2021 Catalog: Stories of Resilience Part 1
Hope Is A Seed
Sowing the Seeds of Resilience
Through the unprecedented challenges of 2020, the intersectional nature of community was highlighted: how we each have a role to play and some magic to make, to keep us growing, adaptive and resilient. Moments of hardship will always reveal the injustices and the work left to be done. They simultaneously catalyze the very people that can provide the skills and courage necessary to bring about change, into action.
These people are seeds and their work in this world is essential. We recognize the hope they plant, harvest and share. We see how the hero in each of us blooms when resources, community support and access are equally distributed. As we mourn those we’ve lost and reconcile the evolving challenges ahead, we have been tasked to plant our own seeds of hope and to share the bounty at harvest.
We isolated. As it became clear that gatherings were potential threats to the safety of our communities; our way of life was forced to adapt. As many found themselves trapped in apartments, locked in homes or quarantined to the sunshine of their land without the comradery of their cherished people, we began a very individualized journey. People used their time alone to innovate and strategize. Essential businesses came up with safe, inclusive ways to get resources to their communities. Growers developed contactless payment strategies, opened CSAs and connected their produce to the food insecure in their region.
We planted. Whether we had access to farmland, a front lawn, a patio outside the apartment, or a community garden in the city, one thing is certain, people were inspired to grow their own food. Some planted for the first time while others expanded to help curb shortages and disruptions in the food chain. The soil encountered countless new hands planting seemingly endless seeds. A reimagining took place where we once again looked to the ground beneath our feet for stability and sustenance. A renewed appreciation for what our own hands are capable of developed confidence and resilience in our communities.
We grew. These individual efforts became a patchwork quilt of growing spaces. This quilt of new growth began connecting the continent together as new gardens and farms popped up, accepting sunlight, moisture, pollinators and a new wave of land stewards. Where grass used to be, the sweet fruits of summer were being shared. A fresh sense of community was blooming. Beautiful gardens, bountiful harvests and stories of resilience wrote our collective biography through the handheld lenses of so many individuals facing the challenges head on with grace and compassion.
We harvested. 2020 doled out many meaningful lessons about how we care for one another. From our efforts in the soil, we gleaned much more than just vegetables this year. As we collectively took a difficult journey inward, we each garnered the power to sprout an outward commitment to action. In our 2021 catalog you will read the stories of people from across North America that have sown the seeds of resilience. Their individual efforts in their hometowns and regions reflect a powerful truth: a hopeful future is only possible if we choose to engage with the world and use our own two hands to create it.
Stories of Resilience
Jay Hill is a mental health advocate and grower who works on local farms in North Carolina, grows herbs and food for her own pantry and answered the call to join in the imperative work of food justice when she was still in college. At a certain point in Jay’s journey through her studies, it became clear that her mental health was edging into a downward spiral. Jay took refuge in growing food, placing her hands in the earth and developing a deep connection to the rooted-ness of plants, seasons and natural rhythms. She found healing there and felt called to share that space with others.
“Since creating a space where I could speak openly about my mental health journey, so many folx have reached out to me to share their own personal battles and victories with their mental health recovery. Just knowing that folx feel seen and there's a connection between shared experiences brings me heart-swelling joy that we are all collectively on this journey to self-healing"
While the act of growing plants itself can serve as a salve for our own personal experiences of growth, Jay also sees that there is something very special about sharing the harvest. “Food is what holds us together as a community. It's ceremonial, it provides sustenance for our bodies. It is how we celebrate life as well as how we show up to mourn those we’ve lost. We revere it when in need most, we waste it when we have it in excess. It helps to soothe emotional pains. It can be addictive; it can be healing. The restricted access to food resources devastates communities.”
While limited access to food resources remains a big issue in our food system today, Jay also notes that access to agricultural resources, tools and capital to BIPOC farmers and growers has historically been limited. A truly sustainable future, in Jay’s mind, can only come from the equitable distribution of all resources. “I see a future where farmers are the most highly respected profession. Small farmers, especially Black & POC farmers and growers, getting treated fairly in the food industry. This would mean getting compensated equally, receiving more approved loans, having equal access to natural disaster relief funds. I see a future where migrant farm workers are no longer exploited.”
This future may just be at hand as Jay notes that her generation and those that are following in her footsteps are showing dedication to making change. “This generation and the upcoming generation are taking courageous action to advocate for better policies and systems that authentically serve the people first.”
When it comes to Jay’s personal relationship with her community and this Earth, she plans to be intentional about her impact and caring to herself, the Earth and others. “My work in the world starts with me and my healing, deepening my knowledge of how my actions impact the earth. The way I consume, the way I talk to myself, how I dispose of waste, how I form connections, how to truly be intentionally compassionate to myself so that I can gracefully offer compassion to the world. I heal myself; I heal my ancestors; I heal the next generation.”
