Tuesday, September 4, 2012

From Duke to Seattle: Kids, Zucchini and Food Systems galore

Over the next week we'll be posting wrap-up reflections from our summer interns. Today, we're featuring Wendy, who left her home in Atlanta to spend the summer in Seattle with Lettuce Link as a DukeEngage intern. She's gone back to school, leaving us to harvest giant zucchini without her.  

While sitting at Lettuce Link’s monthly staff meeting the other day, I realized that it was the last time I would see all of my coworkers gathered together in one location. Almost seven weeks had passed since I first stepped into Solid Ground’s office and surrounded myself with Lettuce Link's supportive, helpful, and knowledgeable staff. But August had arrived and it was time for me to move on.

What have I learned from my time at Lettuce Link? It’s difficult to explain the impact these passionate coworkers have had on me. They have taught me so much - probably without even realizing it. At the beginning of the summer, I had only a vague sense of how food justice and hunger intersect with many of the larger issues that plague society today.

In my first week at Lettuce Link I began to learn all about this tangled web from Sue’s introduction to volunteers at Marra Farrm (if you haven't heard it, you certainly need to make a trip down to Marra). This was the first time I had heard how climate change, immigration, the obesity epidemic, hunger, and our food system were intertwined. Why have we not spent more time improving our food system if it is a major root cause of so many social and political issues?

I feel so fortunate to have been one of Lettuce Link’s summer interns.

During the past eight weeks I have learned how hard work and persistence can reap real rewards. On my first day at Marra Farm in early June, the Seattle rain poured down in buckets, my clothes were soaked through and my fingers were numb, but because we continued harvesting through the rain, we sent over 300 pounds of vegetables to local food banks that day.

Contrast this with my last day at Seattle Community Farm, the hot crops finally started coming in and we had our largest harvest of the season to date - over 700 pounds of produce! Coming from the South, I was unsure whether or not I would even see summer hot crops in the Pacific Northwest. Imagine my surprise when we harvested 251 pounds of zucchini in one afternoon! The zucchini plants were just babies when I first arrived, and now they are large and plentiful.

One of my favorite aspects of working at Lettuce Link this summer has been much time is spent outside. Seattle summer days are (mostly) sunny and temperate. I loved spending half my day in the office and half in the garden.

Farm days are particularly nice because I worked with Lettuce Link's Children's Gardening for Good Nutrition classes. Let me work with kids, and I’m sold - I love their creativity and honesty. When the kids at the Seattle Community Farm tried radishes for the first time, almost all of them immediately wrinkled their noses and spat out the radishes with distaste. But one boy liked them from his first taste. At our most recent class, weeks later, he told me, “I like radishes. They’re spicy.”

I am sad that I will miss the final classes. One girl echoed my own thoughts when she looked up at me and said, “You’re leaving? Don’t go, Wendy.”

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