Volunteer Spotlight: Barb Sommers

Barb stands in the pavilion after a morning of working on the farm

At Gaining Ground, we’re fortunate to have a community of volunteers who embody the spirit of generosity. One such volunteer—who has shown incredible dedication and warmth to our farm and farmers this season—is Barb Sommers.

Barb joins us on the farm nearly every week—toiling in rain or shine—from nearby Acton. This is her first year volunteering with us, and we’re grateful she’s been able to share so much of her time and energy with us during our 2021 season.

“I am immediately at ease when I see that Barbara has signed up to volunteer. She brings an unmatched enthusiasm and care for the farm and her fellow volunteers,” said Erin Espinosa, Gaining Ground’s farm education manager. “She encourages those around her to drink water and take breaks, while still pushing the group to work hard. Her positive attitude is infectious and all who work with her leave feeling energized!”

Barb and Farmer Avery put down fertilizer.

“I wish I had known about the farm sooner,” said Barb. She learned about Gaining Ground through our book, which she encountered at Debra’s Natural Gourmet, in West Concord. “It had been about five years that I wanted to get out here to the farm, so I finally made it happen.”

The arrival of COVID-19 did manage to interfere with her plans, though. Not only was all volunteer programming cancelled at the farm in 2020, but Barb was busier than ever with work. “A year ago I had decided to leave my job as a nurse, but then the pandemic hit and I ended up staying another summer at my job. It was crazy,” said Barb. “I had wanted to come sooner but the different things that came up didn’t allow me to do it, so I said, This year’s gonna be it. I was basically starting a new life journey.” 

We couldn’t be more grateful that even with the challenges brought by the past year, Barb—and volunteers like her—makes a place in her life for supporting our farm and our hunger-relief efforts. Food insecurity and the economic impact of the global health crisis show no signs of going away. “I think especially with the pandemic and how hard it has been for everyone, you feel helpless in a certain regard. You want to do more—that’s one of the reasons I stayed at work—but outside of work this is one of those things that I’m probably getting more than giving,” she said. “It’s nice to know that there’s something you can do that’s good. This farm is definitely making a difference. And it nurtures me, too.” 

Barb and other volunteers cultivate a bed.

Despite not having extensive experience as a grower, Barb has certainly nurtured the farm as well. It never ceases to amaze us how quickly our volunteers learn the practices our farmers demonstrate and find the rhythm of the work. “I love the outdoors and I love to garden, so this is right up my alley. I’m not a farmer, but it’s a learning experience,” she said. “And when you come here it’s just so peaceful and the people—like Erin and Chrissie—are just such nice, down-to-earth, patient, and grateful people. Friendly and kind.” 

“So it’s a warm welcome. The first time I walked in here I was like, Oh, this is it. You just know. That was how I felt the first time I came: I knew.”