Bounty of Heart’s Delight

On the evening of August 22, 2015, lively voices and clouds of laughter were interwoven with lingering afternoon heat to create an atmosphere only Veggielution’s Bounty of Heart’s Delight dinner can create. I had just joined staff as Americorps Community Engagement Coordinator. San Jose was completely new to me. Veggielution was new as well. And that night there were about 150 members of a community that were new to me.

My first week, I dove into a brand new role for our organization, in the midst of the chaos of scrubbing the dust off our rustic outdoor space to prepare for Bounty. (Seriously, we clean a lot for this event. If you’d like to help get the looking farm-fancy, volunteer here!) And although I was in a new city, had a new job, and a new community…in many ways, I felt right at home at Veggielution. Why was that? Simply because I was surrounded by people who care about growing and sharing good food. It was my faith in that value that spurred me to make a 2000 mile move from Wisconsin to California — and I was not disappointed.

Back to that evening… I didn’t know quite what to expect from my first BOHD, other than a farm-fresh meal! As I explored the farm, made a few stops for photos, and played a game of Cornhole (Wisconsinites call it that), I began to understand the true beauty of our space. Looking back, I think it was the first sign that I was in for an amazing year.

When I am asked to explain Veggielution to anyone, I always begin at the Valley of Heart’s Delight. In the 1800’s, this area was an agricultural powerhouse connected by railroads. Our valley was covered with orchards and San Jose was a centerpiece in the canning and packing of the fruits and veggies grown in our region. [Read more on the history of Santa Clara Valley and Veggielution in Brenda’s Blog post — The Heart’s Delight under the freeway.] Many folks who visit the farm have only a vague idea of this city’s past. Yet, it is Veggielution’s connection to that history that makes our work relevant in East San Jose today.

Time and again, I am reminded of the history of the Valley, and the history of the rich cultures that make up our community in 2016. This year we’ve heard community members’ stories of working in the fields harvesting strawberries under the summer sun, returned to our roots with cover crop and no-till plots, and brought San Jose advocates together to learn and talk about farm workers and agricultural initiatives all over our nation with our Rainy Day Film Series. From our community-led Spanish cooking classes to the diverse mix of families who find a second home in the Youth Garden, none of this work would be relevant without first thinking of the Valley.

As the sun went down that evening a year ago, bellies were full and spirits were high. And just before the party really got started with the Barn Dance, we were reminded of the reason we all gathered on the farm under the freeway, as Cayce shared her rendition of “This is the house that Jack built” nursery rhyme.

Here we are gathered together

Supporting our farm, no matter the weather

Smelling the blossoms, fresher in scent

than the compost bucket where chickens sit

that holds the radishes tied together

soon to be plants going into the ground

that friends with gloves and tools set around

that gathered the eggs from the girls in the coop

that called to the chickens

that passed the kids

that saw the bee

that kissed the veggies

sown by the farmer

that chased the peacock

that ate the greens

that grow on the farm

that we built

This…is the farm…that we built.

All eyes, hearts, and minds focused on the rhythmic sentiment that meant so much, using only seven words.

This…is the farm… that we built.

It was the first time the farm had been quiet all night, as we reflected on how the farm has grown from its inception in 2008. Each person thought of the contribution they had made to build this space — supporting our mission with financial contributions, time, and talent.

A year has passed, and I am grateful to be a part of this strong and passionate community.

Veggielution has a unique atmosphere that simply cannot be found anywhere else in San Jose. One that celebrates conversations while cooking, eating, and farming — all within the rich history of the Valley of Heart’s Delight.

If you are new to our community — like I was, just a last year —I invite you to join us on August 27, 2016 for this year’s Bounty. You will be welcomed wholeheartedly. I am looking forward to seeing both old friends, and new faces this Saturday evening.

Written by Dana Shinners, AmeriCorps VISTA (Veggielution Community Engagement Coordinator)