Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Day Four! -Mirielle Burgoyne

Since we arrived, and today especially, there have been a few themes and ideas that I think stood out.  I want to talk about today in the context of these lessons that have emerged, at least for me personally.

First—the importance of a connection to your own sustenance.  I have realized that sustainability, a connection to nature, and the ability to take pride in your own accomplishments all go hand in hand.  At the Long Island farm, they do not use chemicals or industrial machines as shortcuts—instead, they often choose the more labor-intensive process over the "easy" way of doing things in order to maintain their commitment to organic and sustainable practices.  They also benefit directly from their labor—they grow what they eat, and they see the operation flourish as a result of their harvests, which fund it.  This general way of living and working really struck me. It made me realize that so often, we are oblivious to and disconnected from the things we depend on—I purchase my food from a grocery store without a second thought about where it comes from; I am completely dependent upon technology that I don't begin to understand.  The experiences of the past four days have made me realize how rewarding it is to feel more connected to the things upon which I rely.

Second—talk to everyone at every opportunity!  Everyone in this city has been so incredibly friendly to us. When asked, people have been so willing to share their stories, have been excited to hear about our interests, and have gone out of their way to volunteer all kinds of helpful suggestions and advice both about farming and touring Boston.  I never realized how much you can learn just from making small talk.

Finally—community.  On the farm today, and over the course of this trip in general, the importance of community has really been emphasized.  Of the many diverse backgrounds that lead workers and volunteers to devote their time to the Long Island farm, one of the most inspiring in my opinion is a substance abuse rehab program that is run through the organization.  It is often the case that all the effort that goes into achieving sobriety is undone when newly clean addicts return to the old community to which their addiction was tied.  The cool thing about the Long Island farm program is that it not only provides a forum to help substance abusers get clean, it also helps them stay clean by providing a new, positive, tight-knit community.  This dynamic, combined with the reward of directly seeing and reaping the benefits of one's own work, makes the program successful.  In another sense, I felt that working on the farm today really reinforced our own little ASB community. We worked in teams together, we took on problems together, we literally pulled each other out of the mud at times, and all day long we laughed as hard as we worked.  

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Shutter Island aka Long Island Adventures (days 3 & 4)

We officially started our week of service on Monday. We packed into our wonderful vans and made the trek over to Long Island, which is ten minutes outside of Boston. We were faced with gale-force winds and drenching rain, which made it nearly impossible to get any work done outside. The Long Island farm is a very holistic operation; it incorporates the issues of hunger and homelessness and provides job training and urban farming as solutions.

On Monday we did anything we could to help indoors: folding laundry, scrubbing cafeteria chairs, and planting seedlings that would grow under florescent light bulbs. Even those these don't all sound like exciting or super-important jobs, we were humbled to see that even the little tasks can make a huge difference.

However, TUESDAY was awesome, because it was the first sunny day of the trip :-) We were all in bright spirits, and we even got to sleep in a little bit later than normal! Tuesday we worked outside on the farm. We were doing farm preparation work, which was fairly tough physical labor. We moved wheelbarrows of compost from place to place, cleaned up junk, spread nutrients and seeds, and turned a hilly greenhouse surface into a (mostly) flat slope.

Interacting with the land and getting our hands dirty was seriously amazing. I truly believe that if our society put down our technological devices for a day and felt some soil or smelled some salty breeze from the ocean, we would more carefully consider the impact we're having on our environment. The ground was VERY muddy, and we were all so dirty by the end of the day. But nobody judged one another; we were okay leaving our superficial ways behind and accepting one another and bonding as a community through physical labor.

We also met some beautiful people at the farm. We met passionate people who revolved their lives around their work at the Long Island Farm. They work long hours each day, all for the sake of providing food for people who suffer at the hands of misfortune and our unjust food system. Much of the time, produce is inaccessible to lower income areas; however, hundreds if not thousands of homeless people are fed by the work on this garden. My heart was so full of wonder and respect for people who choose such lives of service.

Love, Whitney B.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Day Three and a Half -- Yonah Meiselman

Today we visited Shutter Island. Sort of. It's an island, at least, and it looked kind of creepy in the unending rain. On this island, located in Boston Harbor, there operates a homeless shelter slash farm slash work-skills development center. During the winter, people are welcome to stay on the island all the time -- the building provides much-needed shelter from cold, wind, and rain -- but during the spring and summer months, the residents are required to vacate the island during the day. Despite the rain, today was the first day they were all gone this year.

Most of our time was spent cleaning the cafeteria, folding laundry, and replacing lightbulbs in a miniature greenhouse. I know, it doesn't sound like Urban Agriculture, but I'm sure tomorrow, when the sun is out, we'll get our hands dirty. Besides, this place is taking a serious bite out of industrial food in Boston; healthy and sustainably grown food is expensive. If they need us to fold laundry, we can fold laundry.

Day 3 - David Tana

Greetings from Boston!

