“What I Really Do”

It’s springtime in Connecticut, though the calendar insists it’s February. Summer of Solutions Hartford is planning our second summer of food justice work in Frog Hollow, Hartford. We have an excellent summer behind us and a million plans in the works for the next, but in the meantime I’ve been spending a lot of time at my kitchen table on this computer.

This image has been floating around Facebook for the past few weeks. I had to laugh when I saw it, because I had been sitting for 6 hours with a laptop, my phone, and a notepad- “organizing.” This particular day I was scheduling meetings with partners, emailing our participant application to community members, and fixing up our website- soshartford.wordpress.com. On days like this, it appears my “community organizing” is lacking some community.

When I’ve been working at my kitchen table so long that I don’t realize the sun has set- only that my papers have been getting harder to see- it is memories of that community and enthusiasm for our future work together that inspire me.

Memories like:

-Meeting our team of 2011 program participants for the first time at La Paloma Sabanera coffee shop in Hartford.

– Getting to the register to buy a cart full of seedlings and hearing “oh, you’re starting the garden in Hartford? We’re giving you all of this for free”

– The first time Nino, a five year old boy who lives next to el Jardín de Zion Street, came out to the garden to work with us and ran around with a wheelbarrow, which he called his “truck,” helping us fill raised beds.

– When Climate Summer visited and we ate home-cooked picnics on the front yard.

– Planting squash in a tire with Ramón who lived down the street, “it will be beautiful.”

– Wes teaching me how to maximize all the space in a 4×8 bed, and that your tomatoes won’t grow if you don’t talk to them enough.

– Playing Power Rangers with the kids during the summer camp we ran, and not knowing how to properly represent the yellow one.

– Holding a meeting of organizers and activists in our basement on a particularly hot day.

– A Hartford Courant photographer showing up at the garden during the heat wave “looking for people crazy enough to be outside.”

– During “Graffiti Day” of Art Week, when Javier showed Nino how to paint the Puerto Rican flag on their raised bed.

– Witnessing the secret musical talent of our garden neighbors at our open-mic potluck picnic.

– Drawing a “magical chalk garden” at the playground- featuring a bean stalk, jack, the giant, heart flowers, purple strawberries, and “car plants” during summer camp

– Playing Seedling Scavenger Hunt with neighborhood kids (celery is deceiving!)

– Talking to strangers on the sidewalk about our kale harvest and signing them up for plots on the spot.

– The last night of our summer, when everyone came out to eat dinner together in the garden at Alice-in-Wonderland-esque tables and our neighbor called the garden “a wonderland.”

So thanks, clever graphic, but I think what we do has a lot more community in it than you think. Sure, I have my fair share of desk hours, but it’s all to make those moments possible. As I plan for next summer, meet with potential partners, and talk up the program to applicants, I am encouraged by the potential of Summer of Solutions Hartford to bring people together, makeover vacant lots into flourishing gardens, and turn the tides of food justice in Hartford.

If you’re wondering, “say, what might the magical moments of SoS Hartford 2012 entail?” You should check out What’s New 2012: http://soshartford.wordpress.com/2012/02/15/whats-new-2012/ and apply to join us at http://grandaspirations.org/summer-of-solutions/apply2012/

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About soshartford

Grand Aspirations is founded on a powerful and innovative method – being solutionary. The Summer of Solutions expresses the values, follows the principles, and utilizes the strategies of this solutionary method. During the Urban Farming Internship program, young people in Hartford work together to draw on the assets each of them already have and work together to advance personal competence in this method, build a community around it, and enact it in the broader world.

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