This weekend was a dream of sorts. Like when you find a 20 dollar bill in the back pocket of a pair of shorts you just took out for the season. Or when you discover one more gift under the tree with your name on it on Christmas morning. Or, if you really want to stretch it, when you thought that winning the Saved By the Bell game really meant Zack Morris was your boyfriend. Hey, if Torrie could get him, so could you.
Or when you wanted to live on a farm and start each morning knee deep in soil, with a hoe in one hand and a chicken in the other.
What – you didn’t dream that?
On Saturday morning my friend Jessie and I volunteered at the Arcadia Center for Sustainable Food and Agriculture. Located just a few minutes from our apartment in Alexandria, Arcadia’s mission is to: ” improve the health of our community, the viability of local farmers, and preserve our environment for future generations by combining education about healthy food and its sources with better logistical connections between local farmers and the urban and suburban core of the region.”
They also supply fresh produce for the Neighborhood Restaurant Group’s fantastic restaurants in DC and Virginia, including Birch & Barley, where Jessie works part-time. She mentioned volunteering at Arcadia to me one day at work, and since I literally JUST was on their website the day before I basically shouted “LET’S VOLUNTEER!!” across the four-foot hallway that separates her desk from mine. I had waited for this day all my life! (And since the Zack Morris thing couldn’t work out, this just HAD to.)
It was a beautiful day for farming, and there were about ten of us volunteers who showed up at the farm gates for some serious manual yet satisfying labor. The woman in charge of the farm, Mo, was ridiculously nice and pretty much the coolest person ever. She runs the farm with a few other people and has a deep-rooted passion in not just growing organic food but also teaching others – especially children – the importance of sustainable living and growing. She also said she was up at 4 o’clock in the morning, feeding a bottle of milk to a baby calf. I basically want to be her. Well, maybe just her best friend.
After Mo told us about the farm and its mission to spread yummy home-grown goodness all over DC, were split up into groups and sent to work. The first task given to Jessie and me was digging out grass surrounding a row of watermelon plants (the grass competes with the watermelon plants for water, so it had ta go!). We each took a hoe and basically worked out some serious arm muscles, channeling any anger inside of us to that grass!
Once we were done digging, we weeded around the plants with our hands. I can’t tell you how good it felt to get my hands in that cold dirt, smell the fresh morning air and feel the summer sun shining down through wide-open skies.
After we hoe’d around (sorry, I honestly cannot stop saying phrases like that when talking about the farm…and yes, I am 13 years old), we worked on cutting sparkle lettuce, pulling weeds and picking arugula and leafy kale. Mo said the entire row the we were working on was in its last cycle and was going to be torn up and re-planted later that day, so we could basically take everything we picked. As if the day could get any better!!! We picked two crates full and washed off the greens in the big farmhouse sink.
After four hours, Jessie and I left Arcadia with dirty fingernails, three bags of greens and a refreshed sense of self. And even though our sunburns and sore shoulders have yet to fade, I am already looking into our next trip back! In fact, I see there are volunteer hours this weekend…
In my next post, I’ll tell you all the glorious things that Sunday brought! I’ll give you a hint…there were a whole ‘lotta antique mason jars involved. (I bet the anticipation is killing you!)