2018 Week 6: Food Access and The Environment
Last week, my faith in the progress we’d made on the Reservoir Hill Public Art Project was faltering. Only one neighbor showed up to our meeting on Monday, and our tabling efforts at the Druid Hill Farmer’s Market weren’t very successful. Very few people came by our table, and even fewer seemed to show interest in getting involved with the project. Coming into this week, I was feeling very discouraged.
However, after brainstorming with Bikemore staff about ways to proceed with this project, things began to take a turn in the right direction. We decided that the best course of action might be to issue an RFP for the project and ultimately choose a local artist who will work with the neighbors we’ve developed relationships with. While I’ll be working on developing an equitable hiring process, that doesn’t mean that we’ll be discontinuing our efforts in the community itself.
Wednesday’s Druid Hill Farmer’s Market was an amazing experience. We’d planned to offer prizes to people who correctly answered some Baltimore City trivia questions that were focused on Druid Hill Park and Reservoir Hill history. Some neighbors were really interested in the trivia questions, and really enjoyed doing them. But even without that activity to attract people to our table, our turnout was greatly improved from the week before. Adults had lots of questions about the project, and some even expressed interest in attending our meetings. Even more kids were excited to take a look at some of the examples of public art that we displayed on a white board, and they took every opportunity they could to draw near the ones that they liked best.
While it was a great way to ascertain which projects people liked best, the most important part of this process was just getting a chance to interact with people in the community – the people who will ultimately be impacted the most by the changes to roads that the DOT is working on in the neighborhood. In the next few years, there will be a detailed traffic study taking place on Auchentoroly Terrace, which is right across the way from where the Druid Hill Farmer’s Market takes place. I’ve realized how essential it is to get the community engaged as early as possible so that, when the time comes, they’re able to express to the DOT exactly what they want to happen on their roads. These types of interactions are necessary in order to ensure that neighbors actually do have a voice when it comes to what is implemented in their community.
In some Baltimore neighborhoods, this type of engagement is commonplace. City officials hold multiple well-attended meetings prior to implementing a new project or changing something that will impact the community. However, this is not the case in every neighborhood. In order for equitable solutions to be adopted across the city, more engagement needs to take place to ensure that neighbor’s voices are heard and accounted for.
I’m definitely in grind mode now as I finish the distribution plans, but I still had time this week for two unique internship activities. We had another manufacturing field trip this week, which had me elated. I have such a love for traveling across Baltimore and seeing light-duty industry in action, reveling in the historical-modern fusion of it all. Andy and I specifically visited a mixed-used industrial building on Wicomico, featuring beautiful, industrial-window-lit spaces and the painted remnants of Kevin Plank’s former office. I also met the bounciest, happiest puppy ever: perks all around! We visited the building for the purpose of scouting it out for the makers in our network, many of whom are actively trying to expand and grow.
My next exciting activity was just located inside my office building, but definitely encompassed Baltimore in its scope. Two staff in the Department of Planning gave me and the other office interns a 2.5 hour called “Racism in The Structure”. This presentation presents the history and role of Baltimore’s urban planning in shaping a segregated and unequal society. The content was fascinating, along with the fact that 2.5 hours only skimmed the surface of processing how people have experienced segregation in Baltimore City. There has been such blatant historical neglect of immigrant and African-American communities in Baltimore, and I wonder whether or not our city’s current policies truly do enough to rectify this past. On a positive note, it’s great to think that at least this office of city government is taking the time to teach its staff (many of who are non-natives) Baltimore’s history and the importance of looking at today’s policy through a historical lens.
My distribution plans are coming along pretty well, and I’m looking forward to using my tech skills to make accompanying maps next week.
The generational tendency to text over any other form of communication is terrifying to me. Not that I don’t lean towards it – it’s much easier to shoot off and email or a short sentence of text to someone than to make a phone call and hear an actual voice.
This past week, while Reverend Brown was away for a conference in Tennessee, I worked off a task list he’d sent me over a long email on Monday morning. The theme of the email was: call 15 people you’ve never talked to before (among a few other things).
I appreciated the opportunity to take full control of coordinating the next Community Market, and I was also terrified of calling people I had no context for. I knew most of them had good relationships with the BCFSN and were probably acquainted with Rev. Brown, but my fears of being unable to relate to older folks found themselves creeping into my ability to make all these calls.
Luckily, the first few went well. Then Diara, one of Rev. Brown’s close friends, helped me with making connections with a few other people, and then even more calls went smoothly. Things started working out. I met up with a woman from another food justice organization at an event in D.C., and we’ve been working together since to talk more about the food value chain partnership. I feel important in figuring out this piece of the BCFSN, in particular.
Though I am disappointed I won’t be in town for the August 5th market, I’m so excited to know that I will have put in such a hand in shaping the way the market is at the moment. Amongst the other research I’ve been doing into B Corps and business finances, I am really getting invested in seeing through the possibilities of a market that is based on uplifting work of Black farmers and producers, and substantiating that within the relationships we build with people.
