As with most things that are great, they pass too quickly. Summer is coming to an end, which for me means that my time with the Mobile Market is ending, too.
The richness of my experiences defies all expectations -- I began my fellowship at Arcadia with specific objectives, and while I accomplished my goals of learning the inner workings of a nonprofit, running a small business, and the production and distribution of sustainable food, the greatest lessons from this summer were the daily interactions with our market-goers.
Sustainable food issues have been my primary interest for many years, but they were largely discussed in an academic setting. This fellowship brought these issues to life through my conversations with real people, and by serving real communities like Anacostia in D.C. and the Route 1 Corridor of Alexandria, Virginia.
Alex overseeing a busy Mobile Market stop
I love working a farmers’ market because it brings you so close to the diversity of human experience. I got to talk with a woman from Cameroon about a seed-sharing business she has with family who visit her in America, so that she can grow African varieties of bitter greens and beans. I learned about one man’s experience living with diabetes and his new-found appreciation for vegetables. I bonded with another woman over our mutual hope for Michelle Obama to visit the Mobile Market (Madame President: if you are reading this, please take note!). On a number of occasions, I chatted at length in Spanish with a pair of Peruvian women who were seeking beef lung (unfortunately, we can't sell this variety of offal). One regular told me about his trials growing tomatoes in his backyard, while another shared about his life living in Fort Belvoir. On top of all this, there’s the countless family recipes I’ve been entrusted with!
JuJu and Alex with Mr. Avalos, Undersecretary of the USDA
The most rewarding lesson, however, was the frequent debunking that low-income residents in “food deserts” don’t care about where or how their food is grown – to buy into this prevailing assumption totally ignores the vast range of experiences, interests and motivations represented by our market-goers. These are the faces of the food movement, and they were the ones who taught me the most.
I am now headed back to Boston, where I’ve been accepted into a one-year placement through FoodCorps. Now in it’s second year, this branch of AmeriCorps works in partnership with local organizations and elementary schools around the country doing food education, school garden coordination, and school lunch improvement. My placement is with a nonprofit called CitySprouts, where I worked last summer. I am really excited to focus my energies more specifically on elementary and middle school education, although that presents a whole new range of challenges!
Alex helping a group of summer campers pick out some healthy snacks
This summer was incredible, and I will miss my incredible colleagues – Benjamin and JuJu, first and foremost, and the host of helpers who regularly assist with the bus and farm. They made my job so positive and welcoming every day. I wish the best of luck to my replacement (who I am sure will be introduced on this blog shortly,) and will be sure to visit again soon!