On an unseasonably hot and sunny day in April, I stand in the aisle between two newly shaped beds of a Growing Together farmer. We’ve been spending the last two weeks attempting to till the soil, but have been successfully thwarted by erratic weather that left the earth too wet to till. On this day, we are met with a window of opportunity to finish turning the soil on the remaining beds of farmers. Thomas, a grower originally from Burma, appears in a dress shirt, slacks, and loafers. He hasn’t had time to till his plot as he was balancing a recent acceptance to attend school to learn to become an electrician, along with supporting his family. He explains his circumstance, then rolls up his sleeves and begins to use the tractor to finish tilling his plot, no time to be wasted getting changed.
I watch as he turns over the soil in the hot sun, and think of the other circumstances of the growers in our market garden, considering the complicated decisions and challenges these Growing Together farmers face. For some, this challenge may manifest in the difficulty of acquiring health insurance in an inaccessible system. For others, it may come in the form of taking a citizenship test. No matter the challenge, it always adds to the already great responsibility of being a farmer.
Farming is an art that inherently requires resilience. One must not only learn to be flexible, but also prepared, ready to consider factors ranging from seasonality to weather. However, the farmers of the Growing Together program demonstrate an unbelievable amount of resilience. Not only must they go through the complicated process of resettlement into a new country (a process that is continuous and ongoing), but they must also strike a delicate balance between their work and family life all the while maintaining a commitment to growing food in a new climate with differing conditions for farming.
The resiliency of the farmers in the Growing Together program has been made readily apparent in the three seasons of the program’s life.Three of the eight growers have been with the program since the beginning, but all of the farmers, regardless of the length of their participation, have shared their personal growth and important life events with the program. We have watched growers celebrate new accomplishments, acquire new jobs, have children, and mourn the passing of a close family member. In my time with the Growing Together program, I’ve learned that while there is a commitment to growing greens or chilies or market skills, there is a greater commitment to growing a community, one that is filled with strength, support, and the perseverance to foster growth. Even when it requires tilling in loafers.