Local, organic agriculture. Environmental education.

Les Gens, The People in Silence and at Work

Bunch of fall kaleI did not know all of the many people who came to help at the farm this past Saturday. Bright, chilly, breezy sunshine poured down on the Farm to Food Pantry Garden at Holly Hill Farm, a spot where compost was once was piled in various stages of decomposition in advance of adding nutrients for the farmers’ fields. Now, this (still sacred) space is devoted to growing food for the public to consume, cook, utilize at food pantries, shelters and anywhere else we can deliver.

The folks came because we are engaged in a crowd funding campaign through fortua.com and a devoted neighbor who seeks to highlight people’s interesting, educational and inspirational activities and endeavours. The campaign mission is twofold. One aspect seeks financial support for a more solid, tighter (read rabbit & woodchuck prevention) fence, wheelbarrows, shovels, bins and lumber for raised beds. The other aspect was to ask people to come out to the farm to help with the harvest and to prepare the garden beds for winter.

Though winter is delightfully not here yet, the brisk weather certainly kept us busy spreading seaweed, hoisting soil into the beds and distributing wood chips over well-laid cardboard to further prevent weeds. Kids of various ages came to help. A lot of 5th graders from Hingham seemed to be involved, as well as parents, independents and teenagers. The people worked seamlessly together, as there were, and are typically on a farm in any season, many chores to accomplish. To what end? Why did these folks take time away from their already busy Saturdays, some having still played an early morning soccer game, to come work alongside others known and unknown? Why too, across the ocean, 15 hours earlier, had people, known and unknown to one another, gathered at a European football stadium, a cafe and a concert hall to watch a friendly, sip a beverage, converse and listen to an American band? Pourquoi? For what purpose? People come together, in person, for many reasons. Even when a phone “brings people together,” and many texts and messages are sent, there is something more meaningful when the folks are together in person. The phone or device may still be there, or in a pocket or clutched tightly, but at least they are in proximity to one another, conversing, sitting, listening, thinking. And anywhere one gathers, there ought to be joy and civilization, not horror and atrocity.

Far from the previous evening’s sadness, in the Farm to Food Pantry Garden, a mother spoke a bit of French to her daughter, our hearts heavy. We counted un, deux, trois as we moved the rocks from the garden’s edge into a wheelbarrow, so a raised bed can better distinguish a growing area, hold soil and add nutrition for a bountiful yield.  33.75 pounds of vegetables were weighed. Pommes de terre, scallions, kale, chard, collards and celery were among the selected legumes et verts for the food pantry. Winter squash were pulled earlier in the month.

This produce is not going to end hunger. It will not affect the Greater Boston Food Bank’s efforts to grow for many thousand. Instead, this harvest was delivered to the food service coordinator at Father Bill’s Emergency shelter in Quincy. Two more volunteers accompanied us for the delivery on Monday to Quincy.

It may behoove me to send along recipes for kale or lasagna with swiss chard or celery leaves as stock for soup. Better yet, what future produce would be beneficial to the chef as she prepares daily meals for folks trying to secure jobs and steady their lives. I do not know very well either the folks who were sitting in the dining hall, waiting for their next meal. But our fresh, organic produce was hopefully going to add a little something to future dishes. Men and women, young and old come to this established shelter and depend on a meal every day. They too may be dealing with sadness and strife. But come to the communal shelter they must. And many of us choose and will continue to visit a public place, by choice or necessity.

Strangers, in some regard, working together to grow, cultivate and produce vegetables. L’estrangers coming together on a warm autumn evening. Strangers and immigrants are we all, until we are together in an open space. Despite the declaration of three days for mourning from Monsieur Hollonde, I did hear a radio report of an interviewer with a French baker who said everyone eats bread, and that he must continue to bake for people, even in mourning. And in silence and shock, we can all share in daily bread, du pain and pain. I am grateful to these neighbors who came together to work, tend, weed and grow a garden, for the work also continues, when growing food, as everyone eats. So merci mes amis, known and unknown, in silence, we sit together.

© 2015, Jon Belber. All rights reserved. Friends of Holly Hill Farm

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