A Winning Team of Volunteers

What can happen when you join a team eager to develop their “game” with extraordinary “coaches” who excel at growing food and creating a sense of purpose? 

The inaugural Community Farm Team formed in 2022, made up of folks who had found tremendous joy volunteering at Gaining Ground and who hoped for longer sessions and more regular commitment. 

Almost immediately, this group found more common ground than just the Virginia Road fields. We shared humor, passion for the environment, and a deep desire to make a difference at the local level in fighting food insecurity. Of various ages, political persuasions, and career fields, we showed up each week ready to learn from the farmers the best practices in no-till, regenerative farming and to share our stories as we worked side by side in the plots. 

Anna taught us about intercropping, Erin and Kari shared their love of flowers, and Chrissie was a font of knowledge as she managed the wash station. 

As for the “team” of volunteers, one of us is all about cephalopods, specifically octopuses, and has filled our heads with stories and images of these amazing creatures. One is a pilot, so every time a plane takes off from Hanscom, we pause for the noise and then learn something new about the plane that flies overhead. One is a woodworker, another teaches tai chi. A nurse, some teachers, others from the world of business, many who garden in community plots all come together to make some magic.

We have become ferocious cultivators—and that is farmer-speak for weeders—and know how to plant and harvest what is grown on the farm. We’ve worked in near-monsoon weather when one volunteer’s poncho was shredded by the wind. Heat and cold? No problem. We do some pre-season and winter volunteering. Need shoveling around the high tunnels? Call the CFT. Extra volunteers for an event, or delivering produce to a partner, or helping with a large school group? The flexible CFT seems to thrive on odd jobs and last-minute requests.

What is it about volunteering with Gaining Ground that produces such euphoria and sense of purpose? In the 25 years I have come to the farm, certain truths have become evident. The connection between the earth and the grower is a very powerful one and my experience at the farm has altered my view of my world, my community, and my responsibilities to the land and its people. Returning season after season and saving seeds has taught me continuity as I honor those indigenous First Farmers who grew by respecting the land and building soil health. Observing the weather patterns each season has given me a first-hand look at climate changes as well as the incredibly difficult job a farmer faces. 

By working alongside wise and passionate farmers, I have discovered the many ways we can restore the soil, encourage the microorganisms to do their part, and expand our operations to serve more families. I have awakened to the need for food justice that is inextricably linked to racial and climate justice. And by working together alongside others who share these passions, we grow together, expand our horizons, and collectively join our many dedicated partners in leveling the playing fields.

Volunteering also makes us happier—so you might want to sign up here.

At the end of the day, we are better versions of ourselves when we come together to grow the food that Gaining Ground gives away. We cherish the relationships cultivated in the rows and often celebrate by sharing pot luck lunches after a volunteer session. Community building, after all, requires nourishing the body as well as the spirit.

Banner image, left to right: Polly Vanasse carries a tray of seedlings to be transplanted, Polly and other members of the CFT spread compost to promote soil health. Inset image, left to right: CFT members enjoy the early spring sunshine, Jodie Krisiak smiles beside seedlings that are hardening off.

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