“Communitas is the community that is born out of an adventure, an ordeal, a challenge or a mission”- Alan Hirsch
Being a part of something greater than myself always leaves a positive residual effect on my psyche. This positivity is something I was left with after the volunteer workday out at the South Street Farm on Saturday, December 1st. As per usual, on days when a successful outcome depends on the number of people who show up, nature dumped wet snow on the road as I drove out to Mattapan to pick up shovels. When I got back to Cambridge, texts and calls were coming in from various Green Team members asking whether or not the workday was still happening.
I looked outside, saw the snow melt away, asked myself whether or not I would work in these conditions, and decided that freezing temperatures would prove a miserable workday where no one would show up. While steeped in reluctance I received a call from Laxmi, one of the Green Team members, who said, ‘We’re still working right?’ I came up with every reason to call it off but she responded quickly and positively, ‘The snow isn’t sticking’, ‘It’s not that cold out’, ‘I went running already today’, and finally, ‘I would work in this weather and I’m bringing my friends too’. As soon as I heard those magic words I knew the snow wouldn’t stop determined teens from having fun.
When I got to the site, Daniel, one Green Team member, was waiting in a sweatshirt, his bare hands tucked deep into his pockets.. “My hands are going to fall off!” I poured coffee in a cup and placed it in his palms. Dave, a volunteer who woke up early to make everyone cookies, gave Daniel his gloves. As Green Teamers and volunteers arrived at the farm radiating positivity the biting cold didn’t seem as relevant. We had groundwork to do and three hours to do it!
The purpose of the volunteer day was to move the checkerboard patterned raised beds from the west to the east side of the garden. We needed many hands to reposition a large wooden soil corral under a shady tree in addition to transfering hundreds of pounds of soil within the corral. The farm redesign would make better use of the edges while taking advantage of the sunniest spots on the lot, ultimately increasing food production come spring time.
When six Green Teamers and twelve volunteers, including one six-year old, understood the purpose of the redesign and the new placement of the beds, nothing obstructed the power of their efforts. The most challenging task for the team was moving the soil corral, a three sided 10×10 wooden structure. Together, eighteen people surrounded the structure like ants, lifted it at shoulder height, walked it over six raised beds, and placed it with precision in the corner of the lot. High fives and compliments were released from everyone to everyone. We proceeded to reposition eleven of the thirteen raised beds, two of which are now sitting on top of previously unused land between two trees against a chain-link fence (which we will use as a trellis for vegetables). We spread another layer of coconut hull mulch along the side yards (which will add nitrogen to the soil throughout the year), spread chicken fertilizer, and gave the lot a winter cleaning. All the while, Oso the dog bounded around the lot sniffing vegetables and giving kisses to volunteers. We topped off the day with homemade cookies, coffee, spiced bread and a deep sense of accomplishment.
When the crowd died down and the only tasks left were dirty shovels to clean, Daniel, who stayed an extra half hour to wash the tools with cold water, came up to me and said ‘We got a lot done today and you know what? We had fun doing it!” I looked around and stragglers were exchanging numbers, telling stories, and admiring the work we just did. The volunteer day left me with a sense of communitas, and an idea of what groundwork truly means.
Thank you to David McMaster, Caitlin Krol, Yuying Guo, Scott Lamer, Llaquelin Miguel, Rochelyn Abraham, John Bissainthe, Ashley Kulp, Owen Murphy, Courtney Cronin, Abby Harper,Peter Montague, Jennifer Rivera and Oso the dog!
Photos by Courtney Cronin