I was able to work at the Downtown Ypsilanti Farmer’s Market (DYFM) this week. Tuesday, June 7, 2011
For Farmer’s Market: sun screen, LOTS of water, chairs, spray bottle of water for plants and face, patience
One of the most ironic things that took me surprise was the way people looked who came in with their double-up silver coins and their Food Stamp coins. I prepared myself to meet ( and not judge) those who came into our booth with tokens, but I realized that I had only thought of those who needed assistance as people who would ‘look’ like they couldn’t afford the bare necessities. Wrong, wrong, WRONG. People who don’t have enough to provide themselves with food aren’t only the poor and homeless. Having a really nice purse says nothing about your economic status (possessions aren’t indicators of wealth or the lack thereof), and I think even small misconceptions/perceptions about this issue can cause long-term problems in the way of providing the correct amount of assistance to citizens in need. I thought about it this way while I was standing in the booth: You can’t be judged based on your possessions because you acquire material things as your economic situation fluctuates. I could afford a Coach purse and have it for years; however, I would be judged by someone as wasteful if I lost my job, applied for state assistance, but still carried around the Coach purse. Something about the perception of poor and disadvantaged peoples have skewed our ability to interact with others who don’t ‘seem’ to have the same problems that extremely disadvantaged people do. Not only does this affect our interaction with these people and the judgment we place those who may look like they are just playing the system, this also affects our interaction with those who really have nothing, and look like it. If a person looks like they are doing well, we assume they have no need of assistance, and question their reasons for signing up for assistance in the first place (perhaps they didn’t save and spend their money wisely? Just want a way to spend less on groceries?)and if they look bad, smell bad, and seem to have gotten or maybe even actively pursued the short end of the stick, we think twice about hiring them, trusting them with responsibilities, or even helping them out with some money(Couldn’t they have found a job at McDonald’s or something?).We forget that some people have disabilities or backgrounds that make such jobs impossible to gain or keep. We also tend to forget that asking for money on the edge of an intersection on a 95 degree day in Michigan is a job itself. We have no idea if 3 days earlier, they were the same person with nice clothes, and many material things. The contradiction! One of the most interesting things I found was that those who ‘looked’ like they were fine were as interested as the rest about how many and what types of seedlings they would be able to get from Growing Hope, and many were already veterans in trying to provide for themselves to supplement the amount of assistance they received from the state of Michigan for food.
Things are not always what they seem; unless you have the bigger picture, you have no right to judge.
Friday, June 10, 2011
Today was a watering day at Growing Hope. The rain took care of the outside plants , but the hoop house plants needed watering to fend off the heat from the humidity in the hoop house. The hoop house on the farm is very large, so watering takes a lot of time. I asked the farm manager about watering and what she would like to change about the process as we completed the watering and started potting and de-potting plants.
It started to pour again as I was potting the Clemson Spineless okra outside the hoop house. I could have gone inside, but the potting was peaceful, and I didn’t get as wet as I could have, because I brought my trusty lemon yellow raincoat with me. I was thinking about the farm manager’s response to my question, and wondering why the things she had identified as problems hadn’t been addressed—she had been working on the farm for quite some time. Perhaps there wasn’t enough money to change the system, or a clear enough idea of what was exactly wanted. Or, I thought as I mixed peat moss with compost, they don’t mind it the way it is. There is something about being by yourself in the hoop house, humming old hymns (me) or the Beatles (that’s the farm manager) as you pull the watering hose around and water each raised bed and transplant tray. If you mechanize every process, the hoop house become less of a community farm, and more like a commercialized plant. That’s what we are trying to avoid: fix problems so that they help make the process easier, but not disturb the energy and connection that comes from doing the work ourselves. Something in between a completely mechanized watering system and getting completely drenched with the leaking watering hose.