2019 Week 2: Environment & Food Access
My first day of work, I was (uncharacteristically) running a little early and I was dead tired, so I decided to take the Silver Line one stop past my office to pick up a hot cup of Royal Farms coffee, and then walked the five or so blocks back to the office. This extra jaunt on the bus took me past a newish-looking building bearing the name of Concerted Care Group. The windows were opaque and had flowers painted on it, and it appeared quite sterile and formidable. I assumed it had something to do with medical care in an area I knew sorely needed it. I went about the rest of my day without thinking much about the clinic I’d passed; after all, I had grant applications to help write!
Some days later, I was in my supervisor’s car, traveling to a meeting in the neighborhood. The clinic came up, and she told me it was a methodone clinic, but we didn’t delve into the details of what that meant. I asked a friend about what these clinics did, and learned that they help those living with addiction reduce or eliminate heroin usage.
Last Thursday, a woman active in her neighborhood’s community association and in partnering with GBA came into the office and began to talk about the clinic. She told us that it was hurting the community, that it was driving down business, that it was bringing the wrong sort around.
But people don’t drive to the methodone clinic. They don’t take the bus. They don’t Uber, or Lyft, or even bike.
They walk there.
The methodone clinic serves Brooklyn. It serves the community, and works to help this community recover from a crisis.
The community member who discussed the methodone clinic said that it hurt the community- but who counts as the community? Are those suffering from addiction and growing sicker and sicker each day that passes without resources considered a part of the community? Are those who are only alive because of this clinic considered a part of the community? Those who people love to forget and ignore and pretend don’t exist- are they a part of the community?
My supervisor cautioned me about this before I even started the job. The community associations in the area, she said, are saturated with gatekeepers, and their makeup- racially, socioeconomically, generationally- is completely unrepresentative of the communities they represent. There’s still something, though, about seeing someone so explicitly and unflinchingly expel the most vulnerable from her community with her words.
A challenge, for myself, and for anyone reading: Whenever you hear the word “community,” whether someone says it to you or you think it to yourself, take a moment and ask-
“Who does that include?”
This week we had a bunch of new people come to the farm through their workforce development program. It was really nice because at this point I kind of have a place at the farm and I know what I’m doing. So I got to help them out as they were getting used to the farm. We got to talk and mess around with each other which was nice because we all felt like a little strength to love family. I’m looking forward to seeing them again on Monday and just goofing around, while getting work done of course.
This week was also busier than last week. There definitely weren’t any dull moments. I got to go to a “special” meeting on Monday with all of the grownups, which made me feel really cool. And then there were the actual farm activities. Between weeding the beds, laying out soil, seeding trays, planting and harvesting I felt like I was helping out with just about everything. I had my hands in a million pots.
It was really nice because this week we harvested kale and rainbow chard, which looks really pretty btw. At the end of the day there was extra so I got to take home some of both. I really love kale so it was nice to take some fresh, self picked kale and cook it. Maybe I’m crazy but it tasted better than any other kale I’ve had before. I had never tried the chard but I was excited to take some because I went home, my actual home in Waldorf, on Friday night so I was able to cook and eat it with my family. It looked amazing and it tasted even better. It was really fun and I can’t wait to harvest and try more things!
I am starting to enjoy my placement more and more every day and I am having a blast supporting the work of Baltimore Green Space. BGS has been around for 12+ years and it is a small non-profit with a 3 person staff comprised of an Executive Director and 2 interns, including myself. In many ways I feel responsible for ensuring that BGS is able to operate to its fullest potential– I am always asking questing to make sure that I am completing tasks correctly and every-time I am done with a task, I ask for another. A lot of the work I do includes making phone calls to arrange meetings, cleaning up the database, doing research for meetings, and even reviewing applications (which was an honor!!!!!). My supervisor always expresses how grateful she is to have me as a resource, emphasizing the fact that she is now able to better use her time and focus her efforts on doing the work of the Executive Director.
I never once thought about why I feel so enthusiastic about doing my part to help BGS grow, but during week 2 I realized the many parallels between growing a non-profit and growing a small business. My parents owns a business that they started when I was in 2nd grade, meaning that there were many sacrifices that my family had to make in order to allow it to grow into what it is today, sacrifices that had a very large impact on me. For a long time I hated the small business because I saw it as a barrier to being a normal kid. There were many long days and nights spent at the business and I just wished that my parents work life was not so intertwined with their personal life. I wish that my parents just worked a standard 9-5 and I hated how so many conversations and memories revolved around the business. As I grew older, however, I came to really appreciate all the hard work that my parents have done to create and sustain something that supports my family. It is inspiring to see how far everything has come, especially seeing my mom go from wearing multiple hats (chef, Director, janitor, etc.) to only wearing one, Director. It is this experience that informs my intentions for BGS because just like a small business, a non-profit requires a lot of attention and the leaders of these organizations always find themselves wearing multiple hats. I feel honored to be able to be apart of the organization during its beginning stages and I am extremely excited to do my part to help it develop into something much larger.
