Hand in Hand: Reflections from the Volunteer Committee
Gaining Ground’s Volunteer Committee includes members of the organization’s Board of Directors, staff, and dedicated volunteer community. Participants include long-term volunteers, members of our Community Farm Team, teachers whose classes participate annually in our Read for Seeds program, and a representative from the National Charity League, a service organization with whom we partner.
Last year was the busiest volunteer season in the organization’s 28-year history. More than 3,100 visitors worked alongside our farmers to grow 115,000 pounds of nutritious, organic food for hunger relief. The committee served as a sounding board for the farmers and staff as they adapted to this exciting growth, helping to iron out any issues and “growing pains” that arose.
One of the committee’s primary endeavors in 2022 was to launch and streamline the new Community Farm Team program, which allows committed volunteers the opportunity to help and learn on a weekly basis, deepening their engagement with the farm. We initiated an arrangement with horticulture students at Minuteman Technical High School who now volunteer regularly at Gaining Ground, caring for our welcome garden and orchard. The committee revised group and individual per-person maximums in 2022, ensuring that the organization keeps pace with demand while maintaining the high quality volunteer experience that our visitors have come to expect. We continue to make subtle tweaks to the summer High School Farm Team program as well, connecting local teenagers with the opportunity to work and learn outdoors while helping their community, socializing with peers, and earning service hours.
Corporate volunteer traffic tripled last season in accordance with one of our 2022 goals. We were thrilled to install accessible raised garden beds for our volunteers this year as well, which was generously funded by a Community Benefits grant from Emerson Hospital, and continue to proudly welcome visitors of all ages and abilities to Gaining Ground. Staff attended several training sessions in 2022 on the topic of justice, equity, diversity and inclusion (JEDI) in volunteer programming, and this is an area that we continue to prioritize.
Our 2023 volunteer season opened on April 12th and we are working hard to expand available public transportation options and meet the enthusiastic interest of our volunteers, both new and returning.