We have been continuing engaging with text and community and it has been increasingly exciting to see these two expressed alongside of one another. A quote that really stood out when thinking about working with specifically the Glen Haven community was “We all exist thanks to others, with others, and through others. Together we make up the biosphere as a great integrated and integrating whole” (Boff, 87). One of the fundamental things that Boff talks about in the beginning of the book is how ecology takes into account the non-hierarchal importance of every single piece of a system and living community and the ways in which our communities and theology can learn from that. The importance of all the members of a community and the ways they are a “integrated and integrating whole” is something that’s really clear and has become even more apparent as we work further with Glen Haven. The community is made up of so many different people from so many different places who speak different languages, but all of them play fundamental roles in supporting one another within the community. Glen Haven is one of the communities we have definitely gotten to work the most in during our weekly drop offs of fresh produce, working with the Women’s Learning Group and additional weekend work days. Through these experiences, we’ve gotten to see first hand the way the connection between environment and people strengthens community as well as the way communities integrate to help one another.
“A integrated and integrating whole” has been a definition our individual group of the Mobile Oasis team has taken on as well. We think as we have found what individual gifts and leadings we bring into our space and in turn the greater community we have been able to become a more cohesive collaboration.
At the heart of Ecology & Liberation is the idea that the interconnected relationship of all things is a uniting and driving force, both in an environmental and a greater understanding. This summer we’ve gotten to work with people from all different backgrounds and faiths and identities, who all are driven and united together by love for the environment and community, and the ways we’ve gotten to see communities grow together and with us has been really heart-warming.
We are starting to get very sad about leaving these communities and our own group but can’t wait to get back at the end of the Summer with renewed energy!
This past Thursday we visited the Glen Haven English class for the final time this summer. Over the past few weeks, we’ve had the incredible opportunity to work with the women from the Glen Haven community on studying English as well as information for the citizenship test. Each week we’ve gotten a chance to work and get closer with the women, learning more about them and their lives and getting a chance to share about ourselves with them as well. When we first came to the classes we originally were a little unsure about what to do, Andrew helped guide us a lot and helped to show us what techniques worked best for teaching new words and concepts. While our first classes were mainly focused on the citizenship and civics test books, we learned a lot about the women that began to help us improve our relationship with them as well as our drop off that takes place at Glen Haven on Fridays. In getting to talk with the women in those first classes we learned about what vegetables they and other community members had more interest in us bringing on Fridays, as well as some valuable Nepalese words for labeling vegetables, tools and greeting one another.
As we’ve gotten more chances throughout the summer to work with the women and talk with them during the classes we’ve learned more about each other and worked together in ways that allow us to improve the access to food in Glen Haven in new ways. Because there are so many different community members living in Glen Haven communication between them is key especially when access to food is such a necessary thing for everyone to be informed about. By working with the women in the English class we’ve been able to identify not only who among them we need to be providing more food for, but also who else in the community is in need of more food each week. While talking to the women in the community we also were able to create a list of the most common produce we bring on Fridays written in English, Nepalese, and Karen, in the hopes to help more members of the community identify their vegetables. The most important thing however from the classes has definitely been getting to have a better relationship with the women in the community and learn about their lives and families as well as having the opportunity to share about ourselves with them. We’ve gotten to do a lot of really exciting projects with the Glen Haven community this summer but of them, all this class has been one of the most rewarding without a doubt.
Feeling grateful for these budding relationships that have turned us from pauma (gusests) to sati (friends) but don’t trust us on that spelling!
This summer as we’ve been working with the Mobile Oasis project, we’ve also been researching and reading about the intersections between food systems and theology. Recently we’ve been reading Leonardo Boff’s Ecology & Liberation, which offers up ways in which theology must fundamentally shift to address the environment and our relationship to it.
