Thursday, December 16, 2010

Giving Gardeners: David, Alexander, and Simon Barbe, Marra Farm

As a child, David Barbe’s favorite chore at his grandparents’ house was taking kitchen scraps out to bury in the yard. He also loved eating tomatoes from their garden. “It took me about twenty years to make the connection,” he laughs. But now he and his two sons, Alexander, a senior at Inglemoor High School, and Simon, a sophomore at Lakeside, are the ones creating that connection on Marra Farm. Over the past eight months, they have transformed Lettuce Link’s compost, bringing order to the once-neglected piles and restoring nutrients to the garden beds that nourish thousands of pounds of organic produce each year.

The family first came to Marra Farm in April, when they volunteered with Boeing employees and their families to celebrate Earth Day. Terry Barbe, an employee at Boeing, brought a list of potential volunteer opportunities home to show her husband and sons. Fortunately, Marra Farm was the option that appealed to everyone, because when David, Alexander, and Simon learned that volunteers were needed to regularly maintain the compost, they took on the project immediately.

Once each month from April to November, the Barbes made the trip from Kenmore to South Park to maintain and monitor the compost piles. As David observed, "While great effort had been put into creating some good bins, they were not being used effectively." But he, Alexander, and Simon quickly turned things around and by their fifth visit, they were already sifting finished compost onto the beds. In less than a year, they've worked their way through about a third of previously accumulated plant material, while keeping up with what was produced this year.  

In fact, they are so committed to the project that when they learned that Sue wouldn’t be at the farm on the snowy Saturday after Thanksgiving, they brought their own tools, hopped the waist-high fence, and worked anyway. “The hardest part,” notes Simon, “was getting the wheelbarrow over the fence.” But they agree it was worth it for the chance to wrap things up for the season.

They also agree that being able to work on the compost together made it an ideal family volunteering project. Both Alexander and Simon were able to count hours spent at Marra Farm towards their schools’ community service and service-learning requirements. For other families, they recommend looking for an activity that is fun no matter how many other volunteers show up.

And though they enjoyed the physical nature of their project, Alexander is quick to point out that there are other options on the farm: “There’s always work…you don’t have to lift hundred-pound wheelbarrows.” Each task on the farm contributes to the harvest, something David recognizes: When you learn about the Lettuce Link’s mission and how much production increases each year, he says, “you feel like you’re part of a winning team.”

If you’d like to join the team, check out current volunteer opportunities here.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You guys are so awesome!!