Written by Carly Auchey, AmeriCorps VISTA at Gettysburg College
Back to my Roots
If anyone told me a year ago that I’d be living in a small rural town (which happens to be close to my hometown) and working on a farm, I would have laughed. That’s just not me. To be fair, I also wouldn’t have believed anything about an unprecedented pandemic, murder hornets, or many other things that have happened so far this year. But here I am, in a year of firsts getting back to my roots.
My name is Carly Auchey (she/her/hers), and I am a Healthy Futures VISTA serving at Gettysburg College in collaboration with Casa de la Cultura. My project involves encouraging participation in current programming and (hopefully) promoting new programming related to nutrition, health, and wellness to the Latinx population here in Adams County. After four years of studying Social Work and Spanish near Philadelphia, including an eye-opening study abroad experience in Mexico, I knew that I wanted my career to involve social justice and the Latinx population. As graduation got closer and the reality of COVID-19 set in, I kept going back to stories I had heard through various internships with AmeriCorps VISTA.
Fast forward to now and I am beyond thrilled to be a part of this project. While many VISTAS (and other professionals alike) are navigating the world of virtual and online engagement, I am thankful for an opportunity to engage with families in person; even if it is with masks and from a distance. This in-person venue is la Granja de la Tortuga Pintada (the Painted Turtle Farm). While my project doesn’t relate to farm management or anything like that, the farm has become one of my favorite places to be.
“La Tortuga” as most of the families call it, is a community garden above anything else. The disappointment over the lack of the community aspect has come up in almost every conversation I’ve had with families about what they like most about the farm and how it is different this year. Let me explain the well-oiled machine that is la Tortuga. When you first walk in, you will see 26 family plots; these are raised beds where families pick culturally appropriate plants that they want to care for and harvest throughout the season. Families care for their “parecelas” (plots) on Monday or Wednesday nights to abide by social distancing. I spend these evenings working with families in their plots, talking about vegetables, favorite recipes, why I was there on the farm, their kids going back to school, what they’d like to see in the community, and honestly anything else that came up.
Moving on from the family plots, you will then see the herb boxes. In these seven boxes, we grow cilantro, parsley, tea, dill, pepicha (Mexican herb), oregano, and other herbs for the community to use. Past the herb boxes, you’ll find “the big plot.” It is deemed so because this is the plot that is in constant rotation of planting and harvesting to fill Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) bags. On Wednesdays, we harvest. This is when students and other volunteers harvest and record what plants are ready to fill CSA shares. These CSA shares are what fund the seeds for the family plots for the season. CSA members get these bags from harvest once a week, every other week, or once a month. The bags are typically overflowing with so many naturally grown veggies and herbs depending on the time of year. When I joined the team in July, bags were filled with zucchini, eggplant, tomatoes (of various kinds), basil, kale, Swiss chard, various peppers, and more.
I can’t forget the hoop house! This structure houses too many kinds of tomatoes to count, poblano peppers, habaneros, green peppers, eggplants, and more. The farm is filled with flowers to attract bees and other good insects to help the plants.
What I love about the farm is that it’s not just about growing food; it’s about fostering relationships and a sense of community across lines of difference that often seem insurmountable. Not only am I getting back to my roots, but I’m creating new ones in ways I never would have imagined!
Check out Carly's latest video below that she created for Casa de la Cultura about Healthy Options!
Welcome to the CCNYPA*VISTA Blog, written for VISTAs, by VISTAs!