnny’s Seeds catalog in the mail. Seriously? Already!? Of course, I promptly opened it, and highlighted everything I want for next year. The pictures are too vivid and tempting to avoid. There is so much possibility held in those catalogs.
I am sure you catch my drift. The reality is-there is no end. Only a transition from one aspect of the farm season to another.
So that brings me to my “State of the Farm” address-that will be neither polished nor written for me-but candid, and edited a maximum of 0-1 times. Things are-uncertain! And I mean that in the most thoughtful and optimistic way. Let me start by saying LOTS of amazing things happened this season for Nuestro Huerto, on and off the farm.
Despite an INSANE amount of snow and inability to get going on the farm til almost a month later than last year-we started off the season strong and on time, with bountiful shares. Chinese cabbage, tomotillos, cherry tomatoes, husk cherries, and parsley were some of our most plentiful crops throughout the season-for better or worse. We, along with other partners, successfully implemeneted Worcester’s LARGEST community garden to date! 50 raised garden boxes at the South Worcester Playground were installed with many hands and an astonishingly quick days work. A true barn raising if I’ve ever seen one. The kids at the neighborhood center enjoyed their gardening days with our fabulous garden education team and lovely garden celebration with their fellow community gardeners. And now, we’ve just launched the beginning of our garden education school program at the Canterbury Street Magnet School with their 4th graders. Food, nutrition, gardening and fun packed in to four awesome lessons over the course of the school year. One for each season. I wish I was in 4th grade…sort of! There’s so much more to say about how amazing the season was, I really could go on forever…but just a few more highlights for good measure. The block party was a success! We had so much good food, music and fun, and great weather. My parents even came from Pennsylvania! Oh yes, and I extracted a giant groundhog from the farm! That was a relief…though I am sure there is one more on site. They travel from afar for our organically grown produce…no wonder. Healthy eaters, I must say. Our early and late season bulk greens orders went well for our first go at it…And, so many wonderful members stepping up to help out in all sorts of ways on and off the farm going above and beyond their minimum work requirements. Yay!
Okay-so here’s where the uncertainty lies. I know that I’ve been enabling a weird sort-of dynamic on the farm-where ultimately, I am running the farm, and the organization (not alone, by any means), but spending 75% of my available time to various aspects of Nuestro Huerto. Nothing wrong with that in and of itself-but, there’s the question of-if I were to leave, who would take my place? How could we attract an awesome farm manager and organizational director as a volunteer? The answer: I don’t think it *should* occur in this way for much longer-in our current economic system, anyway. Folks need capital to pay the bills, put gas in the car, maintain their health, see their family, save some money and have some fun. Period. So-what to do? Get more crafty at grant writing-definitely. That’s in the works. But what I’ve gotten so far is is that most grants want to give money for stuff. Not for people’s time, unless it’s for a new program to fit a specific goal that the funder has in mind. And that’s, well, crazy! It’s not logical to keep creating programs to try and get grants. It’s also not logical that non-profits can run on stuff, and don’t seem to require staff time. It’s quite the opposite, especially for us! But, it is tempting when it is the only money that seems to be out there. So, how do we make this work, for everyone?
The real answer always seems to point right back at our most valuable asset-our membership. So, I’ve asked members to provide feedback, brainstorm, and ultimately, for those who have the time and energy-to step up to the proverbial plate (dinner, or baseball?) and participate in some serious strategizing. If you’ve been involved with a non-profit before-you’ll probably know about *Strategic Planning!* If there were a hashtag (and if I really understood how to work Twitter) for this, I’d say-there are thousands of people out there who would like to commiserate on their strategic planning experiences. Maybe they already are. (Edit update: It exists.)
I realize I am going on and on here-so I’ll get to the point. Some things are going great, getting funding, and have a lot of momentum. Other aspects of the organization and the farm project need some re-working. And this is not a one-woman show, that’s for sure! So, after talking with this year’s members, I am confident that there’s energy to move forward into the unknown together to take a look at what really matters to this community of people who have a love for veggies-and are somehow just nutty enough to support this urban farm endeavor I’ve been a part of for the past 6 years, as well as what’s important to activists and community leaders in Worcester-and see where we can align.
In just a few days it will be the official 6 year mark of when I was given the text by Pastor Raul Elizalde, while I’m in the airport, headed to Peru-that yes, the House of Prayer congregation is willing to share it’s valuable resources with us-most importantly, land! That was an exciting time. And it still is. So, if your are reading this, and weren’t involved with the farm this past year, but are wanting to be involved again, or for the first time, I’d say-now is a great time to dive in! Each of us in Worcester has something so valuable to offer-to this project, to others, to the City at large-so don’t be shy. Let me know what you’re thinking-and we’ll go from there.
To many more bountiful seasons!