Reflections on a Semester with the Farmers Market

One of the wonderful aspects of this class was the exposure to a variety of very interesting and exciting projects. The most difficult task was deciding which project(s) to invest my time in. I decided to focus on the Village Farmers Market because I felt it was the best opportunity to empower a community and create possibilities for alternative institutions, which I regard as necessary to creating food system justice. The experience has been challenging yet empowering. Although I feel I didn’t accomplish everything I hoped to achieve this semester, I still did more than I thought I could do.

Early on in the process I volunteered to coordinate volunteers for the Market. After a few more meetings the market manager asked me to join as an Assistant Market Manager, which I agreed to. I intended that job to mean I would still run the volunteer side of things and add the responsibility of being at each market day (Saturdays 8am-Noon, June-September – come check it out! http://tinyurl.com/kjfdwte). Instead, it led to me working on a variety of different tasks that placed me completely out of my element. I had little experience grant writing, writing job (volunteer job) descriptions, or speaking to groups with the goal of inspiring action in the form of volunteering. These tasks gave me skills I didn’t envision I could have and led to a personal growth I am very grateful for. There is something transformative about placing a seemingly insurmountable task before yourself and rising to the challenge.

One particular challenge involved running a volunteer meeting. Along with the market manager, we felt hosting a meeting of potential volunteers was vital. It was decided I should run the meeting, a task that, as we got closer to the meeting, I felt less confident in my abilities to pull off. I spent a good amount of energy trying to discover ways to energize and excite our potential volunteers, plan an agenda, create a form to gather information, etc. I arrived to the Saturday morning meeting a bit tired and less than positive about potential of the meeting. However, I left that meeting inspired. The seven volunteers, all members of the immediate community, came with positive energy, ideas and determination. I listened to people who cared deeply about co-creating a space in their community that could benefit all. Not only that but, as I should have expected, I learned that people often have better ideas than me. I felt inspired, energized, and excited to work – the very feelings I was hoping to inspire in them. Out of that meeting came the decision to host monthly volunteer meetings, which I will coordinate and facilitate. I can’t wait to see where the energy of this group will go.

For future students taking this class I hope this example will encourage them to step out of their comfort zone. I encourage you to take on more than you think you can handle rather than less. Personally, I now believe it is better to shoot for 200% of what you feel capable of doing and achieving 125% rather than meeting 100% of what you know you can accomplish. It will be scary, but with the right attitude you will achieve beyond what you imagine is possible.

But, this class is about ‘food justice’. What did I learn about that? Being interested in the topic I knew quite a bit about the topic entering the class. I definitely learned some technical information this semester about the mechanics of different aspects of the food system. For instance, I was shocked to learn about the extent of waste within the food system in areas I hadn’t considered – such as the ordering process of major grocery stores. I also learned about some fascinating projects and food related information. I am grateful to my fellow classmates for giving me much of that information – particularly Dom with his extensive mushroom and sassafras knowledge. I also learned quite a bit about creating food system justice by doing. I am convinced now that the energy and innovation necessary is present in our society. Our task now is to unleash that energy and innovation in way that the current system cannot crush or corrupt. I am particularly optimistic about the possibilities within Baltimore, specifically because of the people who are found all throughout the city. Baltimore food culture is expanding and adapting in tremendously interesting and fruitful ways.

I want to end my final post for this class by thanking a few people. Thank you Andres, Dom and Rosa for your contributions this semester to each of your projects (True Greens, the Food Forest, and New Roots respectively) and to our daily class. Your work and your knowledge are impressive, but your spirit is contagious.Thank you Nicole and Priyanka for your contributions to the market and for being easy to talk to. Thank you to my classmates who remained positive and supportive throughout. And finally, thank you Jill for everything. Your class has given me great insight into myself and how I want to live my life; namely, working with communities in Baltimore to create a new world. Thank you.

Chris Comeau

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