Potluck please.

I am excited to think about the next time I will get together with many of the FHS organizing members.  We plan to have a debriefing meeting and a thank you writing note party.  I think that they may both be of the potluck atmosphere, which makes me really happy.  I have a really warm, happy feeling about being with all of those wonderful people in a setting where we can kind of kick back and relax, especially after all is said and done.  The one potluck I have been to was really really nice.  It left an awesome imprint on my brain of what a potluck is.  I am even, at this moment, considering having one at my apartment for the FHS crew if the other meetings don’t turn out to be the potluck atmosphere.  I really just think that I am yearning for a more personal, intimate setting with all of my fellow FHS organizing volunteers.  We had all of our meetings at Greenfield’s Market, which is awesome and I don’t think we could do it in any better place, but every time we have gotten together it has been pretty formal.  They are all amazing people and I think I just want to experience them outside of a work environment, even if we were all there voluntarily.

Looking back, after the fact

Well many things have been wrapped up for the Free Harvest Supper.  The event took place a little over a week ago with great success, I have completed my required hours, all but one donation jar has been collected and the donations from those jars have been sorted and counted.  This truly marks a point in my summer where I can step back and really feel good about what my summer was like.  I have just about completed everything I set out to do.  I took a summer 1 class and got an A, and have succeeded greatly in helping with an event that seems to me to be something truly amazing.  What I witnessed and experienced on that day was quite special.  I think the part that stands out in my mind the most is the moving mental image of masses of people unloading the U-Haul truck full of tables and chairs to set them up.  That image, to me, defines community.  I have to say it was hard at times to see myself making all of this happen.  Acquiring the 70 hours was starting to seem a little bit out of reach and I started writing my blogs pretty late into the process.  I was nervous for a while, and being that it was all up to me, that made it even more of a challenge.  I mean I did have Abrah checking in to see how things were going, and other people around that kept me informed and checked in from time to time, but being that it wasn’t an in class setting and I had quite a lot of responsibility, this was one of the more challenging things that I have done for school ever.  It was great.

The Aftermath

The sun had set and the setting was calm.  None but a few feet carried owners across the slowly breathing street.  Just a couple of hours before, the street was quite overwhelmed, having never dealt with over 1,000 hungry and happy humans moving about on that special Sunday in August.  Yes there were balloon animal makers and funky blues rock musicians; there was free food for everyone prepared and unprepared;  the mayor was selling tickets for the prize drawing; and people were smiling all over Court Square and the town common in Greenfield, MA.  This year—my first year of involvement with the Free Harvest Supper was the most amazing one to date.  As I said there were over 1,000 people in attendance which is a new record, we had 120 volunteers (not including the group recruited by the Hope and Olive/Magpie crew to prepare the food) on hand, musicians from young funky blues rockers to a women’s choir to musical saws.  We had a state senator and a state representative serving food, and a former city councilor on the fundraising crew.  It was a beautiful day and I was blessed to have so many of my friends and family there with me, some volunteering themselves even, and others just soaking up the contagious pleasant vibes that were oh so present.
It does seem crazy to me, how events like this take so much preparation, so many people and so much time to bring them into fruition, and then the event itself lasts merely a few hours.  I don’t know if I could have handled much more anyways, being that I was there for a good seven hours, but it definitely happened in a flash.  It’s as if, after an event like that, when you sit and take in the space again, where not long before there were tents and tables and chairs, boxes and people there is now a certain silence that exists inside yourself and about your surroundings that wasn’t even there before you started.  It really doesn’t even matter that you are still downtown and cars are driving by and people are walking around, there is a silence that runs deep.  It is a beautiful noise.

