Friday, December 27, 2013

Leaving 2013 Behind: Gardening and Building Community For 2014 and Beyond

Recently, there has been a successful harvest from the last seeds we planted. For a few days we enjoyed the produce so much and again as what we desire, we were lucky to have some surplus for giving. And so we shared some of those vegetables to the neighbors, especially to those who volunteered, at the same time while successfully demonstrating the possibility and advantage of having a sharing garden and building a community. Though it’s too little to be proud of since we only planted few, it was enough to show that we can actualize our vision and that they can do it as well if only given a chance. It is also very motivating to reflect on those past few months because of the new experiences and the things that we’ve learned from gardening and inter-personal dynamics along with it. As a person assigned with this responsibility I realized that we really have to be firm and clear on our ideas and expectations so that miscommunications can be avoided in the end; and so that others will also be encouraged to work for this vision. But also to have a healthy dynamics and group relationship, sometimes you also need to be flexible and tolerant so that others can express their ideas and feelings for the sake of freedom. Though I am saying this, I also admit that I wasn’t able to demonstrate a good quality of a so called “leader”. To be honest, sometimes in this project, I admit to be inconsistent. But one thing I’m sure about is the fact that this project is still my most priority; that everything I do still concerns the future of this project. I want to emphasize this to the people, who are also very helpful in the process; the few who shared their time and energy and still want to help the projects.

Last time on our last post we told you about the challenges we are having especially the small conflict with the former “caretaker” of the area and possible threat of losing the garden. Well, we successfully managed some of those and still continue using the space. Because of this we also discovered that in every year there is something that will turn out that needs to be fixed. These are the issues that you need to sort out as you carry the seed of your vision of a community and plant them in the present. Instead of being down and hopeless about it, we somehow appreciate it because we know that trials like these usually make you stronger if you learn to handle and “dance” with it. So in the long run, this will help us face another test in the future that is waiting in the path taken by BHSG. Thanks that the former caretaker of the area did not do any attempt to push us away or anything that might bring us discontent or cause inequity. Although we can coexist with him and tolerate some of his weird views and behavior, seeing his heedless attitude towards the garden or the soil is very discouraging. As part of our vision we want to encourage and support the people who really care about gardening and community matters, but it is really very disappointing that after all those times I spent explainingto him everything about the project, and how non-organicways of gardening/farming harm our health and destroy the soil, he still doesn’t have even the slightest desire to stop using these chemical fertilizers and pesticides. It is sad that there is really something that prevents him from grasping the sounder picture of things. I appreciate his gardening passion and skills but I just couldn’t understand why he cannot see the serious threat of using these chemicals. 

Another thing that makes me sad isthe fact that he doesn’t care about the vision of BHSG and even sometimes hostile to it, thoughwithout showing it or making it obvious.I am not 100% sure of this but what bothersme is how unsupportive he was towards everything we care about.And sometimes in a subtle manner, he expresses words that suggest something against the project. To give you some historical background, he gardened on those area years before for personaland profit goal but later on, he abandoned it since it was open and different animals can easily enter and eat everything. So it was overgrown with grasses and was abandoned for almost 10 years and nearby residents from the subdivision didn’t know what to do with it; some even throw their garbagewastes on that area and nobody cares or pays attention about it. Until we found the area and determined to spend some amount to build fences and use it for a garden project, people saw that it was possible to make use of that lot.So later he decided to usurp some part of the area again and do his way without minding the impact of it. We totally don’t want to kick him out of that area, in fact before, we would love to have him as an ally of the project but it seems very difficult to do it because of some unknown factors that block him from the “connection”. 


More to the challenge we are currently facing is the developing patterns visible which is similar to this kind of attitude and behavior we are noticing in one of our new volunteers. I mean we don’t want to look at him as an outsider, and we don’t see it as a totally negative issue but instead as a test on our strength and stability. What we noticed is that somehow he cannot really appreciate the value of sharing in a community or in a garden. He cannot see that there is still a choice; that through gardening and re-building a community, we still can start living the sustainable way.And with this, surviving without making much money is not only possible but also necessary. It has already been lived by countless people in the intentional communities all over the globe, transforming the unsustainable industrial paradigm into an ecological paradise of compassion and mutual support in the social, emotional,and psychological aspect.We have a respect for his enthusiasm and skills and we consider him as a very important ally but it didn’t dawn on us that he doesn’t want to support the vision. Until he personally said this, we thought that he volunteered to join the project because he understands and want to support this vision but unfortunately he is being consumed by pessimism and unconsciously trapped in his judgmental attitude that is sometimes driven by his lack of information, christian prejudice, and religious dogma. In addition, it was also disheartening to know that he sold some of the harvest to the neighbors without informing the group. Though we are not totally against selling the produce,especially if it is really necessary to keep things running or to sustain the project, but selling them for personal reason is I think not a healthy sign. It contradicts the vision and principle of SG because for us,this kind of “mindset” is one of the reasons that contribute to the current social and ecological crises we are facing today. But despite of this we still don’t want to exclude him on the project as long as he will support the vision.In fact, we appreciate that he put so much time on the garden and was very helpful to the physical effort. I clearly explained this to him emphasizing that he is still welcome to join the planning and other meetings if he is willing to work with us again. 

While we are dealing with thesekinds of challenges, I believe westill need to constantly show to the people that what we are doing will really help them. Wemust show them that they are stillwelcome to join the process because we value them as a person who also needs safe food, healthy community, and empowerment to take in charge of his life and his future. It is tough, playing these roles without much knowledge, skills, and actual support from any “experienced” community organizers. Thinking about possible negative outcomes that might cause big obstacles is overwhelming, especially when you feel small in numbers. But knowing that you stand in the right way, doing the things that help others and offer sustainable alternatives, you’ll feel vindicated by the concrete reasons and visions you have for the future of your community.I think the advantage of this is that we willhave an opportunity to grow and learn by dealing with minor conflicts and clashes.I think it is normal that sometimes you’ll find people who want to join but doesn’t care much about important issues related to your project; let alone community, food, health, and ecological matters.We now realized that it is normal that some people cannot easily see the connection of this project to the global social and ecological situation especially in the aspect of food, environment, and well-being of the people. But I think by constantly working on these factors and sincerely showing them the bridge that connects these issues,you can prove to them that what you stand for is not only doable but also very easy if you work together in a community.

As for now we still want to continue gardening the area as long as it is still possible. Currently, we already have some plans and in fact, started to clear some parts of the area for the next planting. In addition, my friends already planted the next seeds. Though the soil is still poor, somehow it was now clear that we still can get something from it as long as we constantly fertilize and water them. And concerning this as well, we still have some compost and some more cow dungs to use. By January, we planned to fix the fence, cultivate more beds, and start planting more. By this time also we will start doing the related programs. Again we will organize discussions, film viewings, exhibits, and workshops related to gardening, social sustainability, and community building all throughout the year. We are very glad that there were people who donated money to keep us going even though it is clear that we are just taking a small step. In response to this kindness, we will do our best to help others by constantly showing them these alternatives and choices through this venture. I believe that by doing these things, we can have more opportunity to advance the vision of a sustainable, healthy, and compassionate community.