Real Food For Thought

Breaking Down Service as a Farm Educator

By Vanessa Lubiner, Education Assistant Corpsmember

The incorporation and composition of compost occupies quite a bit of my thinking. In field trips and service learning trips, we get our hands in the soil. It’s the best way to learn about it. After weeding, mulching, and harvesting we head for the compost! We wade through the worm bin, through rotting apple cores, last month’s newspaper clippings, unidentifiable scraps of vegetables half-eaten. We unearth a few wiggly friends and rolly-pollys. It’s a whole ecosystem.

Within the ecosystem of Civic Works’ Real Food Farm, education programming is an important component. As a farm educator, I lead service learning trips, field trips, and educational workshops for adults. Groups from all over Baltimore City and County roll through for exposure to farming. Urban agriculture intersects with many points, in school and in daily life. We attempt to look through the lens of food justice–examining health, history, environmentalism, science, and culture. We dissect systems and our individual relationships to them (not the worms!). Participants bring along their own lived experiences, which are foundational contributions. And as odd as this might sound, the comings and goings of these groups bring a constant yet changing energy to the farm ecosystem.

There is more consistent energy, though, from the farmers and from interns. I am grateful to spend time with two of these groups regularly. Though I enjoy the whirlwind of many different groups from many different places, it does not lend itself well for sustained relationship building. Farm Helpers are a dream team comprised of Civic Works’ Reach! Partnership High School students and Claremont High School students. We serve on small projects around the farm such as weeding, watering, and seed saving -tasks that express the cyclical nature of the garden. I appreciate the stories that they share, and the time they take to listen to my own. We learn a lot about each other’s tastes and traditions by talking about food.

In transition, in the chilly weather, these school trips start to slow down. And as our farm service begins to lie latent, we shift our weight into other projects. Though I am used to serving through winter, my emotional capacity to endure its cold harshness is still growing. So this year, within my service and within myself, I am trying to settle into winter as a period of rest and renewal…almost like compost. Winter turns the compost for Spring, Summer, and Autumn. It is a necessary component of the cycle. So this winter at Real Food Farm, I am going to engage with new material and further develop my knowledge in farming, history, health, and culture in order to be a better farm educator come spring.

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About Real Food Farm

Real Food Farm works toward a just and sustainable food system by improving neighborhood access to healthy food, providing experience-based education, and developing an economically viable, environmentally responsible local agriculture sector.

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