Building a Team with Laughter and Trust

By: Sara Marquez
Location: Middleton, WI

Hello, and happy summer! What a perfect combination of sunshine and rain we’ve been having; all the better to gear Growing Food and Sustainability and all of our summer campers to get into the garden this season! I’m Sara, a participant with GFS and a summer intern for our youth garden programs. This summer will mark my first with GFS, as well as my first working with younger kids, as most of the work I’ve done so far has been with the high schoolers at Clark Street Community School. I must say, I can’t wait to meet all the new campers; being a part of this program is as important and educational for me as I hope it will be for all of the gardeners-to-be. I am even more excited because our Growing Food and Sustainability family just keeps growing!

Last week, our new summer interns and volunteers, along with our program leaders, participated in a training week to gear us up for the summer garden camps we will lead together. Instead of doing push ups and garden obstacle courses, we focused on reflective activities as well as team/community building activities and brainstorms–though we did fit a bit of running around and laughing our heads off into a session or two.

Most of us were just meeting each other those first few hours of training week, and I have to say that I was amazed at how quickly our team melded together and the level of comfort we reached right away. By the end of the week, we were participating in a lot of very personal reflections together, and even though we had only known each other a few days, I was impressed at how open we all were about our hopes, our fears–and our goals for the program.

DSCF1138There were many trainings that I enjoyed, but a few in particular stand out. In an early session, we discussed norms in order to create a comfortable and safe space together. It was interesting to consider the norms (i.e. jaywalking, raising your hand, etc.) that have become embedded in our everyday lives–and then to create our own system within our group. The discussions we had while making the lists of these norms–and later our visions for the program and personal growth goals–were open and inviting. I truly believe that the ease with which we decided and agreed upon the goals and norms for our program is indicative of not only our compatibility, but also our complexity as people and the richness that those complexities will bring to the group.

We continued to explore our individual differences and similarities as the week went on. On Friday, we had a training in which we reflected on a time when we were not taking care of our personal well-being and how/why we were enabling that behavior. What a question! That conversation was certainly one of the best we had together that week, but also one of the better ones I have had with any of my friends. It was this personal and group reflection that cemented my trust in the team, and I think the same happened for many of us. It was a wonderful way to build trust amongst each other and to ensure that all of us were working towards the same vision, regardless of which track we took to get here.

DSCF1134Of course we did other activities that were less introspective but certainly as effective: Colin led us on a walking tour of downtown Middleton, which was a great way to begin exploring the community from which this program was born; along with Gabrielle and Natalie, we brought our fantastic bike trailer to Roman Candle Pizzeria and Bloom Bake Shop for our very first compost pick-up of the season (37 pounds!); we ate meals together, weeded and planted seedlings together, and definitely laughed together. I can sincerely say that this team is full of intelligent, interesting, motivated, and hilarious people–I feel lucky and excited to continue working with them and the campers this summer. These are the kind of people with which I can definitely eat, work, and farm! Can’t wait to continue building our community. Until next time!


1_2Author: Sara Marquez is a student at UW-Madison studying creative writing and community and environmental sociology.  She has been involved with Growing Food and Sustainability since fall of 2012.

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