By Audrey Carter, Phase II Fellow
At our most recent cohort day, the Phase II Fellows discovered that we have officially completed two thirds of our Fellowship.
I’m not quite sure how this happened so quickly, but I would like to request that the remaining third go by much more slowly. While it feels like we all moved and began our perspective positions just one month ago, winter and spring have come and gone. It is summer now, which for my position means Markets, Markets, Markets. As the Community Food Projects Coordinator for Project GROWS, the summer season is focused on managing farmer’s markets to increase food access for community members receiving Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or “SNAP” (formerly known as Food Stamps) and WIC (Women, Infants, and Children) benefits. In Phase I, we spent a great deal of our time discussing what we hoped to gain from the Fellowship and I have only recently realized that my hope to learn about food access, benefit programs, food education, etc. is no longer a hypothetical, but my reality. I am in the thick of serving the population I hoped to serve and learning even more than I hoped to. Where Phase II once felt so far away, it is now halfway over.
A few highlights of Phase II so far…
1. Design! I was worried going into AMI that I wouldn’t have time for the creative outlets that I enjoy and that keeps me energized. I had no expectations of the job itself requiring I exercise this muscle. Especially in the first few months, before the farm was producing or the markets were open, I spent a lot of time designing content for cooking classes, marketing, and student activities. I was able to take the time to get comfortable with the tools we use for design at Project GROWS and now am able to create content frequently as needed. This has been a total surprise and one that I accept eagerly.
2. The people. Being set up with a partnering non-profit for Phase II is like one really big and important blind date. I feel so lucky to have been placed with Project GROWS, who welcomed myself and Freddy with open arms and have taught us so much. The attitude of the Project GROWS staff is extremely collaborative and encourages everyone to continually learn from one another. It’s extremely unique to be in the position of being both entrusted with important work and encouraged to ask lots of questions along the way. I work directly with the Food Access Coordinator, Megan, who has a wealth of knowledge and shares it freely. Together, we teach cooking classes, are managing the farmer’s markets, lead county-wide in school vegetable tastings, and more. We have learned a lot about each other’s strengths and weaknesses, how best to communicate with one another and, most importantly, what each other’s snacking habits are.
3. The people... again. So much of my working time is spent with people in the community, whether that be students at the Boys & Girls Clubs, local farmers selling at our markets, or SNAP customers. It has been so fun not only to get to know folks by name, but to become a part of their routine. I recently took a Saturday off for a friend’s wedding and, upon returning to the market, was met with welcomes and inquiries about my time away by vendors and customers alike. To me, it is really special to be in a job that not only encourages healthy relationships, but requires them.
4. The challenge. From the day we began, I have not stopped learning! I feel confident that when Phase II is over I will have become a better employee, a better leader, a better teacher, and an all-around better equipped advocate for the wellness of myself and others.
Hello, yes, Phase II? Audrey here. Hi. If you’d be willing to calm down and move at a more leisurely pace, that would be stellar. You’re running right by me. Okay, thank you so much.