What is Community?

Community.  It's an overused, misunderstood, idealistic idea.  I use it all the time in my orientation tours for groups at the farm, mentioning "the community" as if it's a concrete group of people.  Or on social media, thanking "the community" for its support of our plant sales and farm stands.  We talk about it as part of our organizational values, emphasizing that everyone is included and welcome in the work we do.  Back when I first starting organic farming at Gathering Together Farm in Philomath, Oregon, I was doing interviews with staff and surveys of Community Supported Agriculture members for an independent study in school, and asked the owners what they thought about "community".  For all the talk of inclusiveness and outreach toward consumers in this food movement, what they said really stuck with me: "If people talk about the community, it really is the group of us working."  Small farms do so much work to try to include customers and families to feel "part of the farm," but the real connections come from working hard together.  

On Saturday, a new community started to form as the youth farmer crew started their first day of work.  Most arrived early and huddled near the tool shed, labelling their cubbies and making nervous small talk.  A few friendly words exchanged among strangers.  Step one.

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Kiya

Kiya

Kiya arrives late, zipping up a borrowed FOOD for Lane County hoodie on her way toward me in the nursery.  She looks frazzled.  An Americorps NCCC crew of ten young people is here again for the whole day, and I'm racing back and forth between potting up field tomatoes and showing one of them how to water our sand box heat mats to maintain heat conductivity.  Kiya looks beyond me for Ted for a moment, then immediately apologizes for being late, launching into a string of events that had her car and bike both break down as she tried to get here this morning.  I stop what I'm doing, try to soothe her anxiety, and listen.

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