Fifty fraternity members, a few returning volunteers, the first volunteer I've worked with in a wheelchair, a former intern visiting, an unannounced journalism student wanting to take photos of my daily farm life, and only me to guide everyone through our many varied projects. Amid what could easily devolve into chaos, the Youth Farm worked its magic. We call it that, when there's miraculously exactly enough plastic left on an old roll to cover the ends of the greenhouses, or the boxes all tetris perfectly into the back of the truck, or the rain holds off just long enough to get the canopies up.
Today's magic was Hannah, a University of Oregon student that interned with us last fall. I didn't know she was going to come, and I was in the middle of leading the second large fraternity group around to various projects. With only one coordinator on site, they all had to wait while I showed each group their task, and I was steadily veering toward frantic as each additional project added more questions, materials to grab, and feedback to give. She just showed up then, and wanted to help, and when I asked if she'd be excited about teaching eight guys how to harvest escarole, she lit up and dove in and directed the rest of the day's harvest- just like that!
And when the hustle of energetic volunteers was gone for the day, Hannah stayed. I was putting the greenhouse plastic back up, marveling at some sunshine blasting through after the afternoon downpour, and Hannah kept coming back, undirected, to gather and put away the tools and buckets and wheelbarrows full of weeds that were left strewn about.
All kinds of people come and go from the farm each season. They come for a day or week to fulfill mandatory community service, or stay for a term to complete an academic internship, or stay for the summer as a paid youth crew member. Many seem to float away and never return. When they come back, like Hannah so willing to jump into our unpredictable flow, or another former intern that came earlier this morning just to visit and say she misses it here, brings me hope that even the ones that drift off carry something valuable with them. If nothing else, at least they get some good greens in their bellies.