A new year always seems to bring about a time of reflection for me. What was good and bad in the years that have passed? Where might God be leading me in the year ahead? My reflections take me back to thoughts of my childhood and forward to dreams for The Community Farm at Chestnut Ridge.
Believe it or not, when I was a kid I probably would have told you I didn’t like gardening. My family lived in the city during the week and went to our farm on the weekends. That meant our large vegetable and flower garden had all week to grow weeds. And you can guess who was responsible for their removal! Yes, I was. My parents would pay me a quarter for a laundry basketful of weeds. Nearly slave labor, in my young opinion!
Those childhood garden chores didn’t lead to much financial gain, but somehow, looking back, I think I got rich in other ways. Even though I didn’t want to, I earned patience and persistence along with those quarters. I also gained a sense of accomplishment when my chore was finished, and, though I’m sure I wouldn’t have admitted then, a regard for work done well. I earned an appreciation for working together with my family to grow something good to eat. I acquired knowledge and wonder about the natural world. Though I didn’t realize it until later in life, I gained a relationship with God in the garden too.
Will the children (and adults) who come to The Community Farm or the Camper Garden at Chestnut Ridge have similar experiences? Will they get rich in the life lessons of the garden? Are we growing growers who will be connected, through the soil and food, with God and each other?
My thoughts turn to a pack of first graders, Brayden, Maddie, and Alyssa, who frequently beg me to take them to the Camper Garden during our After School program. They hoe weeds and spread compost with great enthusiasm. Brayden asks me every time if he can plant flower seeds yet, so I know he’s learning patience. I am too. I can hardly wait to be able to tell him, yes, Brayden, today you can plant flower seeds! Better yet, I look forward to being able to tell him that he can pick some of those flowers to take home to his mom - I know that will be his next question as soon as the seeds are planted.
I think back to the groups of church youth and college kids who have come to work at The Community Farm. They worked hard in the garden: building raised beds, harvesting beans and sweet potatoes, pruning raspberry canes, making compost piles, spreading straw in the garden aisles. After the work, there was always time to revel in the pleasure of food picked and eaten right there in the garden: carrots, lettuce, beans, raspberries. They always left smiling, laughing, joking with each other about what had happened in the garden. I can’t help but think that it was an experience that touched them, changed them a little.
What about the volunteers? Has the garden touched their lives in such a way that they are no longer the same? Will they increase and multiply in 2010? Like eating a meal, growing food is always more fun with friends. With a garden expansion, more livestock, new shed, orchard, and other improvements planned for the Community Farm this year, there will be much to do and see – many opportunities to earn “quarters”!
God is already at work in this new year, and maybe a few dreams for the gardens at Chestnut Ridge are already coming true…