Friday, July 23, 2010

what I leave behind

At our big start-of-the-project celebration last August, Julie asked each of us interns to put something on the mantel of the community room as a symbol of our presence on the farm this year. At our closing gathering a few weeks ago we each took those symbols and were asked to replace them with something that signified what the Project has meant to us or what we would be leaving here.

A couple of days before the service I decided that my contribution would be a beautiful jar of different colored carrots from the farm given to us by one of Casey's (many, and generous) farmers' market friends. It fit - something from the Farm, made from scratch by a member of our community; something reflective of the amazing diversity of vegetables you discover when you grow for people in your local area and focus on taste rather than appearance or durability on a cross-country journey.

But it was missing something. I had no real personal attachment to that jar of carrots, and leaving it here would be easy. Leaving here is anything but easy.

Though I tried to avoid it the whole afternoon leading up to the service, I knew what I had to leave – a piece of my experience, both what brought me to the Farm and what the Farm has meant to me. A piece of myself.

So instead of the jar of carrots I left this…

It’s a bag I was given several years ago, made by a woman named Rose who lived in a refugee camp in dry, drought-prone northern Kenya. The bag is made from the sacks used to deliver US food aid, usually in the form of corn and soybeans grown in surplus in the US because of subsidies. This aid often ironically exacerbates famine by flooding markets with under-priced food and putting local farmers out of business. It acts, at very best, as a band-aid on the deep structural problems of our global food system. It was interactions with these unjust, destructive globalized systems that brought me to the Farm in the first place, and it’s appropriate that what I leave represents my continued passion for these issues.

But that bag is something else as well. It is creativity and an assertion of beauty in the midst of a very difficult situation. It is personal, with Rose’s name written lightly in ballpoint pen at the top. It came to me through relationships, as a gift. This, to me, is what the Abundant Table is about – something small and faithful and life-giving done creatively in the heart of the system. The daily sight of spray rigs and hazard signs in the fields around us and the sound of fighter jets landing less than a mile away at Point Mugu are a reminder of what this community strives to create an alternative to, but opposing these systems has never been the point. The Abundant Table has been about creating good food and gathering a diverse community at the table to eat it, a community that in turn has fed us. On just five acres in a corner of Ventura County, it’s only a whisper in the face of the problems, but has been transformative to those of us at the center.

I started my intern year knowing I had a strong sense of how I wanted to live but little idea of what I wanted to do with my life. I hoped that spending a year living out many of the things that are most important to me would help give a little direction to the career-path end of things, but this is perhaps the only way the ATFP hasn’t met or exceeded my expectations. In March of 2009 I planned on moving from Chicago to D.C. in the summer (and was wrong – I moved to Oxnard). In March of 2010 I planned on moving from Oxnard to D.C. (and again I was wrong – I’ll be moving to New York City). In March of 2009 I planned on getting a job doing research or administrative work, and ended up farming. In March of 2010 I hoped to find work doing research or advocacy related to food systems or international development, but at this rate who knows where I’ll end up . Though there is very little certainty in my plans for the coming months, I do carry with me a deep sense of gratitude for the Abundant Table community and for the ways this year has shaped me.

Thank you.

1 comment:

  1. sorry this took me so long to read! blessings SARAH as you go1