Livin’ the Dream Farm is a family farm located in Shirley, British Columbia on Vancouver Island, Canada. The farm is run by three families, all branching from the same Greenwood family tree. The elders, Ken and Charlotte sold what they thought was their dream home in Richmond, B.C. and purchased 10 acres of land with their son Wes and his wife Marta and their son Darrell and his wife Katie. They are very proud grandparents and enjoy living in their family environment where they can work as a team to distribute produce to their community. “We pretty much dropped everything we were doing, let go of our city lifestyles and made the trip across the bridge of uncertainty. What an incredible risk we all took and now we are fully embraced by our incredible community!”
As a small farm in 2020, Covid-19 forced the family to adapt quickly to the mounting pressures of evolving food and safety regulations, consumer demand and an uncertain future. “Covid-19 became an interesting time for our farm. We knew that we were relied on as an essential service and that it was important, now more than ever, to get fresh, organic, nutrient dense food to our community. We decided to close our farm stand for the year for safety and, at that point, we were unsure if any of our markets would be open. The challenge we faced was how to distribute our produce in a contactless and safe way. We were so used to our customers coming to us but with quarantine, we had to think outside the box.”
“We always had an online newsletter format for ordering produce. We decided, rather than our customer coming to a market, they would meet us at the market location and the groceries they ordered and paid for online would be placed gently on the hood of their car. This contactless way of distribution worked well for us and we felt an overwhelming amount of support from our community. We were able to deliver nutrition in a safe manner and that small change was simple, yet effective.”
While the season presented many challenges to the Greenwood family and their farm operation, they were struck by how much their local community was willing to adapt with them. “Our customers make us hopeful. When we see the joy and passion our customers have for fresh, nutrient-dense, natural foods. It's their loyalty and excitement that gives us hope as food producers.”
Looking forward to 2021, the Greenwood family will be using this hope to carry them through to future harvests. Even as hardships remain, the family understands the inherent value in deciding to be here now. “Crisis always brings the potential for growth on a personal level as well as collectively. In 2020, so many changes have already taken place, so we are focusing on staying entirely in the present moment. This allows us to stay grounded, focused and ready for whatever we need to do to contribute to our world. One step at a time, one moment at a time, one day at a time - this is how we establish and maintain the sturdy foundation as well as our relationship with Mother Earth.”
Celina Landry is the Fulfillment Operations Manager at High Mowing Organic Seeds. In March of 2020, she found herself working tirelessly to meet the growing demand for seed that was inundating the High Mowing warehouse with orders, all while doing what was necessary to keep her staff healthy and safe. “The biggest challenge for me daily was to always remember that we were doing the very best we could for our customers. Covid-19 caused unprecedented times for High Mowing. It was like nothing we had ever seen, and it was a challenge every day to see us get further behind in the Fulfillment Department. We pride ourselves on getting orders out the door within 24 hours and we just could not keep up with the demand.”
As the pressures continued to mount, Celina and her team were forced to adapt. “Operationally the Fulfillment Department was shipping orders when items became available versus holding orders back so they could ship complete. For example, an order that contained 10 items might have 3 or 4 different shipments belonging to that one order. Additionally, we ran 2 shifts. A typical Fulfillment shift in peak season would have a max of 9 to 10 people. At the start of Covid-19 we were running morning and night shifts with additional people so that we could keep our staff safe and increase the amount of orders we were shipping daily.”
High Mowing was able to band together and catch up in just 4 weeks. The pivotal role that Celina fulfilled at High Mowing at the start of 2020 is something that the entire team was not only grateful for, but completely inspired by. Celina is an essential part of our team, bringing her very best every day, ready to meet the challenges of our evolving times with grace and perseverance. Her hope is that her work contributes something to the bigger picture; that from the seeds she ships across North America, prosperity blooms where it is needed most. "I hope that the work I’m doing in the world will continue to provide the highest quality organic seeds to farmers so that they can continue to provide food to their communities, allowing them to grow, prosper and keep fighting the good fight.“
Celina feels that the pandemic was revealing about some of the issues we face as a globalized community. While Covid-19 highlighted the work that must be done, it also hit home the importance of working together. “I think that this pandemic pointed out a lot of weak spots within our food system. My hope is that all the seeds we sold this year found their way to soil, that food didn’t go to waste, and people continue to understand the importance of growing organically, spreading that knowledge to others. Working in the seed industry has taught me that we are all in this together. Unlike other industries I have worked, having our competitors fail does not mean we are successful. For us to be successful in what we are trying to do, we all have to succeed together.”
For Celina, her journey with the food system is not just a career choice, it is a way of life. Her passion for what she calls “the good work” of organic agriculture is met equally with a deep reverence for food. “My relationship with the food systems is both professional and personal. Professionally, I get the privilege to distribute organic seeds to growers and home gardeners throughout the US and Canada. I feel very honored to be part of the organic world in that sense. Personally, food is something that brings me and my loved ones together. One of my favorite things to do is to cook with my partner.”
Stay tuned for part 2 of our series 2021 Catalog: Stories of Resilience which will go live on November 30th.