I had been worried. I'm leaving the food pantry garden August 1 as it is time. It has been three years ( here's a fun post about how it started ) and I know that for that garden to be truly sustainable, I need to step away and let it evolve in the way that will make most sense for it long-term. This is the very hardest stage of a start-up project that there is for me. My heart breaks, yet I know it's necessary. I don't do it until I feel truly called to continue on my journey, and the indisputable sound of that calling has gotten thunderous in my heart. I recognize it. I've heard it before. I have learned that these callings become clear, in due time, when I trust them, and that it also becomes clear that if I don't get out of the way, I'm blocking someone else's journey. Who that person is is often a mystery for awhile, and that's where the leap of faith is needed. However, I also know that "if you fail to plan, you plan to fail," and there are ways to leave responsibly. One look around and I can find scores of examples of abandoned or struggling gardens (I've chosen not to show those pictures). It only takes one missed planting season for a downward spiral to start. And so I had been worrying. Constantly.
Our remarkable volunteer team at the food pantry garden will do anything at any time that's needed, but they are getting busier in the rest of their lives and there is a lot of planning and sourcing of materials to do. This is necessary almost continually in order to have harvests year-round and real things for folks to do to help when they come to be truly "necessary" (which I now believe is one of the most basic human needs). I think someone is needed with organic growing knowledge, a wide network upon which to draw, and time and willingness to plan and execute. I even wrote up this simplified Year at a Glance for New Gardeners last August when the stirrings started, followed up by Growing for--and with--Those in Need, Made Easy this past December. It has been brewing. "The solution is in the problem," or so I've been told, so I kept thinking about the problem: the desire to create a constantly-abundant (there's no "off season" when growing for those in need), low-maintenance, low-cost garden that is not reliant on the same people all the time to be sustainable. We already have the fruit orchard. Why not convert all raised beds to perennial herbs (which are surprisingly popular at food pantries) and all rows to Hugelkultur? The folks love when we give out plants for their home gardens. Why not just offer herbs and a small selection of easy-to-grow crops (onions, hot peppers, sweet potatoes, lettuce heads), plus a nice place to relax under the fruit trees, and hand out seeds and transplants several time a year? Wouldn't that be significantly simpler? Anyway, so I show up yesterday and Mary Louise, the co-leader of the food pantry, pulls me aside and says in her open and loving voice, "You are blessed and released." She says this is something they say to volunteers when that volunteer indicates it is time to move on. "We will take on the garden," she added. "It will work out. It will be fine." I could feel the relief spread through my body. She really meant it. She "heard" me and understood how concerned I was. She felt my heart breaking, and she freed me. What an extraordinary gift to give to someone! Keep that in mind when things change for your volunteers on your projects. Bless and release them. Keep that in mind when your relationships change, when your clients change, when anything changes. It is so, so simple and yet so full a sentiment.
And so I went back into the garden and simply focused on "finding my place" for the day. I didn't really help when the sea of people came out to take home gorgeous free tomato plants donated by two community gardens as well as one of our volunteers. I didn't really help much with the harvest. I hung out at the Edible Bus Shelter prototype we're building with two guys who needed to build, too. I dug holes in which a boy planted seeds for beans and gourds and sunflowers. And we talked. About our journeys. About our acceptance of them. About how nice it felt to be standing out there together building.
To get involved with this food pantry garden, show up on Wednesdays or contact Malachi's Storehouse . Tell Mary Louise and Kathy you heard you might be needed. For others around our Foodshed Planet, hear and heed your calling. Someone is stepping out and making room for you somewhere right now. Just show up and see what happens.