My internship at Collard City Growers has been a truly rewarding experience. I feel very fortunate to have found people as passionate as I am about nutritional education, the benefits of local food, and economic and environmental sustainability that also operates with a community-oriented approach and organization. Collard City is growing both produce as well as the next generation of growers. Working as a demonstration garden, a composting project, and community-driven organization, Collard City Growers expands on resources found within the neighborhood, city, and region to benefit the whole community centered on 6th Avenue in North Central Troy.
Gannon hanging Sukkah "tiles" for StoryHarvest
One of the things I enjoy about this internship is the degree of involvement within the uptown community. Oftentimes, I feel sheltered at RPI, caught in the bubble on “the hill” and only associating with students who have been shipped in from all across the nation to this small, college town. Because I am from DC, I am accustomed to surrounding myself with a lot of different and radical views by opinionated and passionate people and had yet to be in an environment in Troy that reminded me of that DC-feeling. Working at Collard City has propelled me into more of the Troy community, meeting people from all social, economic, and political backgrounds in the most amazing way. I always knew I loved working with other people and getting a chance to see their viewpoints, and working at the garden is no different. I have learned an incredible amount about not only gardening and urban farming but also composting and how the community can come together and be affected by one small green plot.
Every week, I looked forward to my opportunity to leave behind the classroom, workload, and stress and dive hands-first into the garden. Weeding, shoveling woodchips and compost, and spending time nurturing the land that nurtures us gave me a valuable escape and time to clear my head before returning to the rigor of school.
Stacey helping Nevaeh take photos at Story Harvest
As I got on the 80 bus for the first time to head to North Troy to meet Abby Lublin of Collard City Growers, I knew I was entering something far different from the bubble on a hill that RPI can be sometimes, something that would be far different but probably more moving and perspective challenging than I could encounter on “my” side of Troy.
Fast forward one week: I am hauling wood chips and fresh soil to surround and prepare our crops for our upcoming culminating event, Story Harvest: A Celebration of Art and Food from Seed to Table. A joint project with RPI’s MFA in Media Arts student Ellie Markovitch and Collard City Growers, Story Harvest is going to be a huge celebration of the growth of the garden, food and storytelling. Everyone is eagerly waiting for October 15th. Kids are running to and fro the garden asking Abby who all they can invite (everyone is welcome!), we are painting paper bag tiles for the sukkah that will hold all the collected harvest with Troy School 1 students and community members are stopping by to see what they can to do to help and how they can organize. Gannon (co-intern) and I are in charge of constructing the sukkah, a temporary hut commonly used in the Jewish festival of Sukkot, a week-long harvest celebration. To do this, Abby offers all her resources which include a surplus of bamboo sticks that have been donated by a garden in East Greenbush, twine, a pair of helping hands and brain power. As always, there are many creative minds and working hands, from the kids on the block to new Troy residents, which makes the sukkah design and construction a smooth project. To keep the sukkah in working and safe condition, we decide it isn’t a smart decision to keep it out in the garden overnight. A neighbor graciously offers his gated backyard as a storage spot that we accept and for which we thank him.
Any day at Collard City Growers during my two and a half month internship was much like this one. This is a movement characterized by collective action and collaboration. Everything that I’ve done at CCG was community involved and community driven. I’ve learned how to utilize what a community’s biggest assets are: its people, knowledge, skills and motivation.
It wasn’t until this experience that I began to identify myself as a resident of Troy and as an individual who believes in everything Collard City Growers and this coalition is working towards: a united community trying to better itself and improve its future. The way that Collard City Growers chooses to do that is to eat what you grow, reap what you sow through cooking, eating, harvesting and community building.