Volunteer Spotlight: Allison Aley

image of Allison Aley delivering harvest baskets

At Gaining Ground, our hunger-relief work is made possible by a community of volunteers that embodies a dedication to sustainable, holistic farming practices and uprooting food insecurity rivaled only by that of our incredible farmers. 

A standout member of this outstanding team is Allison Aley. We caught up with Allison to learn more about her long history with Gaining Ground as well as the fantastic work she continues to do on our Community Farm Team—and beyond. 

How did you first learn about Gaining Ground and what made you want to get involved in what the farm does?

I’ve lived in Concord since 1998 and all three of my kids went through the Concord Public Schools, which bring classes to Gaining Ground starting in elementary school. I came along as a parent volunteer in the early 2000s and immediately loved the mission and the fact that kids could do meaningful service work here. 

My family did a year of service in 2007, where we got pledges based on doing family service once a month. We came to Gaining Ground several months that year. Later, I served on the Concord-Carlisle Community Chest and was assigned Gaining Ground as an agency to review for grant renewal, so I had the privilege of hearing their presentation and learning a lot about the organization.

Are there facets of Gaining Ground’s work—hunger relief, regenerative farming, working with the farmers and other volunteers, food access and nutrition—that have been particularly meaningful or important to you? 

I care about all of those issues. When I’m at Gaining Ground, everything makes sense and feels connected and productive. Hunger relief and food access are so important—I’ve never understood how or why, in the wealthiest nation on the planet, we have so many people going hungry or who cannot access healthy food. 

Gaining Ground is making a dent in that by delivering fresh, high-quality produce to places that wouldn’t have it otherwise and it feels good to be a part of that. 

Working with the farmers and other volunteers is always a pleasure and educational, with a huge sense of community. The “many hands make light work” adage is proven every week. I value my weekly time at Gaining Ground for the connections, for being outside doing meaningful work in community, and for being part of the solution instead of part of the problem.

Image of Allison Aley with a flat of seedlings, and pulling a cart of harvested produce

What are some of the projects or tasks at the farm that you have been involved with as a volunteer? What have been some particular favorites?

I really like volunteering consistently throughout the growing seasons and getting to experience all of the farm’s stages; preparing the beds, planting, weeding, and harvesting. It’s satisfying to see beds you prepared and planted yield huge harvests that are feeding people. This year I’m on the Community Farm Team and come on Fridays. It’s fun and interesting to work with this group of dedicated, knowledgeable, and hard-working folks, and it’s satisfying to exceed the farmers’ expectations of what we can get done together.

Outside of your work as a Gaining Ground volunteer, where have your personal and professional interests and experiences taken you?

I volunteer once a week in an infant and toddler classroom at Horizons for Homeless Children, which is a high-quality preschool in Roxbury where all of the children are homeless.

I am most of the way through a two-year Mindfulness Meditation Teacher Training Course with Tara Brach and Jack Kornfield that has 4,500 students globally. So I’ve learned how to write talks and meditations and give an Introduction to Mindfulness Meditation course. I believe what the Dali Lama has said, that if every eight-year-old on the planet was taught meditation, we’d eliminate violence from the world in a single generation.

Prior to the pandemic, my therapy dog Mac (a 10-and-a-half-year-old whoodle) and I visited patients in Emerson Hospital weekly, but we’ve retired. We got a pandemic puppy, another whoodle, in December 2020, named Jingle. I make a point to enjoy time each day with Mac and Jingle.

I also drive an all-electric Chevy Bolt, which is wrapped in a pink and purple coastal sunset. I like the smiles I get and I am very popular with the under-10 age set.

What is a favorite food or dish you like to make or to eat?

Right now I am really into roasted sweet peppers stuffed with goat cheese and I love the watermelon gazpacho they make at Verrill Farm.

Photo credit: Tony Rinaldo Photography LLC (Images 1 and 3)

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