From TSL: Volunteering on the Farm is Cool – Even When It’s Hot Out

Weather in Boston has cooled down (thanks to a few rainy days) since our first heat wave of the year nearly two weeks ago. Most New Englanders made sure to stay inside and enjoy the air conditioning, while quite a few headed to the nearest lake, beach or pool. The Public Service Committees of the Environmental Law and New Lawyers Section, however, were braving the sweltering heat on one of the hottest days of the year to spend three hours on a farm, volunteering with the Food Project’s “Serve & Grow Program.”

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TSL has posted on The Food Project, a nonprofit organization devoted to promoting urban and suburban sustainable agriculture before, but here’s a quick rundown. The program is essentially split into two parts:

  •  The Youth Program, where teenagers from Greater Boston and the North Shore cultivate farmland, participate in workshops, work with hunger relief organizations, and lead volunteers in the fields.
  • Serve & Grow Program, where volunteers help the Food Project achieve their mission by visiting our farms to help tend the fields planting, weeding, harvesting, washing vegetables, and preparing beds.

Naturally, after hearing about this volunteer experience, TSL wanted to know more, so we touched base with Staci Rubin of Alternatives for Community & Environment (ACE), who serves as Co-Chair of the Environmental Law Public Service Committee to learn more about the experience.

1)      Why did you choose The Food Project as a volunteer opportunity?

We chose to volunteer at the Food Project because we wanted to continue the BBA’s practice of supporting The Food Project’s work and exposing the legal community to a rewarding community service opportunity.  One recommendation of the BBA’s Sustainability Task Force was that a group from the BBA volunteers annually at The Food Project.  The Food Project manages 40 acres of farmland in Eastern Massachusetts (Beverly, Boston, Lincoln, and Lynn), primarily through the work of young people and volunteers.  At the West Cottage farm in Dorchester, we had the opportunity to help maintain crops that will be sold to farmers’ markets and donated to hunger relief organizations.  This event was a nice follow-up to the urban agriculture brown bag lunch on February 28 sponsored by our committee.

2) What was your experience like?

We began the day learning about the food system: the process of getting food from the earth (through cultivation, production, transportation, distribution, and consumption) to people.  The youth from The Food Project led us in a series of exercises to learn facts about the farm bill, worker conditions, and the average price growers get for producing a pound of food.  We then divided into groups to focus on weeding and maintaining the pathways between beds.  We spent three hours working the land, with plenty of time for water and food breaks.  We then had a short closing conversation to reflect on the day.   A highlight for me was meeting new people and engaging in good conversations while weeding the beet beds.  The aroma from the nearby chives and hot sun provided the perfect setting for a morning on the urban farm.

Kudos to our volunteers for their commitment to continuing the hard work of the BBA Sustainability Task Force and working with a community initiative that increases the accessibility of fresh produce to low income families. On a 91 degree day, no less.

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