This past summer I spent my days outside planting, weeding, bed-prepping, harvesting, singing and dancing with shovels and rakes, and eating delicious fresh food that I had a part in growing.
Interning at the Hacienda Market Garden was life-changing experience. Four reasons:
1. Getting dirt under my nails.
You know the feeling when you’re kind of scared of something – but it’s only because you have no experience with it? That was my main feeling with gardening…and the outdoors in general. (I always used to joke – I must have been the only Environment Resource Studies student who hadn’t been outside yet) I loved the idea of it – gardening – but I was sort of afraid because I hadn’t had the chance to get some dirt under my fingernails.
I knew this internship would be the perfect opportunity to throw myself into gardening, to just do it. I loved that we were told we didn’t necessarily have to have extensive farming or gardening experience. It was a learning internship, in fact. Coming out the internship, I can’t say I know perfectly well how to grow everything – but I now have the familiarity and confidence that I can get started.
(And now, my romantic daydreams of having an orchard and raising goats aren’t so out of the realm of the possible.)
As part of our internship, we got to meet with other Working Centre interns to talk shop. We discussed themes surrounding the values and ideas behind how the Working Centre, a community-building organization in downtown Kitchener is responding to unemployment and poverty. Many of these ideas really resonated with me, and I was delighted to able to take time to discuss and hear what others thought about the ideas. It was the opportunity to talk not just about what we were doing, but also how and why. Some of the ideas we talked about have remained with me.
The Working Centre is pretty special in that it makes intentional effort to remain true to resisting bureaucracy and hierarchy. By remaining open to revisiting decisions and ways of doing things, the people at the organization try to engage in discussion about how to do things, rather than automatically deferring to policies or precedents. Other ideas have really stuck with me: viewing our work as a gift, seeing relationships as reciprocal, rather than one person giving something to another person out of their charity, truly recognizing the value in what another person can give you too.
I loved these ideas, and though I realize it takes time, discussion, and MISTAKES to follow in line with these values, I hope they will be things I can take with me into whatever community I am a part of.
3. New relationship to food and to my community
I ate really well with the large variety of vegetables around me. I loved coming home with a huge load of seconds and asking, “Internet! What can I do with mustard greens/tomatoes/radishes?!”
I had already enjoyed cooking and vegetables, but I gained a lot more experience and understanding about the whole life cycle – from seed to plate to belly – of food.
4. Wonderful people
For me, whatever the work, what really makes a good experience is lovely people to work with. I’m so blessed to have met everyone I worked with at the garden, and feel so grateful for the fun times we had.