Leaders in the Field
It’s 8 AM and already 93 degrees outside, and your friends have invited you to go to the air-conditioned mall. But wait… it’s Farm Team day, and you are heading up the high school volunteers. Besides, who would want to be indoors on a scorcher like this when there are 2,000 pounds of butternut squash waiting to be harvested? Our Farm Team leaders offer their unique perspectives.
When asked what lessons she took from her summer, Ava Lublin, a Concord-Carlisle High School (CCHS) senior and Farm Team leader two years running, said:
The experience goes far beyond clocking in community service hours for school. Sure, it’s an efficient way for teens to meet their graduation requirements in one summer, but more than that, working with the Farm Team is a fulfilling experience that becomes—for lack of a better word—addicting. Farming is fun. It’s physical. There is something about the dirt and the satisfaction of the concrete, earthly work that makes every day enjoyable, no matter what the task.
Each summer, we spend Tuesday and Thursday mornings sweating and squinting in the sun, laying tarps, spreading compost and fishy bundles of mulching hay over fields. We’ve passed many hours kneeling in the dirt, weeding, or, when it rains, splaying out in the mud to plant a whole field of lettuce. Sometimes, the entire three-hour volunteer shift is taken over by thinning thousands of carrots.
Even the harvesting days are dirty. We’ll pick tomatoes and peppers, our hands relatively clean, but soon we’ll be filthy after a productive trip to the potato patch. All of it is super gritty work; however the mission of Gaining Ground, the knowledge that the food grown will be beautiful both in its actual form and in its charitable use, somehow makes the toil all the more significant— graceful, even.
Farm Team is more than a physically satisfying experience; it’s socially and emotionally relieving. The farm creates an encouraging, kind, and humorous community that is conducive to the independent, respect-seeking teen spirit. Each participant is treated as an equal and a friend. Patience is plentiful, but you will never feel patronized.
Most importantly, working at Gaining Ground gives you a meaningful purpose in life, even if just for the summer, which is monumental in this tumultuous time when we high schoolers are often chronically confused. We may have no idea why we do things, for what cause and for what future, but at least at the farm we finally have some direction. Farm Team is a good cause, yes, but it’s also gloriously good for you too.
May Goar, another team leader, painted an unusual picture for us:
My best day on the farm this summer was a Tuesday when it was pouring rain and a small group of us were harvesting onions. When we finished that, we stood in the rain cleaning and cutting carts full of onions. I had brought my brother and a friend from Florida with me, and we were all soaked to the bone, but none of us were complaining. It was honestly fun!
Emily Capofreddi, a CCHS senior and volunteer at the farm since she was in elementary school, described the summer experience this way:
Time seemed to fly by every Tuesday and Thursday morning, as the fabulous volunteers performed a variety of tasks such as weeding and harvesting. Despite some very rainy and very hot days, we managed to complete the many tasks the farmers had set aside for us. It was also amazing to spend time with the farmers; they are the coolest and most hardworking people! I am looking forward to seeing the Farm Team grow next summer and hope high school freshmen and sophomores will consider joining us.
The farmers appreciate the energy and enthusiasm that Ava, May, Lexi, and Emily brought this summer. Doug Wolcik says that the group is “instrumental to Gaining Ground’s success in summer. We couldn’t do it without them; there are too many crops and too much picking without the hard work of a robust Farm Team.” Having inspired student volunteers while they planted and harvested this summer, Ava, May, Emily, and Lexi grew friendships and leave their lasting impression on the farm. We are grateful!