The beginning of Boff’s book focuses on the ways human beings but specifically industrialized western nations have caused significant negative environmental damage, and how that has helped shape and affect our systems of power as well. Boff outlines how our ideologies of power and growth have negatively affected our most marginalized community members as well as the environment itself. He states that our model of growth takes from the workers and environment and that “The benefits are available only to a restricted group of nations or to the upper classes of a nation, and they do not include the well-being of nature.” (Boff pg. 20) In understanding this, and looking at the different communities we work with, we can see the ways in which communities working together for food sovereignty is truly a revolutionary and critical act. Growing food and establishing markets to promote food sovereignty and access allows communities to not only better the environment but reclaim power in a system that steals wealth, food, and clean environmental conditions from them. This is especially true in situations like those in Greensboro where communities who seek to grow their own food face further challenges of polluted and barren land as a result of racist and classist laws and pollution.
How do we get heard, how do we stop these communities from being abused or disregarded in ways that permanently damage the land and the people that live on it? For example on a national level, how have we allowed such a prolonged water crisis to affect Flint, Michigan?
How are we mindful of the divides in our communities and food system? And in what ways are we passive to them?
In understanding establishing food sovereignty as a radical reclamation of power, what else can be done within Greensboro and within Guilford to secure a healthy food system for the most marginalized among us?
This summer with the Mobile Oasis and Mobile Market projects we’ve helped work on preparing garden beds for different members of our Greensboro community. One of the most important things that go into making those beds, is ensuring that we have rich nutrient filled soil for the plants to thrive in. In order to help facilitate good soil, we make sure to incorporate compost into our beds to help give the plants the best possible growing environment we can give them. Composting doesn’t have to be done on as large of a scale as we do it at Guilford however, you can make a compost system at your home too! Having a compost system is an excellent way to reduce the amount of waste you create, and in turn, also serves as an amazing nutrient source for your household plants and garden.
Too often composting can seem like an overly complicated or scientific task, but it has huge benefits for you and your garden and is simple to do! To start a compost system at your house all you really need is a small container to collect food waste inside and a place for your actual compost bin or pile. Your compost system doesn’t have to be large and doesn’t even have to be contained in a bin. My family for years kept our compost in a large pile without any sort of container and we got good soil from it every year. If you are looking to make a bin, chicken wire makes an excellent cheap bin at any size. To prepare the bin all you have to do is wrap it into a cylinder to the size of your liking and bend the wires to connect the bin. Additionally, if you live in an area with critters commonly outside your house you may want to cover the bin when food waste is added. There are all sorts of types of compost bins you can make though so take some time looking around to see what type will work best for you.
Composting in your backyard or in your home works just like decomposition does in nature. A series of bacteria and microorganisms all play different roles producing and feeding on energy to break down the plant matter into the nutrient rich soil. While all of these little creatures have numerous complex jobs to do, you only have one main one in the process, to keep the pile well fed!
The most important component for a healthy compost bin is a balance of carbon and nitrogen in your materials of choice. For carbon, your going to want things like dry leaves, plant stalks, straw, pine needles, mainly tough brown material. Your kitchen and yard do a great job of supplying the nitrogen you need in the form of leftover food waste as well as plant and grass clippings. The balance between the two you want to maintain is about 30 parts carbon to 1 part nitrogen, so make sure to stock up on things like dry leaves when you can so you can keep your compost going always! As long as that balance is maintained your compost pile or bin will continue creating nutrient rich soil without the bad smell.
Your level of involvement with your compost bin can be as little or as great as you want it to be. Regardless of if you obsess over maintaining perfect temperatures and worm populations or if you just fill the bin with scraps from dinner you’ll eventually end up with great soil no matter what!
This past weekend we were able to help with ongoing work going on in the Glen Haven community which if we haven’t mentioned before is inhabited primarily by immigrant and refugee families. Many of these families are Bhutanese and Nepalese however there are also families from Burma, Vietnam, Niger, Iraq, and Pakistan. This is a community Guilford and more specifically the Bonner Center has been involved in through a variety of ways including being a drop off site location for donated veggies from grocery stores in the area as well as Guilford’s farm and tutoring programs for the youth living there.
