Ok, first off I have to admit: I think that “y’all” is definitely superior to “you guys.” It’s gender neutral, and there are fewer syllables. The South is definitely on to something.
Also, there are so many things I’d like to write about! Like Mississippi roller derby, awesome organic vegetable and herb farms in the Delta, backyard jazz concerts, goat milk ice cream, guerrilla pothole fillers, and physical confrontations witnessed outside of the Department of Human Services. If you have any questions about Jackson, FoodCorps, cockroaches, or anything else, feel free to ask me about it in the comments! But since this is mainly my FoodCorps-related blog, I want to share some successes, challenges, and goals from my first week of service (in FoodCorps we say “serve” not “work”).
Thinking outside the juice box
My site supervisor, Prentiss, a spunky young mother of four with a wealth of knowledge about farming, apiary, and nutrition, got us started with a bang. She brought her juicer to the school, and we set up in teacher’s kitchen, juicing apples, carrots, celery, spinach, lemon, lime, and ginger. Originally, we were just going to go around to the teachers and administrators with some juice samples, but a couple of the teachers were intrigued and decided to bring their classes in to participate. The next couple hours turned into impromptu smell and taste tests where students tried to guess what the vegetable or fruit was using all their senses–touching and smelling the pulp and comparing the colors of juice. For the older kids, the teachers and I tried to get them to use different adjectives to describe their sensory perceptions. They were a little squeamish at first…because “eeew vegetables!” but they quickly became intrigued. One little blonde girl coughed and wrinkled her nose at all the vegetables, but by the end of the activity, she had quietly swallowed all her apple-carrot-lemon juice down to the last drop! The teachers loved it too.
It’s funny how quickly my thinking has moved from the abstract macrocosm of FoodCorp’s pillars of “Knowledge, Engagement, and Access” down to the minutiae of the cafeteria schedule, whether to use “Ms.” when talking to the principal, where to get a bucket to start composting kitchen scraps, etc., etc. For example, I’m still decoding the informal pecking order of the school while trying to grasp the norms and relationships that are unique to any organizational culture. The juicing activity apparently broke some of these rules because of its impromptu nature. And since this school is a new service site, most teachers and staff didn’t even know what I was doing at the school or that I would be there all year. I’ve been doing a lot of ‘splainin’ this first week and, to be honest, the reactions have been mixed. Some people are just resistant to change. I will woo those people over to my side with baked treats like these.
Impatiens is a flower, not a virtue
One of the other challenges I’m working around is my school’s lack of a garden budget. But today my amazing host site supervisor, Willie decided to help me out and took me on a shopping trip to the local nursery/hardware store to get transplants, seeds, and tools. On the way there, I confessed to him that I was getting impatient. I wanted everything to be instantly functional and great. He laughed and said that impatience is a common problem for a lot of service members who come to Mississippi. I have to remind myself that the most sustainable kinds of change are the ones that progress slowly, growing deep roots before they branch out for the world to see. [Insert more dorky plant metaphors here.]
So I guess I’ll leave you with my goals for this week: 1) create my class schedule with the teachers, 2) clean out the school’s tool shed and taking inventory, 3) start the compost, and 4) break ground (literally) on the new gardens. Prentiss and I have some cool ideas for a pumpkin patch, an herb garden, and some vine vegetables along a bleak stretch of chain link fence. I’ll keep y’all posted.