More FHS progress

Last Thursday I traveled around Greenfield and made the first round of collections from the donation jars for the Free Harvest Supper.  I was moving about town on a bum knee, so I never intended to go to all of the donation jar sites, but after seeing how little had been put in the jars I really didn’t feel like I needed to go empty the other jars.  I took all of the money out of the ones that I collected from, and even though it was a plan to visit the locations weekly, afterwards I felt like I should have left some money in each of the jars to show other people that donations were being made–a tactic that seems to inspire others to make contributions.  So, I have been waiting a little longer to go make any collections, and tomorrow I am going to go around collecting from more jars and putting up posters in towns other than Greenfield because I—and some others before me—have already got posters up throughout most of Greenfield.  Since I haven’t had a lot of donation jar activity to stay busy with, I took on the role of Display Area Coordinator.  I am in charge of communicating with Local Businesses and Organizations that are involved in supporting local agriculture, as well as farmers to find out to what degree they would like to be on display at the FHS.  All of the farmers will be mentioned in the Program, but they also have the option of getting to me either some brochures or business cards or the like to display on tables, and the businesses and organizations have the option of displaying themselves at their own table or one that is provided.  It was a last minute job I took on because I was looking for more to do and we hadn’t found another volunteer to do it.  It has been going well so far but I have more to do certainly.  Follow up emails and contacting people who didn’t originally respond will need to happen soon, as well as making sure I set up a way to acquire their display materials of choice.  I also will be coordinating the transportation of the leftover food of many of the vendors from the Ashfield Farmers Market on the day before the event.  Many of the farmers have agreed to donate what they don’t sell on Saturday to the Supper and I will be using my dad’s truck and Ayaan from the Center for Self Reliance will be meeting me at the Market with the Center’s van.  I am looking forward to this part especially because it is just another facet of the process that I am involved in and another way I will be helping.  A busy and fun week I am in indeed!

Fundraising

As the co-chair of the fundraising committee it has been my responsibility to familiarize myself with all facets of the fundraising department of The Free Harvest Supper (FHS).  It began with learning how things have been done in the past, to eventually assigning ourselves responsibilities within the department.  As I reported in my last post all of the money raised goes to the Center For Self Reliance food pantry in Greenfield towards the Farmers’ Market Coupon System.  The manager of the Center For Self Reliance Dino Schnelle has been a part of the Free Harvest Supper since its inception and therefore my fundraising co-chair Mary Siano and I work closely with Dino through all of our processes.  In our early meetings-as I said-we discussed what was done in the past by the former fundraising person (Deb) and then what responsibilities we would hold.  Being that I work every Saturday morning I am never able to attend the Saturday Farmers’ Market in Greenfield where we would be selling tickets for a prize drawing at the FHS.  Mary’s schedule would be in general more flexible and so this made it easy to decide that it would be advisable to put Mary in charge of the drawing side of things.  In response to that decision, and also because it would provide me consistent opportunities to be working on the project and building my hour log for my internship, we decided that it would work well to have me spearhead the donation jars.  Fundraising also includes asking places of business around the area to donate to help support the coupons.  The letter that was sent out last year was revised by Mary McClintock and Jennifer Williams-two members of the FHS volunteer effort who are writers and/or editors-so that it could be signed by Mary, Dino and I and sent out to request donations.  The letters were then sent out with another form and last year’s post FHS newspaper article written by Mary McClintock.  Dino and I folded all the papers filled the envelopes with them and he sealed and sent them.  It has been an exciting process and I am enthusiastic about the rest that is left to do and the fun we will have on the day of the event!

Volunteer Inspirations

Mary McClintock visited our Permaculture Design class in the spring to tell us about the Free Harvest Supper of Greenfield, and I was excited and happy to find out about such an amazing event.  After sharing with us the jist and the details of the Free Harvest Supper, Mary let us all know that she was looking for volunteers and what better place to go than a room full of budding food production enthusiasts?  Then, when Abrah told us that she could set us up with an internship for either one, two, or three credits I was in.  I signed my name on the dotted line (well after much painstaking delay) and looked forward to an opportunity to give my time and effort to two causes joined together that I fully support: access to healthy local food for everyone; and supporting a local food economy.  You see, what we found out that day—for those of us who didn’t know already—is that The Free Harvest Supper is a great community event that is a celebration of local agriculture, and also a fundraiser that supports the Center For Self Reliance in Greenfield and its Farmers Market Coupon System.  The Center for Self Reliance is the local food pantry, and The Farmers Market Coupon System is a way for the people who count on the Center for food to get healthy locally grown food.  The Coupon System works by providing food pantry participators with coupons to take to the Greenfield Farmers Market that act as money so that they can acquire food from the vendors there.  Then, at the end of the year the farmers turn in all of their coupons and get reimbursed for the food they gave away.  It is a total win-win.  It unites people across the community in support of happy healthy lifestyles for ourselves and our neighbors and we do it a manner of celebration together.  Every year it is held on the Greenfield Town Common on a Sunday in August and this year it will be held on the 19th.  I hope to see anyone reading this there! It will be a great community event and lots of fun!