This week at Whitelock I had some interesting conversations with my supervisors Alison and Isabel. Both are very clearly hard working passionate women. Alison manages the farm which entails not only doing farm work but also keeping track of the harvest, what is planted, how to coordinate volunteers and other tasks. Isabel manages the many programs Whitelock runs/hosts including and not limited to our YouthWorks program and various workshops that farm puts on.
The conversations seemed to center around how the Farm is run in terms of ,an power. Both seemed to express their desires to one day have more structure behind the organization so that operation can be made easier. Getting someone to take on a volunteer coordinator position, a fundraising raising position and more delegation of responsibility seemed to be a common theme. This is really enlightening in terms of the nonprofit day to day functioning.
Walking into an organization with a full time staff of just two people I didn’t really know what to expect. Starting out the closing of CIIP I have a deep respect, admiration, and see my supervisors as role models for the kind of leader and professional I hope to be in the future. Over worked yet persistent, a little frustrated yet continually passionate. Nonprofits are such a unique place to work because of the variety of missions, services, structures and organizations there are. I am beyond grateful to have met Alison and Isabel because they have taught me about food justice, the nonprofit sector, self care while working in the nonprofit sector, and just life in general.
As my time at Whitelock through CIIP begins to wrap up I hope to learn more about my impact on them, the farm, and the community through their perspective.
Running the Joy Wellness Center has become intuitive. I come in and complete the daily tasks much faster than I did six weeks ago. I’m so much more comfortable talking with people on the phone. I know almost all the regular visitors by name and have great conversations with a few of them every week where they update me on what’s been going on in their lives and animatedly share their stories. It’s an absolute delight to engage in these moments and deepen relationships with members of the community I would otherwise probably have never met.
I’m also happy to report that we’re seeing progress with the garden! The plants are thriving since we started watering them more often and I think that may have been the key to their growth, especially since the soil drains quickly and dries out. We harvested a bounty of kale, collard greens, basil, and radishes, and gave most of it to patients at the Center. Seeing this rapid growth has been particularly satisfying after the first few frustrating weeks when things were barely growing and I was frantically researching factors that could have contributed to this. The process of plants growing over time never fails to amaze me.
My other projects are progressing too. This week I finished a hand-drawn poster about the health benefits of the plants we’re growing in the garden, which has led to more visitors asking to learn about it! I’m working on another poster introducing people to the health modalities used at the Center too. One of the biggest takeaways I’ve gained from these self-initiated projects is the importance of having a work environment that encourages and supports creativity. I’ve heard stories from friends about bosses who want them to stick to the direct responsibilities they have and prevent them from experimenting with their own ideas and new ways of doing things. I’m glad that isn’t the case here. The support, patience, and openness of the staff here at the Center is inspiring, and has been crucial to creating the fulfilling experiences I’ve had so far.
• “After all we are made of Earth and even it goes through seasons.” — Christopher Poindexter
• “She was always an exceptionally strong writer, if maybe a little too scared of the truth she was leaving behind on the page.” — Gary Shteyngart
• “When the battery in my watch died, I still wore it. There was something about the watch that said: it doesn’t matter what time it is. Think in months. Years. Someone loves you. Where are you going? There are some things you’ll never do. It doesn’t matter. There is no rush. Be the best prisoner you can be.” — Chris Huntington (my high school English teacher) in the article “Learning to Measure Time in Love and Loss”
This last week was exciting and productive on many different fronts. This was the first full week of working with my new coworker Arron. I believe that under Denzel’s guidance the farm has truly taken a turn for the better. What was once a dysfunctional set of hoop houses spangled with trash has become an operational and beautiful farm. Now the challenge is to maintain the progress we have made by providing the necessary services and maintenance to the areas and systems that we have worked so hard to fix. This includes the irrigation systems as well as the harvesting schedules of many of the vegetables that we planted in my first few days at the farm. The challenges that we continue to struggle with include the heat and weeds but a new struggle that has evolved exists between us as farmers and the rats. Since our cucumber plants have started producing vegetables we have been repeatedly disappointed by the amount of cucumbers that are ruined by the rats. In an attempt to curb their destruction we have started setting Havahart humane traps to hopefully catch the ones that are causing problems and remove them from the house. My coworker mentioned adopting a farm cat, and, as much as I loved the idea, I am sure Denzel does not need anything else on his plate.
I have come to appreciate a lot of the casual adages that I have picked up during my time working on the farm. One of my favorites is “no one said it was going to be easy” which has come to describe a lot of the laboriously tedious aspects of farming that are necessary for a functioning farm. Another one is, “Getting used to something is the easy part, it’s trying new things that are difficult. Get used to being uncomfortable,” and is another adage that I really do enjoy reflecting upon. One other theme at the farm that is not necessarily an adage but I have found to be an important motif throughout my work has been to make the most out of the situation. It may be hot and you may be sweating through your clothes but at least it’s not cold. Your hands may ache from working but you should be grateful that you can use your hands. I am grateful for how my time at Strength to Love Farm has impacted me thus far and I’m excited to see what else I will learn from my time working.Tags: 2018, Bikemore, Black Church Food Security Network, CIIP, CIIP 2018, Joy Wellness Center, Made in Baltimore, Strength to Love 2, Week 6, Whitelock Community Farm