One challenge that I was faced with this week was that I wasn’t at work at all for most of the week. I found out on Tuesday that I had to fly out to Colorado the next day because my boyfriend needed emergency knee surgery. It was a whirlwind of a day, especially since I found out as I was walking out of a really incredible and exciting meeting with the city’s Office of Sustainability, in which several nonprofits were outlining a zero-waste plan for the city.
After the meeting, I told my supervisor and coworkers that I was going out of town, and they were really understanding and wished me the best of luck.
Despite all my coworkers’ best wishes, it was really difficult not being on-site. There were several meetings and urban farm visits that I had wanted to attend this week that I couldn’t go to. For example, BCFSN operates a Freedom School during school breaks, which is a school that is specifically focused on teaching children Black history as well as agricultural knowledge, home economic skills, and other trade skills. My supervisor wanted to meet with a composting nonprofit in order to develop curricula for the school. I had really wanted to go with him to this meeting, but I couldn’t. Another challenge that arose from me taking time off work was that our biggest event is coming up around two weeks, and I had to take time off from event planning, which was really difficult. I found that it was really hard for me to be productive while caring for my boyfriend post-surgery. All of my time during this week was devoted to making sure he was healing up okay.
All in all, I’m excited to get back to work on Tuesday. It’ll be a challenge balancing my personal and professional life, but I hope that it will be something I can manage.
Second week of 2019 CIIP has just ended, and time surely flies by when one is doing things they are interested in. While we had the same sort of schedule as last week (Seedling Tuesday, Workshare & CSA Wednesday, Mobile Market Thursday, and Farmers Market Saturday), a couple incidents also happened and are still developing, I am going to record one of them in today’s blog, so I will remember it and actively try to solve the problem in the upcoming week.
The event took place last Saturday during our farmers market. I was casually chatting with one of our regular volunteers who manages our compost pile for us. I have a lot of respect for the man, as he is in a quite good shape considering his age, and I always saw him at the farm during my first week working there. Thus, I consider him as part of the team and would like to get to know the man better. As we were chatting, he asked what my major is, and I replied, “Biomedical Engineering”. “Hah, of course you are, Hopkins has a really good biomedical engineering program,” he joked. I laughed and admitted that yeah I am a BME major and our program is pretty decent, and I was ready to move on to the next topic. However, our program director overheard our conversation, then he stood right between me and our volunteer and yelled at him, “Don’t you say things like this around here. Your joke is not funny. Leave immediately!” As my program director went on to count how many times the volunteer had made inappropriate speeches in the past, my smiles disappeared and I realized that the comment is more serious than I thought. The confrontation by my program director not only completely changed the atmosphere at the farmers market that morning, but also gave me a new perspective about our volunteer and the frictions in our team. Our volunteer is not the perfect role model I thought he is, and our team is also not one in one hundred percent harmony. I did not say a single word during the exchange between the two men, as I was shocked and trying my best to absorb all these information. Now I wished that I had said something to help clarify the situation a little bit. I really appreciate that my program director stood up for me, but I feel like the volunteer does not have a bad intention and I did not feel personally attacked by the comment he made. I haven’t had any meaningful conversation with the volunteer ever since he left the farm that day, and it is quite uncomfortable to be in the same place together at the moment, not because we do not respect each other but because we are all avoiding the conversation we should have had right after the incident had happened. To protect me, my supervisor has order the volunteer not to show up when she is not around. However, that also means I will not have the opportunity to have an honest conversation with the volunteer and resolve this conflict in our team. I appreciate how much my team cares for me, but I feel like I should take this responsibility to help out the team this time. I hope I will be able to write about that in my next week’s blog.
To not end on a negative note, I just like to say how much I have learnt from this single incident. I absolutely loved the farm when I first walked in and I still do, but now I view it not as perfect but at a project that constantly needs improvement, not only in the crops we plant but also in the relationships among our team and between us and the neighborhood. There are still a lot to be done, and I hope I can take on some of that responsibility. We are a really small team and cannot afford to lose anyone, so I hope I can unite us all and help us grow in the future.Tags: Baltimore Green Space, Black Church Food Security Network, CIIP, ciip 2019, Greater Baybrook Alliance, Strength to Love 2 Farm, Whitelock Community Farm