Stories of Resilience
As we've each dealt with the difficulties and uncertainties of life amid a global health crisis individually, we've also been forced to carry the burden collectively with disruptions to foodways, resource distribution, healthcare and our local and national economies. It has affected everyone, though not equally, and each community has had to make tough choices about how to move forward with life and business safely. One thing that has been made very apparent is the essential service provided by farmers, gardeners, and food justice activists.
Below we'd like to feature some of these stories provided by individuals taking action and sharing the fruits of their labor with their region, their neighbors and loved ones during Covid 19. We hope that the inspired words of these essential, real life workers bring some much needed peace to your most unsettling and stressful days. The overwhelming theme in these stories of hope is community and we hope that each of you feels supported by and connected to the people who call your region home.
"As a full-time Hospital Infection Preventionist I fight COVID-19 for the entire City of Houston. When I get to Ivy Leaf Farms I serve and fight for food stability for my own neighborhood and community. The Sunnyside neighborhood (zip code 77051,) has been identified as Houston’s COVID-19 hotspot with 3+ cases per 1000 residents.
Ivy leaf Farms is a few days shy from turning 6 months old, founded with the purpose of neighborhood beautification and sustainable food efforts for my Sunnyside community. Before COVID-19, I was working to help eliminate food scarcity issues through backyard gardening education and produce production. With COVID-19 roaming through our streets, I am pushed into overdrive. The need to get fresh produce into the hands and on the doorsteps of my neighbors is more present than ever. I am proud to have the opportunity to serve through my formal education and to serve the community with my knowledge of farming. Our farm motto is “Out The Mud” and out the mud we shall rise strong--COVID-19 will not win." - Ivy Walls of Ivy Leaf Farms LLC in Houston, Texas
"It's hard to find a bit of hope to cling to when it seems like we lose something new every day. Our safety measures seem insufficient almost as soon as we come to terms with them, as heart breaking and gut wrenching as they are--keeping our children from their grandparents and friends, losing our own jobs or having to let go employees who depend on us to feed their families, changing our business model over night, keeping track of a thousand new habits and chores, all necessary to keep our families and communities safe. When I go outside and put my fingers in the dirt and feel the sun shine on my face, I feel hope in spite of myself. It's chemistry and it's culture. I look at what I'm growing and remember my mother's stories about my grandfather's garden, or the farmer friend who shared the seeds with me, or the last time I grew it and how it made my kids fall in love with a food I never thought they'd like.
I chose gardening years ago because I loved food, but I chose to be a small farmer because I love farmers and I wanted to do a job where I could spend more time with these generous, resilient, community focused, and ridiculously hard working people that society can't survive without. It's okay for us to be tremendously grateful for what we have and mourn what we are losing, at the same time. When I feel overwhelmed by all this I think about the faces of the farmers in my community and I feel less scared. We are needed now, more than ever by our communities and by our fellow farmers. There's no one I'd rather be struggling through this with, than all of you." - Sandi Chapman Osterkatz of the Piedmont of North Caorlina
"When I heard that the DMV area where I live and work, was about to be shut down due to COVID-19, my first thought was that I had to keep farming for my community. I started growing food in 2011 because I knew something was coming, but I never thought it would be a global pandemic. I feel blessed to be a farmer and know so many amazing people who tend to the land and who give me hope. There are so many amazing small scale farmers and gardeners in our country who have been fighting tirelessly to change our food system, by calling for equity in all that we do and working to grow our food using sustainable practices. I have faith that this is our opportunity to build the world we want to see one seed at a time." - Violet King of Washington DC
"While I recognize that our current situation is serious, I also know that we have collectively survived much worse. I have hope that people can view what is happening now from a broad perspective. Being part Native American, I think back to the hardships previous generations have faced. Regardless of our own individual ancestry, we are all descendants of people who have made it through tough times. As others have done before, I believe that we will not only get through this together, but we may even be stronger for it in the end. ⠀
I am so grateful for everyone who is playing a role right now, even if it’s simply staying home. On a personal level, I am thrilled to be doing what I love, growing vegetables and herbs here in Portland, Oregon. I’m also happy to be part of a wonderful farm incubator program which provides land and other resources to beginning farmers such as myself. It is truly an honor to be able to feed people. Dawa’ae (thank you) to all who support local agriculture!" - Reiden Gustafson of Little Sun Farm in Gresham, Oregon
“I can’t help but stay inspired by the bright and verdant beginnings of Spring. Spring in the Northeast always brings a feeling of freshness and renewal, and this year I find myself noticing it more than ever. I was first drawn to farming by the slowness it teaches you; the patience and trust it requires. And right now, these lessons seem the most valuable. I encourage people to pause and look at what nature is doing amidst these tough times and be inspired by it! Start a garden! There’s nothing more reassuring than the unfolding of new growth in times when things feel suspended and uncertain." - Henry Anderson of City Green Community Garden in Clifton, New Jersey
But it's taught us resilience, confidence, and innovation. When there's a problem to solve, we don't waste time complaining. We buckle down and solve it. Sometimes that means revamping an entire season's planting plan. Others, it means building a garlic gridder out of scrap wood and cinder block. But in the end, farming makes us the best versions of ourselves and in that, for all the hard work (and marauding grasshoppers) it takes, is a lesson we we feel blessed to learn." - LeeAnne of Lake Hollow Homestead in the Desert Region of Colorado
