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Project GROWS: People + Farm

By Matthew Kitchen, Phase II Fellow

A little over a week ago I started working for Project Grows. Phase II begins!

As the new Education Assistant, I will be working towards the mission of serving and promoting the health of children and youth in Staunton, Waynesboro, and Augusta County through in-school and on-farm garden based education. I’ll also be working to grow and create greater access to healthy food. In my short time with this team, I’ve already seen a glimpse of the brilliant, kaleidoscopic range of this organization’s undertakings.

And it’s just been so darn fun. Here are just a few highlights from the past week:

Learning that a group of preschoolers will be coming out to the farm and the collective staff reaction of: “The preschoolers are coming!” *Squeals of giddy joy*

Reading about the previous year’s Farm Scavenger Hunt activity involving vegetable riddles: “Buying this vegetable/ Doesn’t cost much money/ It seems to be the favorite food/ Of Bugs Bunny.”

Reading about a previous year’s attempt to house chicks and the arduous and dramatic journey leading to: “No fatalities, happy chicks.”

Writing an employee bio and reflecting deeply on my identity through the question, “If you were a vegetable, what would you be?” (Answer: Patty Pan Squash!)

In the attempt to do some early season farm organization, discovering: “These rock bags are frozen to the ground!”

Feeling near frozen solid in subfreezing temperatures at the farm and victoriously getting my phone through the fence for a successful farm-phone-photo shoot for this blog post (below).

Getting work done at Nisa’s Cafe and getting so pumped up by the realization that what I am doing is going to have a beneficial impact on a small but immeasurably valuable group of people.

A certain moment stands out to me these past two weeks, though; an epiphany that’s helped not only put this upcoming year into perspective, but this vocation too.

As a part of our organization’s goal setting meeting, we did a short exercise in which we drew our vision of what we wanted the farm to look like this year. As we went around sharing, I realized that I hadn’t drawn any people in or on my farm!

The next day, I had the project of putting together a new informational flyer for Project Grows, trying to digitally paint a picture of what we stand for. I began, again, by focusing so much on what we do and not the people we serve, but this time I caught myself. What we do is in the context of food, a farm, and curriculum, but it’s centered around people. It’s in our collaboration with nature, and each other, that humankind lives here harmoniously. More and more I'm seeing that people are the reason for so much of this work of farming. People are the most important part.

I’m excited to be working for, and with, people at Project Grows.

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