Natasha Hegmann is an MTCC AmeriCorps VISTA serving with the FoodCorps team in Ennis, MT.
Sure, I have an office, with its requisite desk, computer, printer, and file folders. But most of my days are spent in Ennis Schools elementary classrooms, school board meetings, the lunchroom, the Madison Farm to Fork greenhouse, the community garden, and even across the street, sipping coffee and chatting up school garden ideas with community leaders.
|Digging the Office
I have an office, but my community is my place of work.
And over just the past two weeks, my community has grown exponentially. At the annual meeting of the Alternative Energy Resources Organization in Lakeside, I ate yak stew and exchanged ideas with farmers from Whitefish and schoolteachers in Helena and sustainable energy advocates in Great Falls. We drank locally-roasted, fair-trade coffee and brainstormed how to better insulate our greenhouses, or better communicate with high-schoolers, or better market lesser-known crops that are healthy for people and the planet. We watched the sun rise over Flathead Lake, and exchanged email addresses, and promised to visit.
And my community became Montana.
Less than a week later, I boarded an airplane for Oakland, California, and headed to the 15th Annual Community Food Security Coalition (CFSC) Conference. At the opening reception, surrounded by hundreds of community leaders and food sovereignty advocates from across the nation, I felt for a moment as though I’d lost my footing. At the AERO annual meeting, the commonalities were somewhat obvious, in that we shared the same state, geography, and climate. But what did I have in common with family practitioners in Kansas, or young urban gardeners from Massachusetts?
|Making Tabouleh in Oakland
Soon, though, I listened to one of the founding members of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers speak about organizing for fair food and working conditions in Florida, and I recognized the passion as similar to my own. I was in the right place. The next five days passed in a blur as I shared ideas for measuring the successfulness of Farm to School programs with National Farm to School Network leaders; and even cooked fresh food and acquired tools for developing seasonal, cyclical school meal plans with the Center for Ecoliteracy.
Along with the three other Montana FoodCorps volunteers who attended, I realized that even though our work of FoodCorps is new and innovative, it’s not isolated or unsupported. Elementary schools in Berkeley, CA have had functional school gardens for over 10 years – Ennis schools just approved a site for our school garden last week. Mentors and models, collaborators and peers, need not be restrained by geography.
And my community continues to grow.