By: Katie Sanders FoodCorps Service Member
Today is my last official day of service as a FoodCorps service member. These past 11 months have been challenging in many ways but it has flown by and I have thoroughly enjoyed my time spent in Jackson County. As I write this I am running over in my head a list of to do and slowly but surely, I have crossed every item off. The garden and classroom are ready for students to return, my collection of items that I have used during my service have been returned, and all of the necessary paperwork has been signed and turned in. Just like that, with a few formal processes and a couple of forms and my service term is complete.
I have written about this before, but it is necessary to mention again that measuring the effectiveness or impact of a year of service is difficult to do. Perhaps this was made even more clear to me in my last few weeks of service as I helped two other FoodCorps members in Athens with a farm camp that they hosted. This camp involved a small group of students, however they all came to us from quite diverse backgrounds and extremely varying levels of interest in actually attending camp. Daily activities included farm chores in the morning: harvesting, cleaning up beds, weeding, and garden interactive activities, games, and crafts after lunch. We quickly learned however that keeping a structured day was far less important than keeping the morale of the group up. To be fair, camp was hot (read: really extremely hot) and each day we were outside from 8 am to 4 pm, hiding in the shade and spraying ourselves with the hose whenever possible, and thus we didn’t blame our campers for the occasional crankiness. However, there were many days, especially in the beginning of camp when we felt defeated by a lack of enthusiasm from our kids and a general distrust of our camp plans. We were scrambling to make our activities more fun but still pointed and focused so that the campers would actually learn a few things while with us.
At the start of the second week we had almost reached the end of our rope with a daunting 5 days of camp left, however something clicked that day. The kids came to camp ready for our activities and seemed even a little excited to be there. During down times the kids would create their own activities and play with each other. Slowly it was happening. Our camp was coming together. Although this did come and go in waves before camp finished, by the end of the second week we could see our kids starting to be more engaged and take more ownership in their participation. It took tiny baby steps but that, once again, is the mark of a year of service in this field of dealing with food and farming systems and education.
In the end our impact is so much more than these little silly farming activities and games. In the end, it will be much more than the frustrations and the struggles and will be more about the lessons learned and the relationships formed. In the end we hope that we have brought more awareness to the food system and brought about conversations with these kids that can impact their lives and the lives of others around them.