A volunteer gig, a work party, a community uniting.

Circle prep. The man running the show at the Homeless Garden Project work party lays out the different tasks and sets a light, focused, and fun for the day with his prep talk.

Last weekend I hopped in my car and headed to the far end town where the neighborhoods taper off and the landscape transitions to Wilder State Park. Just after Natural Bridges State Park you’ll find the Seymour Marine Discovery Center and the Homeless Garden Project Farm! This day was intended for the farm.

It was a rainy morning, my friends and I didn’t end up carpooling, and parking was tight so it was really tempting to turn around. Nonetheless I parked, exited the car, and proceeded to walk down the muddy road to the circle gathering in the center of the farm.

The group had been there for about half an hour now and they were just about to finish up with housekeeping notes and delegate tasks. The rain had stopped and it was surprisingly easy to hear our fearless leader share all the details we needed to hear to understand what to expect for the day.

There were about 100 people in this circle. 100 people! All were gathered around to give back to the community and partake in the work day ahead. It was a powerful crowd to see.

These tasty and beautiful strawberries were headed towards the kitchen for some strawberry jam production. These were the straggler berries from the season and the land was ready for some cover-crop to regenerate the soil for the next crops.

Then, tasks were called out and people stepped forward to volunteer. “Tomato pulling” “Adobe brick building” “Sign painting” “Trough digging”, all tough and important duties. And then “strawberry field.” When I heard it, I knew it -that was my desired task for the day.

So I went off with the strawberry group. In a nutshell: We harvested the ripe strawberries for jam, then we pulled out the strawberry plants, pulled up the black plastic covers, and took out the metal stakes and irrigation tubes that ran down the stretch of each propagation mound.

And, we did all this with Antique Beats and other live musicians playing in the background, with hot curry lunch served to all hands present, with snacks and pastries brought and donated by local bakeries and businesses, with massage tables where you could kick off your shoes for a moment and relax. Some local organizations(Santa Cruz Permaculture & Project Pollinate) had stands where you could meet and speak with the people behind them .There were workshops throughout the day where you could take a break from the physical exercise(the volunteer labor) and join other community members to learn about supporting pollinators, how us consumers can connect with farms to support biodiversity, reiki and acupuncture, and other holistic and sustainable systems-based ideas and practices.

Many hands make light work!

Everyone was a friend. Everyone was here for the joy of community and getting the hands dirty. Everyone, young and old, was having a great time.

There were conversations, mingling, discoveries(snakes, frogs, jerusalem crickets), smiles, laughter, dancing… and the sun even joined us- in full force- by the end of it all!

I left with a smile on my face, charged for the rest of the weekend, and with a some tasty strawberries in my tummy. It was a fulfilling event and I look forward to future similar opportunities to serve and connect with the local community.

What a transformation! There once was a strawberry field on the left and a large tomato patch on the right. Now the fields are ready for cover crops and eventually will be regenerated and prepared for the next season.

For those who are curious, here’s their fun-packed schedule of events.

Side note:

As a person in marketing and education who has put on many events, workshops, and presentations, I can never help myself from judging the events I attend. I always look at them with a critical eye. And this event hit the nail on the head. Bravo to all the organizers- really well done!