Recently, I have been reflecting more and more about my life and my work at the farm, partly because I know my time is limited. I realize that I work in an unofficial community (the farm) that changes with the seasons and has grown up around me over the years. I know that when I leave I am really going to miss it. It is starting to hit home just how interwoven the farm is with my life. I go there nearly every day to work, learn and grow. It is where I have found friends, family and my vocation. It will always hold a special place in my heart and be a part of my life.
The community really starts with Kirsten the founder of the farm through the ways that she lives her life. Kirsten brings people together through the CSA, volunteers, school groups, neighbors and partnering with other local farmers. We don’t know just how far-reaching the impact of the farm is felt. People are drawn to this little place of refuge in a broken and hurting community. People feel welcome even though there is a fence surrounding the field. We have our regular visitors as well as visitors that only come every so often. The farm started with Kirsten but has taken on a life of its own.
The most frequent visitors to the farm are the CSA members that come every week for their produce. Some will just come for the produce and go, while others walk around the fields to pick herbs and flowers. Some bring their kids to play and a few will bring their dogs for a walk to the farm. The Waltons regularly bring any number of their 5 children and or other relatives. They run around the field searching for snakes, caterpillars, flowers, bugs and chickens. It’s always Mr. Josh; do you know where we can find a snake? Christine brings her little girl Rachel to play in the sand box and to check out the chickens. Neighbors and friends share memberships and it bring them together weekly to split the produce. It is beautiful to see a community forming, growing, bonding and fellowshipping at the farm.
Volunteers are God-sent especially when we don’t have enough staff. We have CSA members; some that work every week while others come early, middle or late in the season. Messiah volunteer groups full of youth and energy come weekly while school is in session. Some volunteers come as individuals but we also get church groups, youth groups, and businesses that send folks to volunteer. We have groups that come for field trips to learn from preschool on up.
We have our staff with Kirsten and myself as managers. This past summer we had two interns Amy and Brin. Brin was our youth supervisor and Amy was our do-it-all intern, doing everything from managing the farm stand to cooking with the youth. We had four high schoolers and they were great. Ja’Quan and Cameroon both worked for us for three years. TyQuan worked with us for two years and Jeremiah for one. I think it is amazing that they continue to come back year after year, even after changing from hourly to stipend pay (it was a pay cut). TyQuan and Jeremiah replaced students who had graduated and that seems to be the only reason they haven’t been with us as long as the others. You couldn’t ask for a better staff this year. I really enjoyed working with them and bonding with them over work and food. The Friday lunches they prepared from our produce were definitely a highlight. Currently, it is strange not to have them at the farm every day.
Throw Kirsten’s kids into the mix at the farm and they in turn bring some of the neighborhood kids. They will try to fly kites, play tag or any number of games I don’t know or understand. Sometimes they help harvest, weed or plant. Other neighborhood kids randomly come around from time to time just to check things out or play b-ball in the alley. Regularly, we have people wander up and check out what is going on with the farm.
This brings me back to Kirsten and her constant investment in the farm and in community building. I am in awe by this community that she has cultivated at the farm and invited me to be a part of in a very intimate way. She treats me as a family member. I have a key to her house and come and go as much as I please. I regularly make lunch in her kitchen. I am constantly interrupting their daily life. I see her children daily and watch them grow, change and enter different phases of life. I witness how Kirsten and Darrel parent and let community be a part of their lives. I am blessed and feel blessed by the simple, open, loving witness they are to the community of God’s Love.
The Joshua Farm community is bigger than Kirsten, myself or anyone else because it is about more than individuals. I don’t see how the farm could have grown and developed the way it has without God’s hand in it. Only God could bring together this farm community of random people that fosters conversations, bonding, friendships, and support for each other and the larger community as a whole. It is such a special place, a refuge filled with God’s love and purpose. I hope that the farm will continue to listen to God’s voice through the seasons, to grow and change in the direction he leads.
By Joshua J. D. Moritz