Friday, August 21, 2009
My name is Ami Freeberg and I spent two months last summer as an intern with New Roots for Refugees. In a week I will be starting my senior year studying Sociology and Global Development at Grinnell College in Iowa. I stumbled across the New Roots project through the Kansas City Center for Urban Agriculture which was a perfect combination to fit with my academic and personal interests. During my first week on the job Katherine Kelly told me this would be one of the most incredible experiences of my life. I nodded but brushed it off saying, “well I’ve already been skydiving so I don’t know…” She was right.
Last weekend I returned Kansas City after a year back in school and studying abroad. It was inspiring to see the growth and transformations that had taken place on the farm since I left last July. My first day on the job last May happened to be the first day the women put plants and seeds in their rocky plots. Throughout the season I saw the empty field become a productive farm, but not without many challenges and frustrations. It took many weeks to get a functional irrigation system in place. The rows of vegetables snaked and crossed through the plot making it difficult to weed, walk through it or lay drip tape. We moved all the rocks and bricks that had been pulled out of the tilled land to a big pile on the edge of the property but as soon as we had finished more appeared that had been thrown out of the gardens into the aisles. Everyday was an adventure trying to communicate about how to trellis tomatoes or the importance of putting waste in the trash cans or compost. The storage shed looked like a tornado had hit with tools, seeds and equipment scattered everywhere.
Going back a year later I was happy to see that everything was much more organized. The storage sheds had shelves and were neatly organized. They created a seed bank with a corresponding book including pictures to help the participants select what to plant. The rows looked much straighter and the plots better cared for. Harvest ran smoothly with volunteers helping pick, weigh and wash as needed. At the market on Saturday the women set up their stands and made their transactions mostly independently. It was fulfilling to see the progress that had happened in just a year. Yes, there are still challenges and will continue to be ways to improve the operations of the New Roots for Refugees project and farming and marketing knowledge of the participants. But from being part of the very first day of planting to seeing the harvest and market last weekend, I was so proud of the women. Katherine was right; working on this project was one of the most rewarding and life-changing experiences of my twenty-one years.
Posted by Ami at 1:06 PM