Monday, July 12, 2010

Thank You, Lubbock

I’ve been thinking about our farmers’ market experience on Saturday. After a really bad week – flooding, lost crops, pulling the pump on the well and replacing it – the market was a refreshing reminder of the greatness of our community.

First, I must brag on the GRUB crew. At 7:00 a.m. on Saturday morning I had seven teenagers at the farm loading bins of vegetables into our market trailer. They each put in a nine hour day, unpaid, in an effort to earn money to attend the Rooted in Community conference in Raleigh/Durham, North Carolina later this month. Kudos to farm manager, Debbie Cline, for getting the trailer to the farmers’ market for us on her day off, because I am incapable of backing up a trailer.

The weather on Saturday was not the best for an outdoor market and street fair. We began our morning in rain showers which continued off and on throughout the day, only to be interrupted by periods of blazing heat and humidity. But, the show did go on, in spite of the weather. To add to the marketable produce we were able to salvage from our farm, a local vendor helped us buy wholesale from one of his distributors. (Thanks, Cal Brints from Apple Country Orchard!) And another grower showed up with a donation of two boxes of tomatoes for us to sell. (Thanks, Russ!)

The outpouring of support from the community was beautiful. One customer bought $9 worth of vegetables, paid with a one-hundred dollar bill, and told us to keep the change. Another customer told me she wanted to sponsor one of the GRUB teens on the trip and handed me a check for $700! WOW! And, it didn’t end there. One of our CSA shareholders came by with a large donation, as did perfect strangers. On top of this we had the best sales day we’ve ever had at the farmers’ market.

Last Tuesday morning, when surveying the flood damage, one of the GRUB members asked me how we would ever raise the money needed to attend the Rooted in Community conference now that there were no excess vegetables to sell at the market. I assured her that it would all work out, somehow – it always does. Thanks, Lubbock, for not making a liar out of me!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

GRUB Stories

Lately I am feeling like the harried mother of a newborn, so many things are happening and I don’t have time to write it all down. I am missing the opportunity to record too many important moments in my “child’s” life. The “child” in this instance is the GRUB Program. We have been so busy this summer I haven’t had a spare moment in which to write about it. I am forcing myself today to commit to paper a few recent happenings.

The summer program began as hectic as usual – sixteen teenagers in the paid Summer GRUB Program plus an assortment of teens from 12 to 22 showing up every day to perform their court ordered community service. On any day we can expect 20 to 30 “kids” at the farm, add to that the bi-weekly van-load of youth who show up with their probation officers and we have busy week on the farm. Crops were growing great, we had early harvests in our high tunnels and CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) shares of the harvest went out three weeks early this year. All-in-all, a great beginning to our summer until – we received half of our annual rainfall in one weekend. Oops!

Farm Flood 7/5/10

Seven to ten inches of rain on a farm already sitting in a bowl, bordered on one side by a playa lake and on the other sides by homes and concrete, is not a good thing. The rains began on Thursday and didn’t cease until Sunday, at which time we had several feet of water standing on all five acres of our farm.

Is this an essay to complain about the rain and floods on the farm? Certainly not – that was just to set the scene for the two stories I want to tell.

Story #1: Every year a few lucky teens from the GRUB Program get the opportunity to attend a national conference, Rooted in Community, with other youth from across the United States who are participating in garden-based food justice programs. So, this year our budget allowed for three youth and one adult to attend the event. I told the youth in the program to pick three of their peers to represent them and I was quickly informed that that just wouldn’t cut it. I responded with, “Well, that’s all the budget allows, so deal with it.” Okay, here comes the fun part of story #1 – they went over my head! They requested and received a meeting with our Executive Director and our Chief Financial Officer where they convinced them that, because attending the conference had been a “life changing experience” for them in the past – they deserved to go and take four more of the younger teens in the program with them.

Our Executive Director is no fool, and our Chief Financial Officer is known to be a hard-a** at times (when money is involved), so the deal they made with my GRUB emissaries was this: they would front them the money to take the additional youth to the conference, BUT the GRUB teens had to earn the extra money this summer and pay it back. NO PROBLEM! They committed to selling excess farm produce at the farmers’ market every Saturday on their own time in order to raise the money. Sounds good, right? Oh, wait – remember the aforementioned flood? There will be no excess produce! Disaster.

Story #2: I was out of town over the long holiday weekend of the flood. As soon as I got back into town on Monday evening I went to the farm to take photos of the flood damage. I arrived at the farm to find the gate and building wide open and discovered a group of GRUB teens inside the barn building something. They were a bit sheepish when I “caught” them working on a mystery project.

Back-story to Story #2: For the past 10 years our Farm Manager, Debbie Cline, has overseen the harvest and the vegetable cleaning and packaging on two really awful wooden tables. These tables are falling apart and non-utilitarian.

Story #2 continued: So, I “caught” the GRUB teens making new tables for Farm Manager, Debbie. They used money from their hard-earned paychecks (to the tune of $400+), designed tables to hold our harvest and CSA crates, purchased and hauled materials, and hid the entire scheme from farm staff adults. One of the teens involved in this project is a young man who six months ago, when asked where he saw himself in ten years, replied, “Locked up.” This young man happens to be one of the younger GRUB teens picked by his peers to attend the conference. (See what a little self-confidence/self-esteem can do?)

Caught in the act

I left them on Monday evening to finish their project. This morning they surprised Debbie with the tables, complete with hand-painted veggies and an inscription on one that reads, “Strengthening a Community and Building a Family.” I am happy to report that Debbie cried when presented with her present.

Conclusion of Story #2: When I discovered how much money the GRUB teens spent on Debbie’s gift I offered to continue our conference fundraising efforts in order to pay them back. The young man, who heretofore saw his future behind bars, told me in no uncertain terms that he would not accept any money from me. “We did this for Debbie, not GRUB,” he said.

Let’s tie these two stories together – We have the most wonderful, most awesome teenagers in the GRUB Program. Caring, giving, deserving teens – all of whom want to improve their lives and the lives of others. They all deserve the opportunity to attend the National Rooted in Community Conference Help me get them there. To donate or to sponsor a teen, please call me at 806-763-3003, extension 35.

Thanks, Jenifer and the GRUB Teens