It's our second full day in Beantown. The morning started pretty early as we made our way to our first service site, The Farm at Long Island Shelter. "The Farm" is a four acre vegetable, flower and herb garden that provides food for the shelter and then some. We were scheduled to do some work outside, but the Northeaster that's been tearing through the area made it very windy, wet, and cold, especially out in the Boston Harbor. Luckily, our friends at the Long Island Shelter were extremely accommodating, and found plenty of work for us to inside where it was nice and warm. We helped with laundry, cleaned the cafeteria, chopped veggies in the kitchen for meals, and a few of us got our hands dirty seeding plants in "the chapel".

"The Farm" grows and harvests enough produce to keep the pantry stocked, as well as distributing to other shelters in the Boston area. They sell whatever they have leftover, and the revenue is enough to pay for the day to day operations and maintenance of the farm. As they planted tiny seeds in thumbprint sized impressions in the soil, the students found themselves in awe of the idea that such a seemingly small thing could yield so much for so many. They also felt a real, first hand connection to their work - something the regular staff at the farm feel every day. We often don't think about the food we eat, or where it comes from. But when you plant the seed, watch it grow, harvest the produce, and prepare the meal, you get filled with a true sense of satisfaction.

I think that's one of the reasons urban agriculture is really starting to catch on all over the country. Places like The Farm at Long Island Shelter not only provide food, shelter, employment opportunities, and job training, but they also provide a sense of community. You can tell that from the moment you walk in the door. I think our first day of service couldn't have gone better, and I can't wait to see what the rest of the week has in store for us.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Day 2 - Milan Hak

It's Sunday. Boston seems to be a very nice city so far. It might even get better when it stops raining, and we won't get soaked every time we walk out of this Hostel door. Despite the unfortunate weather conditions, we decided to take advantage of free admission to MIT museum, and headed in the flooded streets. After missing one bus, and getting off another one one stop earlier, I finally manage to reach my destination. Museum was a real success. There was lots of geeky stuff that caught our attention. For example there was a set of pictures on the wall which all had Einstein's face on it, but when you walk away and looked at it from different angle, the portraits changed to Harry Potter, Marilyn Monroe, and other famous characters. On the second floor there were lots of different instruments and gadgets people could interact with. It kept us engaged and entertained for a long time.
Second half of the day most of us choose to spend in Hostel. I love this place so much since there is lots of people from all around the World. Everyone is so nice, and always willing to engage in conversation. Throughout this after, I have spoken with people from Canada, Chile, Argentina, and India. It was really rewarding experience to learn about other cultures.

This trip is so far very interesting, and I cannot wait till we start our service tomorrow, and get to meet all these people who need our help. That's it for today, stay tuned for more updates ;o)

Saturday, March 13, 2010

First Day-Laura Betz

Today was our first day in Boston and was nowhere close to what I had anticipated. It was much better. Our trip leaders Jimi and Parashar were welcoming and phenomenal drivers. Most of the day was spent bonding in the car, but overall it was enjoyable. We have a great group, and I am looking forward to the week ahead. 

Before we left we all had our expectations, as far as the weather and hostel were concerned. The weather so far has been rainy but is looking up in the coming days. Tomorrow there is an MIT tour trip. One of my best friends goes there! So I am hoping to hear good things from everyone about it. 

I am excited to start farming. Although my family owns farms I have never taken part of an urban agriculture program. Tonight was wonderful. We ate dinner next door and had sushi which was delicious. The hostel employees have been very accommodating. Today we were assigned another person to learn more about as the trip goes on in a very secret-santa-esque fashion. I think it will be very interesting to see what everyone says at the trip's end. Everyone I've met has been hospitable. 

After dinner my friend and I went looking for shower shoes, to no avail (the only potential downside to the hostel)...On a positive note, we ended up at Cheesecake Factory where I ran into John Hennessy, a sports broadcaster for UMASS hockey. 

 I still can't believe it! It was awesome being able to discuss sports with someone who does this for a living. I can't wait for tomorrow! 

First Day-Kaitlin Wetzel

The first day of traveling to Boston was an experience that was unforgettable.  The day began at 10 am in College Park where we piled into two vans to make our way to Boston.  It was great getting to know everyone while chatting and playing games.

As we drove along it was interesting to hear the stories of other people. I really enjoyed getting to know others outside of the classroom and hearing what they had to say about themselves. Later that night we arrived at the hostel and I was amazed at how wonderful it was.  The hostel is located in downtown Boston right off of Hemenway Street. We all settled into our rooms then made our way to a restaurant down the street where we enjoyed a great meal after a long day.  

When dinner ended we went back to the hostel in hopes to explore Boston later in the night.  The rain prevented many of the excursions that we had hoped would happen.  We tried to find a shopping center to buy groceries, but it was so late that many places were closed.  My friend and I ended up at Cheesecake factory to enjoy some desert where we ended up chatting with John Hennessy, the broadcaster for the UMASS hockey team.  It was truly remarkable to hear the stories about his travels and how he ended up being a sports commentator.  

I've only been in Boston for the night and I have already had an amazing time.  I can't wait to see what awaits me this upcoming week while farming in Boston.   It can only get better from here!