By Carolyn Crowder
This is a special blog post, written by our 2020 Summer VISTA Carolyn Crowder about her experience developing workshops for our high school interns.
Every Wednesday during our summer internship, we take an hour and a half of the afternoon with the interns to workshop about topics that are relevant and important to the farm and our mission. Elk Run’s primary objective is to get as much beautiful and nutritious produce to the food banks as possible– but the second is education. Workshops are a way for the group to learn new concepts, be challenged in their thinking, and understand the importance of the work they are doing.
Our first workshop focused on goal setting. As a group, we outlined our ground rules and intentions for the summer. Then, we all set 3 individual goals for ourselves, that we continue to circle back to throughout the summer and update each other on our progress.
The following Wednesday, the workshop concentrated on soil health and composting. In order to have an impactful and informed discussion, the interns were required to read articles and watch videos that reviewed ideas of soil science and the way composting works. During our time, we focused on ideas of the Soil Food Web and the Food Waste Recovery Hierarchy. At the end, we collected soil from our field to investigate the percentages of clay, silt, and sand in it and to discuss what this means. Hannah brought up that she liked this part of the workshop because “we got to learn from the soil physically.” Keila said that her thinking was challenged by “How complex ‘dirt’ is, like there is a LOT going on!” She also mentioned that this was her favorite workshop as well, because she “likes the science behind it and knows its importance. It applies to both big scale farming and small scale gardening.”
Our next workshop involved the subject of equity and privilege. We each personally filled out a privilege checklist and then came back together to discuss what surprised us and what we felt as a result. Next, we aimed to define the important definitions of equity, privilege, and intersectionality. Finally, the interns began to brainstorm what an equitable food system could look like in Maple Valley or King County.
Indigenous Food Ways was the discussion of week 4. We specifically focused on the six pillars of Food Sovereignty throughout our time. As a group, we brainstormed ways we could achieve food sovereignty in Maple Valley and King County, as well as action steps we as individuals can take to contribute to the cause. It was Naomi’s favorite workshop, as she commented “It was a topic I hadn’t heard about this year. My eyes were opened to its importance.”
The next topic of our workshop involved Black Americans and Farming. Marissa added it allowed her to “Educate myself more on my privilege and also tie justice into the farm and our work.” Interns were required to do background reading on two groups–Soul Fire Farm, a BIPOC-centered community farm in Petersburg, New York; and Wakulima USA, a farming and food business cooperative that advances small business development and food sovereignty for low income immigrants and people of color in the Puget Sound region, who’s founding members are Kiswahili speaking African immigrants. During our time, we split into two groups to dive deeper into these groups, discussing why they are important and what their mission is. Then, we came together to discuss what we can learn and take from these groups and implement in Elk Run.
The Green Revolution was the subject of week 7’s workshop. We separated the whiteboard into 4 different categories, being Culture/Societies, Technology, Individuals/People, and Land/Environment. Then, we had the group list the pros and cons of the movement from each category that they had learned about from the homework or had prior knowledge of, which Xavier found to be his favorite part of any workshop activity we have done before. Rae liked the workshop because there was “A lot of new information I never was aware of.” Mckenna said it has been her favorite thus far, adding “I liked how in the Green Revolution Workshop, we looked at how it helped and also hurt, so it wasn’t just good or just bad.”
As of recently, our latest workshop subject involved farmworker justice. Each intern came prepared with 5 issues facing farmworkers in the US. During our workshop time, we combined our thoughts and knowledge onto the whiteboard. Then, the interns looked at the UN’s list of human rights and decided in pairs what rights are being violated. Finally, we discussed ways people can utilize tactics such as unions to fight for the rights and justice for farmworkers.
It has been so great to see everyone learn and grow together through the workshops this summer. It’s been upsetting to be exposed to so much injustice in the world, and also inspiring, to see the ways people are working to make a change, including Elk Run Farm.
Since writing this post, Carolyn has started college in Montana. We will miss her greatly and wish her well!