Pictured above is a table set for a banquet featuring an incredible locavore menu - a collaboration of the work and love of several Ecology Action staff and interns, using food from our gardens as well as from foodie friends in the area. This was a celebratory farewell feast for the 2 month interns who are now back in their own zones, approaching their situations with new perspective, motivated by a couple months of engaging work, study, field trips, and conversation. It was a pleasure to have these "2-monthers" join us, the "6-monthers", adding their unique perspectives, knowledge, experience. Very sad to see them move on! Gratefulness for the community I will say was the general vibe of the night. There was an “end-of-summer-camp” feel as new friends said goodbye, some unlikely to connect face to face again.
And a simple but powerful example of the power (or coincidental convenience) of community:
Two Tuesdays ago, Lamine from Senegal hoped to attend a local Boy Scout meeting down in Ukiah, about 40 minutes away. He will be completing his post as the Chief Commissioner of the National Scout Association in Senegal in November and has realistic hopes of using his expansive network of Scout-folk to spread GROW BIOINTENSIVE to all corners of West Africa, thereby empowering thousands or eventually millions (whoa!) of people to grow their own food sustainably. He also is using his clout in the global scouting world to introduce the Northern California scouts to GROW BIOINTENSIVE, recognizing its value among North Americans as well as West Africans. So this meeting was important.
Vincent (a 2-month intern who is now back in New Orleans using GROW BIOINTENSIVE in the lower ninth ward through the non-profit he works with - CSED) decided to join us. The 4 of us (Sylvia’s one of the team) sped down Pine Mountain, turned left onto the 101, heading south toward Ukiah. Several miles later, a slight shimmy became a severe wobble - a tire was almost flat. This happened to happen just as we approached the entrance to Ridgewood Ranch where an Ecology Action demonstration garden (including the managers and interns that work it) is hosted by the community that owns the land. I pulled into the entrance and parked, our 3 minds urgently assessing the situation – donut spare but no jack – our friends might be coming back from the store, we could swap cars – several unanswered phone calls to 5 people who work and live there (cell reception is poor in the valley) – maybe if we get down to the auto shop on the ranch we can find a jack – Vincent finds a compressor (Sylvia has her secrets), plugs it into the cigarette lighter – tire barely holds air, bulbous masses protruding, drove on it too long – we jump in, creep gingerly down the curves, making ourselves as light as possible, ready for a blowout – passing the dining hall we see hope – another Ecology Action vehicle (1997 Honda Accord). FAST! We find our people, hurriedly explain the situation, swap keys, “We’ll be back soon!” Back on the road, 20 minute drive, only 3 minutes late to the meeting. Phew, sigh, relieved, success!
This is just one example of how the Ecology Action network operates – the words flexibility, support, teamwork, and patience enter my mind. I felt somehow invincible through this silly experience. And reflecting on it and its representation of a powerful camaraderie I imagine our potential effectiveness in deeper places – if we can together rise to these little challenges, what stops us from rising to larger – okay, massive, sometimes overwhelming challenges like land degredation, hunger, farmers’ suicides, etc.?
An idea was shared with me a couple days ago by Jake, the Assistant Director of Ecology Action – he spoke of Kaizen and its effectiveness in the business world. The incremental, analytic nature of this type of growth seems realistic and encouraging – maybe it's best to patiently chip away at those bigger issues, rather than wearing ourselves out, biting off more than we can chew? And maybe, if enough of us take unified small bites, the underground network of responsible farmers can grow and share, improving land and life with each nibble.
Agrarian life necessitates humility. We are such a small part of the intricate processes of soil nourishment and plant growth. And based on the broad spectrum of farming methods, no one really knows how to best involve ourselves in these processes. This reminds me of religion – although some are deeply convinced that our metaphysical understanding is accurate, many of us have healthy doubts and frequent questions – as we do in garden! In both cases, though, we find peace by concentrating on what we do know, daily absorbing more, interacting humbly with others (people or plants), and joyfully embracing the mystery of it all.
A FEW MORE PHOTOS
A FEW MORE PHOTOS