In the back of the apartment complex, there is a row of raised beds filled with bright red peppers, pink striped beans, and outspreading squash! This is a really amazing testament to the vibrancy and resilience of the communities that we have been lucky enough to be apart of. Andrew from Bonner was a leading role in the project this weekend in an attempt to create a learning environment while also building a place to grow food and in turn improve the community member’s health.
Much of the focus was on having the women in the Women’s Learning Group that meet on Fridays to put their English vocabulary to the test in the tactile skills of measuring, hammering and using the drill. With a group of eight from Guilford and the help of the families of this community, we were able to build two beds equipped with nice fresh compost that will hopefully be a space of new growth! This was a really great way for our two communities to work together and getting to interact with the individuals of the community in a more personal way.
Although sometimes there is giggling we don’t understand or conversations we miss, we are always welcomed with smiling faces and this hot Sunday even brought us refreshing water and mountain dew too! Having a language barrier can definitely make things complicated especially when the extent of our knowledge is ‘namaste’ and some of the words for vegetables we have learned in which we have no idea how to spell (yet!) It takes persistence from both sides to break down these walls and our team is still working on the names of the people we see each week. However, food and friendship quickly bring our two communities together and I think it’s safe to say our group really looks forward to our time with these women each week as we are always brightened up by their boundless joy, (and soon I hope we’ll have more to say than just Namaste and tomatar.)
Keep a look out this week for a blog post about how to make your own compost bin which Jake taught the group how to make last week!
Community is at the heart of everything we’ve been working on this summer and our site visits are the time we get to really engage with all of the amazing people living and working in Greensboro. Over the last few weeks, we’ve had some wonderful opportunities to get to work alongside different community members and learn about the work they’ve been doing and continue to do regarding food justice and food sovereignty. Through working with and learning from members of the community, we’re able to better understand the common threads and causes that connect us all to one another.
The most incredible thing about getting to work with so many different members of a community is that we get to see the ways people approach what matters to them. The focus of dedicated individuals working passionately on projects that mean something to them and those around them and the ways their work connects to those alongside them is a really unique and inspiring thing to witness. We’ve gotten chances to work alongside members of the Sunflower Center, Prince of Peace, Every Campus A Refuge, and many others. The ways in which all of their work differs as well as intertwines helps create a rich community-based food system.
At Prince of Peace, we got to see an excellent example of a place of faith embracing the needs and ideas of their community in a concrete and effective way. Through their construction of garden beds, they offer a place for community members to both feel connected to creation through gardening as well as feed and sustain themselves and others. We had the opportunity to help clean up the walking labyrinth at Prince of Peace which was another beautiful example they had of focusing on the need for a connection to the natural world as well as the communities desires. The proximity of both of these projects to the church itself also adds to the feeling of community growth, as it’s clear that Prince of Peace is both a place of worship and worshipful action. Getting to see a place of faith so closely engaged with bettering the local food system was really inspiring, and really sets an example for ways Quaker Meetings could engage with these ideas.
Working with The Sunflower Center was another excellent experience that really shifted the way we looked at how community members can work to affect change. The Sunflower Center offers a place not only for food for those in need but an educational and community space where people can learn skills for themselves and pitch in to help feed the community as well. Our morning there was transformative and getting to see such an intentional space that focused not only on food sovereignty but also on community growth and acceptance was inspiring. Spaces like The Sunflower Center really show how the actions and decisions by those who feel lead can grow to have a huge impact and can start truly anywhere. These experiences and others we’ve had reveal the power of community work and the dedication of individuals who genuinely care about the well-being and happiness of those around them. To engage with your community is to strengthen not only the bonds and love between one another but also to grow and change yourself in beautiful ways. Our communities are only as vibrant and strong as the members of them.
(Weeding with a local kitty at The Sunflower Center!)
(Jake and Elijah start the digging of a new garden for a refugee family!)