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November 9, 2023

Putting Down Roots on the Farm with Tier 1 Youth 

Putting Down Roots on the Farm with Tier 1 Youth 

It is 1pm on a hot late August day on the GRuB farm. Scattered across the farm are ten “Tier 1” farm crew members, ages 16-21, who are tucked away in their sit-spots. Sitting cross legged in the bamboo forest behind the compost, perched on a limb of the apple tree, standing with the alders in the nature trail, and hidden away in spots unknown. For most of them, this is their first season (Tier 1) of work on the GRuB Farm. Many of them may return in future seasons as Farm Assistants (Tier 2) or Farm Coordinators (Tier 3). For now, they are beginning to put down roots on the land by spending just 15 minutes a day in the same locations, making observations and posing questions that may or may not have straightforward answers:

Who has sat in this spot under the cherry trees before me?

How would I go about making a woven mat out of this bamboo?
Why is this deer watching me?
What places and people are invisible to me in my community?

This work of connecting to the land and sharing our experiences through the questions, helps us find some groundedness and connection in a turbulent time. It also deepens our individual commitments to growing food, people, and community, which is our central mission on the farm. This summer the Tier 1 crew made numerous group commitments: to help grow up to 15,000 lbs of food for the community, to honor and steward the land, and to honor and encourage each other. Additionally, we all made commitments to our personal growth such as being punctual, developing more patience with self and others, and noticing when stress and depression is feeding negative thoughts and behavior. 

In service to these commitments, every Monday, Wednesday and Friday we would harvest fruits and vegetables, make bouquets for CSA customers, and weed (endlessly). We hear consistently from one another how much it means, especially this year, just to have somewhere to show up, connect, contribute, and feel valued. We often find that our work on the land becomes a point of connection around the challenges we face as individuals and a society. As we repeatedly return to sections of the farm to pull fast-growing and invasive bindweed vines and dig the web of roots from the soil, we reflect on the bindweed in our lives: family traumas, anxiety, white supremacy, isolation, food insecurity, etc. As we cooperate physically in this removal effort we sense what it takes to uproot these social inheritances collectively. We have done some powerful work this summer!

As important as these Tier 1 programs are, this foundational experience almost didn’t happen this year due to COVID. In March the shutdown put a hold on the GroundED program, a partnership with GRAVITY and ESD 113 to provide on-farm learning for youth pursuing their GED. While we couldn’t offer this program, we could, with a lot of careful research and protocols, try on a Spring micro-program of just three youth. This small success provided confidence that we could safely offer a summer program for just ten youth. We are now into our fall program and even optimistic that a Winter program may be possible this year.

Now that we are into the Fall season the Tier 1 Crew arrives later in the day after zoom classes or other jobs to work an evening shift harvesting food for CSA customers and the food bank. Increasingly, we focus on clearing the fields for winter, rolling up irrigation and saving seeds for next season. Often working right up until dusk to make this all happen. GRuB is incredibly grateful for their ongoing commitments to growing food, people, and community! The crew continues to return to their sit-spots to observe and reflect on this changing season.

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