Switching Lenses on Hunger Relief

Cherry tomatoes on the vine and volunteers harvesting potatoes.

When I was a volunteer at Gaining Ground, I thought like a volunteer. I watched the seedlings my students planted turn into gorgeous veggies, helped drive them to a local food pantry, and heard the exclamations of recipients about the quality of the produce. Yet this process only revealed to me the surface of hunger relief.

When I joined Gaining Ground’s Partner Committee five years ago, I began to understand the roots of local hunger issues. The farm works with 18 different organizations, all dedicated to feeding people experiencing food insecurity while maintaining the dignity of those receiving food. The committee visited each of these partners last year, thanks to Allison Goodwin, our program manager, who maintains the close working relationships that make these partnerships successful. Alongside our partners, we work together, learn from each other, and share each other’s triumphs. 

Participating on the Volunteer Committee has shown me how much the people who come to our fields want to know about everything from no-till farming to how we get our food to the folks who most need it. Thanks to Assistant Farm Manager Erin Espinosa’s new orientation program, volunteers hear about the Nipmuc people, who first tended the land that Gaining Ground now cultivates. Theirs is the original partnership, and we encourage all of our volunteers to engage with this history. Together, we hope to build a relationship with the land that honors the respect that these indigenous communities hold for it. 

I became board president last year, and none of these experiences prepared me for the thrills and challenges of helping to steer the organization in these changing times. My career as a seventh grade teacher was probably the most valuable training: channeling the energy of so many creative, compassionate, and brilliant students; adapting to new conditions and opportunities as they arose; building close relationships while finding enjoyment in our work. That is almost to the letter what my first year on the job has brought me at Gaining Ground!  

I did not anticipate the satisfaction of finding a new executive director and farm manager, who both jumped in so brilliantly during a pandemic. I never thought that bringing on new board members would mean finding new friends who offer their talents and expertise, or that the existing board would be so energized by the influx of new people. I am inspired both by the generous outpouring of support from the community, which will enable us to reach even more families in the next few years, and by the possibilities we envision as we write the organization’s next strategic plan. Entering a new season of growing, I am so grateful to all of you!

, ,