In September 2014, M3 (aka the Mission, Messaging and Media Department) invited fellow employee, Jason Lepke, and me to represent Organic Valley at In Good Company’s South Bronx Project. In Good Company is a partnership of like-minded businesses that join together to make a positive difference through hands-on action.
After that quick clean-up session, we boarded a bus for a brief orientation to the Bronx-reportedly the poorest congressional district in the US until 2013 when redistricting took place. It was during the tour that we first witnessed how much of an issue access to whole, fresh food this community faced and knew that connecting this neighborhood to the Taqwa Community Garden would not only bring access to food, it also provides a respite and the opportunity to connect with the Earth, to which many urban folks do not have access.
As we continued our work throughout the week, I couldn’t help but hear the phrase “many hands make light work” run on repeat through my head. And now, looking back on the week, I think what we accomplished is remarkable: we logged 990 hours, removed 20 yards of debris, moved 25 cubic yards of compost, 12 cubic yards of mulch, pruned 15 trees, planted 180 garlic bulbs, refurbished one green house and one tool shed, laid two brick pathways, renewed three compost bins and one playground, built a chicken coop for 30 hens and created a children’s garden!
There was something about that week of digging my hands into the dirt, helping refresh an oasis for the community that I feel, in some ways, was more therapeutic for me than the good we provided any of the folks that will visit and work at Taqwa. Building a community through a common goal with the other volunteers and gardeners reaffirmed how important it is to work together in order to leave the world a better place than we found it. It reaffirmed how impactful small acts can be on other people, how those small acts can be a force that unites people across their differences. The eight days I spent with strangers in the South Bronx is handedly one of the best experiences of my life.