In my experience over the past four summers, food has been such an empowering tool, such a mind-blowing subject, and such a multi-faceted journey, that it is oftentimes too overwhelming to even attempt to cover in the newsletters, brochures, and interviews I contribute to. But this summer, I wanted our CultivaTeen crew members to capture what they've gleaned from our program with words and with visual art. I wanted to know what stuck with them.
I tasked crew members with thinking of their favorite lesson or workshop throughout the program so far, and then make a list of all the reasons they enjoyed it. They then thought of images that could represent these days. With an odd list, we then visited Ellen at the Rensing Center that week to spill our ideas out onto a simple little square.
For the kids, this was a fun, although challenging, project. For me, it seemed daunting. How could I put into words or art some of the most tremendous moments of the program? Like when a crew member tasted a fresh peach for the first time, and widened her eyes to share her amazement with a friend. Or the gratitude I felt when another realized in the middle of picking blueberries that the act was meditative and could potentially help her in times of anger? When a team of teens agrees that cooking for others at a soup kitchen makes them want to cook better food and come back often. And even those moments when another crew member shares his previous knowledge with another to help them learn in the garden.
As I began my square, I pasted a copy of a property map to begin with. This was in representation of my land, the Reid Homestead, where the crew members do quite a bit of their work and learning. I then began scattering seeds to indicate the intention I am sowing for our community here in Oconee. I want every person who comes into contact with OCP to grow and learn with us, understanding food is an outlet for change on so many levels, as well as a way to empower our youth.
Running with the outlet idea, I then used an outlet adapter plugged into a chanterelle mushroom to metaphorically show not only the outlet of change it provides, but the energy provides for us at the most basic level. How do we obtain that energy? How do we use the energy we gain? The adapter, the wiring holding the persimmon, and the red bird feather over the vintage toothpaste box all form crosses, which for many, evokes thoughts of the divine. And isn't food just that? Divinity? The ability to give and take, empower or destroy, live or die?
Other items found their way onto my square simply because they called to me. They were the treasures I can find outdoors when in Oconee, the beauty of the world I step into with these kids. And that's what it's about. What the founders of Oconee Cultivation Project wanted--for the youth in our area to see its potential, to meet the amazing people who live in and around the county doing amazing things to create an extraordinary place.
As you read our crew member's blogs and enjoy the photos of their experience and art, I thank you for the opportunity to work with these teens, and hope that you gain a kernel of what they have brought to the table.