By Ariel Duran, Phase II Fellow
At the end of Phase I, I felt a mixture of emotions as I prepared to return home for the two-month break before starting Phase II. I was excited to be reunited with my family and friends, sad to say goodbye to the mountains (for a short while), and slightly nervous about the changes I’d feel in everyday life after living on a farm at about 4,000 ft. in elevation and returning home to New York City.
As ever, with food on my mind, I couldn’t wait to return to home cooked meals and family recipes. I missed my aunt’s pastelitos, my other aunt’s arroz con guandules, my other other aunt’s torta, and my mom’s everything.
Going back, I harbored a feeling of responsibility to share what I had learned about food during my time away with family and friends. I realized I was having conversations I’ve never had before with people about the food we eat. In the city around me, the signs of limited healthy food options were just as present as the last time I was home. Except this time, my eyes were also opened to individuals and groups doing great things with food.
While at home, I volunteered with several organizations and groups across the city that were making an effort to improve and sustain the health of their communities. I saw a compost company turning thousands of pounds of the city’s food scraps into fertilizer. I saw gardeners teaching and learning in their communities about the land they share. I saw chefs and public school students making fresh, healthy, and seasonal recipes. I saw school garden educators collaborating to improve their students’ experiences.
Out of the many people I got to meet and work with, the range in age, experience, and knowledge was incredible. Volunteers were retirees and college students, school groups and individuals, regulars and first time helpers, locals and tourists. I saw that the DNA of a community is greater the sum of its parts. It’s the environment that they create together that makes the whole thing work.
Now, I'm back in Highland County with the chance to be more involved in the community. I’m looking forward to all the experiences to come and making new memories in 2019!