For the last few weeks, I’ve been volunteering at one of several sites owned and operated by City Slickers Urban Farm in Oakland, CA. It’s an amazing place – a farm abounding with tomatoes, greens, lettuce, plums, peppers, lemon verbena, apples, and more. This profusion of organic goodness is nestled in an unassuming lot in a residential section of Oakland and could easily go unnoticed by passersby.
My time there has included making green compost, checking for aphids, and pulling weeds. It has been very rewarding for a couple of reasons. At the end of the day, I know that I’ve contributed something worthwhile to the community – something real and tangible. And it’s an opportunity to contribute to the growing food justice movement – and the idea that we should promote local, organic produce. Not only is this practice beneficial to our physical health, it also helps us to become more attuned to our communities, the climate in which we live, and the change of seasons. It brings the richness back to the experience of eating.
Yesterday, my friend Carol came with me to volunteer. It was truly a beautiful way to bond with an old friend. We know that meals can bring people together, but so to can helping to promote the growth of the food we consume in those meals. I’ve been friends with Carol since I was 14, but life gets busy and it is often difficult for us to find time to meet up. She and I spent more time together yesterday than we have on any single day in the last several years. And I think some of that had to do with the fact that we were sharing an experience that was meaningful and constructive, not merely entertaining. Contributing to the health of a community is a profound way to reinforce bonds between people. What’s more, sharing experiences like this with friends and family can have a ripple effect. If you spark a friend’s interest in a cause or movement, and they bring another friend into the movement and so forth, the movement grows organically. In fact, Carol left a message on my Facebook page yesterday saying that the experience had inspired her to finally start a vegetable garden – something she had been wanting to do for years. And a friend of hers commented in turn, saying she might just do the same thing. One good act, even a small one, can have an important impact.