A Day of Service in the Garden

BlogHer Original Post

In 1994, Congress declared that Martin Luther King holiday should become a National Day of Service.  This year, spurred on by President-elect Obama's call to service, this became the most active volunteer day in the holiday's 14 year history. Did you heed the call?  I did.

As a member of Citizen Hope, I was offered four different volunteer opportunities, but how could I not choose to work at a school farm in an economically challenged part of the region? 

Lincoln Elementary School Farm.  Volunteers will help 3rd grade student farmers in their food garden, which helps provide organic produce for their families. Project will include mulching, moving soil, building garden beds and planting

That description was a little inaccurate; it was a holiday at this school -like every other school.  Instead of working with 3rd graders, I discovered that this was a community event of about 100 volunteers with several organizations managing the lot.

Does your town have green belt paths that wander through neighborhoods?  These are frequently blacktopped paths, wide enough for several to walk or a couple bikes.  They offer exercise and a way into the fresh air; unfortunately, they are often bordered by several feet of grass, weeds, trash and stagnant water.  The Lincoln School Farm is an exception to this.

MLK NDS, Lincoln School

The Lincoln School Farm utilizes this space along the path to grow an inspired school garden. When the project is fully developed, the farm will continue for one mile along the walking path. At the moment, it's much shorter, but quite wonderful.

There are raised beds filled with peas and fava beans, and lettuces now. A colorfully painted worm composter is nestled in among these legumes. Across the path, a variety of fruit trees are getting established. Further down the path a variety of berries grow across the way from a native plant garden.  The natives are used to attract pollinators to the garden row.

Volunteers worked to weed the gardens, mulch the paths heavily with wood chips, and work to build new beds.  Different organizations managed sections of the garden work; the native plant garden was run by The Watershed Project.

That's where I spent my day measuring out and marking new garden beds.  We worked together; we carried soil and mulch; we shared a lunch of locally grown foods; and when the music was inspired we danced.  My dance partner was the rake I used to smooth dirt on the new beds we built. Thank goodness there isn't a picture of that!

We worked side-by-side with strangers who became new friends.  Parents introduced their children to the wonders of dirt under the fingernails and the joy of water and dirt.  For these hours, we forgot our differences.  Race, religion, income levels mattered so much less than our willingness to jump in and work together in the sun and fresh air to help build this garden space. 

And, driving home afterward contemplating the day, it was this coming together that stayed with me the longest.  The wonderful sense of community created in sun, water, soil on a day service was the unexpected payoff of the day.  I left feeling that I had received a much greater gift than the time I had donated.

So I ask you, did you participate in this Day of Service? Have you volunteered in other ways in community garden space?  And was your experience as joyful my own?

Photo credit from Debra Roby's  Flickr stream.

Related Reading:

The OTHER Mother and her family spent the day painting a mural in Houston.

Amy Gates spent her own National Day of Service with her family, picking up trash at a neighborhood park.

Genie at The Inadvertent Gardener volunteered at the San Francisco Victory Garden this past summer.

Debra Roby blogs her creative life at A Stitch in Time and her journey to fitness at Weight for Deb.

Recent Posts by debra roby

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