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Gill Tract Community Farm Blog Post - Labor as Medicine -- by Sarah (student intern)


My time volunteering at Gill Tract has been a refreshing refuge from the stress of everyday routines. Engaging in labor here is a source of healing, in a place where the pace of life slows and connections deepen through shared knowledge. My experience at Gill Tract is a testament to the transformative power of community, where each seed planted is a step towards healing the spirit and cultivating a sustainable future.

Blog Post:

Every week before my volunteer shift, the same thought goes through my head: “Ugh, getting on the bus sounds awful right now” or “I’m too tired to work today” or “ I'd rather stay in my bed.” However, without fail, after that half-hour bus ride, I couldn’t be happier to arrive at the Gill Tract Community Farm. Working at the farm often feels like entering a parallel universe where time slows, and the worries of the outside world seem to dissipate. The rustling of wind through the trees sounds like peace, and it is easy to find fulfillment in caring for the plants. 

My first instinct when brainstorming for this blog was to replicate the countless academic papers I write each semester and focus on the political importance of urban farms. I could keep to my comfortable patterns and drone on about food sovereignty and how we’re fighting for a more equitable food system. But that would represent the opposite of what Gill Tract has meant to me. To me, volunteering at the farm every week has been an opportunity to remember what life should be about and who I want to be. 

I started working at the Gill Tract farm in May of 2023 as an assignment for Professor Kathy DeMasters' food systems class. I remember the almost rock-hard soil in the monarch butterfly patch and feeling overwhelmed at the thought of preparing it for planting with only my pitchfork. The transformation that followed, witnessing the once barren land bloom in late summer, was profoundly meaningful to me. Flowers have always captured our attention. We've all likely paused to admire a particularly beautiful flower on the street. But the sight of this little garden nearly brought me to tears. It was awe-inspiring to remember the dry patch this land used to be, remembering how I thought the task ahead would be insurmountable and then, after months of planting, weeding, and caring for the small starts, having grown such a vibrant garden. That plot served as a tangible representation of the empowerment derived from putting my hands on the earth and witnessing the results of my efforts. It was a small accomplishment in the grand scheme of things. I would receive little praise or celebration, but having cultivated this land felt like the most beautiful thing I’ve ever done. 

Engaging in the practical aspects of farm work at Gill Tract goes beyond the physical labor – it becomes a mosaic of shared knowledge and connections. Conversations with Nori about the science behind composting or learning from Nathan about the medicinal properties of various plants don't merely serve as educational moments; they are threads weaving a communal narrative. Amid our tasks, I found myself engrossed in conversations with fellow farmers, discovering shared passions and creating a sense of camaraderie that transcended the boundaries of the field. These interactions formed the heartbeat of the farm, where the collective wisdom of the community resonated with the energy of growth around us.

In these conversations, the significance of community and connection became palpable. I came to realize that true strength in movements stems not just from individual efforts, but from the shared understanding and collaboration fostered by a close-knit community. The farm, with its diverse conversations and shared experiences, serves as an embodiment of this belief. It is a testament to the idea that, in collaboration, seeds of change flourish, demonstrating the profound impact of unity in cultivating a more sustainable and connected future.

Connecting to land and nature isn’t just about planting seeds; it is liberation from an everyday work culture that forces us to be productive, rather than joyful. It has become normal to overlook the beauty that surrounds us. We lose the art of noticing life as it unfolds, in favor of fast-paced advertising wrapped in the pretty bow of instant gratification and constant entertainment. Working at Gill Tract gives us a chance to slow down and break free of our monotonous structured routines and live life more intentionally. 

In summary, my experience at Gill Tract Community Farm has been genuinely enriching, fostering a profound shift in how I navigate my life and goals. The farm became a refuge, breaking the monotony of everyday life and reigniting my commitment to environmentalism and land stewardship. Engaging in the physical work on the farm is not just about tending to the soil or crops; it's an act that heals the spirit. This experience, beyond personal fulfillment, underscored the political significance of fostering community and advocating for food sovereignty. Witnessing the collaborative efforts at Gill Tract, I observed the tangible results of unity in cultivating a more sustainable and connected future, reinforcing the importance of collective action.

Photos by Sarah

Written by Sarah, student intern at Gill Tract Farm


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