“The word that continues to trickle through my mind over and over right now is community...we are ready to serve and provide for our community as they have been eager to support us. Our farm is very new, we just had our 1st farmers market last weekend and sold out completely. Friends told friends, area Farmers Markets that closed (due to virus) came together to support vendors going to open Farmers Markets. This feeling of resilience and community coming together to get through a rough time has brought me back to Hurricane Katrina when everyone had to stand together and help each other...we can do this! Sending good vibes to you from our little farm in South Louisiana.” - Becky Bazile of North Shore Greens in Covington, Louisiana
"I often remind myself that growth is not just an upward motion on a graph. It's a long, cumulative game, replete with pauses, collaborations, struggle, and blossoms. I see it as a journey and not a destination. I'm wrapping my head around the idea that there may be no destination considering that life is a closed loop system (we develop through many stages and even in death we break down into our most elemental selves and go back to the matter that began us). This feels like a wonderful thing to see and be apart of when you start a plant from seed. It mingles with the soil and its microbes, it germinates, parts of it die and decompose into the soil, other parts continue, it blooms, it feeds things outside of itself, it matures and withers. I meditate on the beauty and necessity of each stage when I feel stressed about the world." - Sawdayah Brownlee, Board President of Brooklyn Queens Land Trust in Brooklyn, NYC
"Working outside everyday, we are reminded that despite covid-19, growth is happening everywhere and there is hope for the post crisis rebound. It is amazing to see the new shoots of life that come with spring showers and longer days of increased sun. Use this time to reconnect to the earth - start a garden, support a local farm, do the weeding that never gets done - and appreciate the small moments in life that bring warmth to your heart!" - Peanut of Wild Hope Farm in Chester, South Carolina
"Despite the uncertainty of the future right now - or maybe because of it, I feel so motivated and inspired when it comes to growing food and flowers this year. Our resiliency on a global level is being tested and having control of our food - growing it ourselves or getting it from local farmers we know, is such an important part of riding out this pandemic safely and securely. The massive spike of recent interest in local food, and even more so, hearing about people starting up their own home gardens is super rad and fills me with hope - hope that we will come out of this with a renewed sense of connection with the earth, and a sense of wonder and gratefulness for the power of healthy, symbiotic relationships between humans, plants, animals and all the other pieces that make up the web of life. If you're getting into gardening for the first time this year, don't put pressure on yourself for things to be perfect, and don't take it too hard when not everything grows the way you hope it will. Gardening is an experiment and an adventure - it teaches us lessons and it rewards us with moments of magic and nourishment." - Jocelyn Durston of Seven Acres Farm & Ferments in Nova Scotia, Canada
“The commercial food supply is breaking. The local food supply is busting through the seams! Now more than ever it's important that everyone supports their local farmers. Even if it means buying one or a few items a week. It will go a long way into helping the re-investment back into your local community. Small family farmers have and will always be the backbone of America! Support Local!” - Jon Jackson of Comfort Farms in Columbus, Georgia
“Although this season is full of uncertainty for our one year old farm, we are so grateful to have work right now in something absolutely essential: growing nutritious food. The sun still shines, our field irrigation water is still coming, and we have the time and health to do our work. We are staying home, and doing our very best to not only grow immune-boosting food, but also develop new ways to get it to people safely. Small, diverse farms are great at this and it gives us hope to watch farms across the nation shift and flip their production to accommodate the community’s needs. We are some of the essential growers, delivery workers, and grocers during this time.
Our farm and others are seeing an uptick in people wanting to purchase CSAs, find local food, and grow food. It makes us happy to see people turning back to their communities during Covid 19 and coming together in new ways even while physically staying apart.”- Ashley and Caleb of Sun Grounded Farm in Terrebonne, Oregon
"Here's a quote that I've come across randomly on the internet and loved it, so I wrote it down in my journal: 'For a seed to achieve its greatest expression, it must come completely undone. The shell cracks, its insides come out and everything changes. To someone who doesn't understand growth, it would look like complete destruction.' This sentiment seems so fitting for what's happening right now." - Christine Falcon and Jake Daigle of Petaluma, California.
“As a farmer, it’s easy to get caught up in the minute details of weeds, tools, seeds, etc. But in this time when we have been forced to slow down, it has also been a reminder to us about why we farm. We farm so people can eat and live well. We pay attention to the details for the end goal of growing nutritious food shared by families around their table. Our hope is the food we grow can bring health and joy. We farm in order to serve people.” - Kjersten Oudman of King's Hill Farm in Mineral Point, Wisconsin
"Right now I'm just trying to be still and listen. To surrender to the slow down, dig deep and tap into the wisdom that lies here. To learn from what's broken and see the beauty in what's not. I'm grateful for the opportunity to reflect and the privilege to quarantine while working this land - and I'm trying to share that gratitude with my community. All while remembering that life itself is always resilient." - Natasha Blair of Native Mountain Farm in Boonsboro, Maryland
"I thought I would be spending my birthday in the desert this year, soaking in a hot springs under the stars. Instead I am staying home and using this time to add a raspberry patch and expand my little homestead that I started last year on less than 2 acres.
I have learned how to install irrigation, cattle panels, drive t-posts, stretch wire fencing and provide food for my family. I grow nearly everything from seed and it has given me opportunities to try vegetables that I have never even tasted and add many medicinal herbs to my farm. I never thought I would be a woman farmer just starting out at age 50, but I sure dreamed it into being. I am so thankful that this is what I do!" - Trina Nessa of Rogue Valley, Oregon
"In these uncertain days, remember gardening’s great lesson: That this world and all its creatures---from the mycorrhizal fungi beneath our feet to the tree swallows swooping and darting over our heads---are woven into a complex and lovely fabric that we did not make but upon which we depend for our very survival. We have been given the great gift and grave privilege to tend, as best we can, this woven world. May you receive this gift with delight and joy this season." - Greg Dunn of Black Bird Farms in Coopersville, Michigan.