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Connecting to People and Food

#30, Meet Alix, Organic Farmhand and Repair the World Corps Member

The importance of connecting to how our food is grown is never something I was taught. It is something I know in my heart, that I connect to innately, an ideal that honors this beautiful planet and helps me to do something bigger than just living the ‘American Dream’, which I have found can feel dull and empty. It began one day when I was in high school, when my mom and I went on an excursion to all these plant stores and bought herbs and flowers and pots and soil, and we created a little herb garden together. This was my first exposure to growing things, it was really fun. 

Since then, I’ve gotten involved in farmwork. It started when I heard about opportunities with World-Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF). I think it’s one of the best ways to travel abroad because you veer completely off the beaten path of usual travel.

You’re helping locals who need your help, and you’re meeting other travelers and working together experiencing how food systems work in other parts of the world.

First I went to Israel with my best friend, and we worked for two months on four farms. Several months later, when I had enough money to travel again, I went to Central America, and worked on six farms throughout Costa Rica, Nicaragua and Guatemala. After my travels, I moved to Fort Collins, where I interned with The Growing Project, and in Denver, I volunteered weekly at Ekar Farms. I believe it is highly important to connect to our food systems, and to grow the organic movement.

I heard about Denver Urban Gardens through a service corps program I was working with called Repair the World. I was part of a small cohort of Colorado residents. Basically, corps members get paired up with local community organizations in need of volunteers. My liaison, Alana, told me about DUG and I was really excited about it. I’m no expert farmer, even gardener, but I love the work, I love the cause. I was so surprised that I had never heard of DUG because I’m always trying to get involved in these kinds of communities, and now that I am aware of them I see their gardens all over the city!

My role with DUG was to help update and standardize the garden directory on their website. It was truly one of the best volunteer opportunities I’ve had, even though it wasn’t in person. Niko laid out her hopes for this particular project so clearly. She has such a strong vision, and I am honored I was able to help her see it through. 

For me, my passion is planet Earth, which extends to humans as well.

There are so many important movements – there’s conservation, there’s animal welfare organizations, there’s greening cities, there’s clean energy, there’s all these things. For me, agriculture is the thing that I see myself being a part of to contribute to this greater holistic movement. The future is small farms, and people working together and collaborating to connect over sustainably-sourced and seasonally relevant food. 

And why? Because it’s so relevant, it’s relevant to every single living being, we are all eating all the time. There’s parts of this environmental movement that I don’t think necessarily touch us every day, but food does.

And I see the value and the importance of the work DUG does because of its reach throughout the city, there are so many who have the opportunity to understand where their food is coming from, and what it takes to grow food – the challenges in it, and the hard work that is behind it, the need for resources like water, labor, and healthy land. I think that it’s so necessary today to educate people about the nourishment they feed their bodies. Were toxic chemicals involved in producing the food? Were the people growing and harvesting the products paid a fair and liveable wage? Was there a great amount of waste involved or were the farming methods more regenerative? Additionally, we are privileged that we can go and grab what we need year round, but the reality is that most produce and ingredients are only available in certain seasons, and to obtain off-season items takes a tremendous amount of energy to transport it across the world.  

I have seen some documentaries that have woken me up to the reality of modern-day agriculture, and to the large agribusinesses that are wreaking havoc on our earth.

To bring it back to a microcosmic level, to bring it back home, to bring it to a garden next door – that reconnects us – to our food, to one another, and to the bigger picture of what we can do as a community to combat the environmental damage caused by the food that we’re eating. It’s just the system we’re in, but we have to do something to change it. 

There is a quote I love, from Rabbi Tarfon. “You are not obligated to finish the work. But neither are you at liberty to neglect it.” 

We might not see a revolutionary change in our food system in our lifetime, but we can’t ignore it. We have to do something, and everyone has a part to play and there really is a little we can all do, instead of feeling doomed, which I honestly do feel sometimes. But I know that there are people out there who care, and nothing beats being around the likes of them.

With gardening it’s not just about addressing the bigger issues. Only good that can come out of going to volunteer on your local farm or garden. You’re connecting with people, you’re outside, you’re digging in dirt, you’re connecting in a way that you can’t in other aspects of life, especially living in a city. It is a special kind of person who wants to spend their time learning about growing food, and it’s amazing to be in a community of people who are very passionate and caring. 

And it’s just plain good for the soul. You’re outside in the sunshine (most days), working for not only a good but a critical cause, with others. It’s all so symbolic. You get dirty as you dig out the dark stuff. You observe the growing season, and the season of rest. When weeding – you’re removing the stuff that doesn’t serve you anymore, allowing space for fresh, new, healthy growth. A lot of people I know work in dirt in this way have connected this work to personal struggles, and personal triumphs.

This is the first season I will be trying to garden in a DUG community garden, and that is going to change my summer and really impact my life in big ways. I am very thankful for DUG.

You can learn more about Repair the World’s Service Corps here.

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