Service-Learning Reflection: Madi Shade

My days spent at World Hunger Relief Inc. are some I will never forget. While most can take this statement lightly, my friends in Bridge Adventure and I can stand by it. From the moment we stepped out of the van, the hot summer air, earthy smell, and laughter filled my senses. We were instantly met with kind, strong words and a detailed explanation of their goals. Sky Toney, the Director of Education, passionately explained the importance of composting and the different practices they used for the animals to enhance the use of compost. One of their many goals was to incorporate sustainability on a farm by giving nutrients back to the soil instead of overusing the land and causing it to go sterile. While touring, we noticed different composting areas and the makeup of each one. Rabbit feces and old bedding was put into a main composting system where they would turn it every week till they could use it for the produce. Any food scrap whether that be from their meals, the leftover food they prepared for students during summer camp, or food that was donated by the Waco community was put in a composting bin where the chickens would pick through for food while simultaneously turning it. This meant that money was not being spent on specific chicken feed and instead was food that could have otherwise been thrown away. During our time there, I was allowed to turn the compost with Kara. Though it seemed like a simple task, it was grueling work for the back and caused us to switch out to give each other a break and instead pour water into it to make it damp.

During most conversations, the staff made it a point that 40% of the United States food goes to landfills to rot away while people in other countries have little to no food. By bringing this statistic up, I thought about different ways to utilize food scraps in my own life and minimize my waste in those ways. What could I do as a college student without much land to call my own and little spending money? While I may not be able to go to a local farmer whenever I can and spend twice as much on produce, I am determined to find ways for myself and others to bring the statistic down if even a little. I believe that Lubbock could greatly benefit from the method of composting. The soil is lacking nutrients that most plants die within weeks if not days. On top of that, the campus has a lot of food waste that could be put to better use.

During our time there we met many wonderful people. Staff such as Sky who I mentioned earlier and Jonathan Grant the executive director made time out of their busy days to explain their present and future plans as well as some of the history of the farm. The interns brought in many different prospects to the farm from positivity to prior knowledge. James, who had a farm with his family before they moved to the farm, led morning chores for Kara and me. He wanted to give us hands-on experience as well as verbal explanations on how to tend to the livestock and why they utilize their specific methods. A particular practice stood out to me most. While observing the farm, one may notice that flexible fencing forced the animals into smaller sections of the overall land they could utilize. This went for the goats and chicken which were the only other livestock besides the rabbits and newly brought in turkeys that were present at the time. Before I could even question the scarcity of space, James was already explaining how they move the living area of the animals every 2 days to maximize the sustainability of the soil. The chickens and their coop are moved to force the chickens to spread their scraps into different areas and wear down the ground for the new compost. The goats, which are only fed whatever plants are in their pen and select vitamins, are moved to allow newly grown of vegetation. If they were to stay idle in a section for too long, many of the plants would no longer grow and leave the goats with less food or force food to be bought. As part of the hands-on aspect, Kara and I were given access to the pens and permission to interact with the animals. I can now cross getting headbutted in the thigh by a goat off my bucket list. animals.

After morning chores and breakfast, we were split into two groups to complete the next set of activities. Daniel and Kara were in one group, and Jake and I were in the other. During this time, one group would help with the children at summer camp, and the other would tend to any other work the farm needed. The following day, we would switch roles. Jake and I participated with the children first. This is where I met many wonderful interns with the patience of saints. After the children arrived at eight AM, they were split into manageable groups with leaders. My group consisted of six children ranging from the ages of 6 to 8, Joey who was the group leader, and Sara who would join if more supervision was needed. Most of the students we were working with were given this opportunity by their schools to learn more about the environment and where their food comes from. 1 out of 4 children in Waco, TX suffers from food insecurity which means they have a lack of access to food. This summer camp not only gave them a meal using produce grown on the farm but would give them opportunities to learn topics outside of what schools can teach.

As an aspiring teacher, it was eye-opening seeing how smart and willing these children were to be trying new things. Climbing trees, eating produce straight out of a garden, and learning about the different ways to take care of an animal are all things that I couldn’t even imagine doing when I was their age. I didn’t have direct access to open farms or animals in the suburbs. So, I ask myself the question: Why aren’t there more places like this? The next day Jake and I were given tasks from the farm that included heavy lifting and demolishing. I must admit that I liked the work more than I should. From being able to accomplish what most would deem as a “man’s job” to riding in the bed of the pickup truck to gathering more wood pallets and scrap material, I felt more capable in my abilities physically than I have for a while. Both Jake and I had a great time getting our hands dirty and our legs scraped up as we flew through our tasks with smiles. While I enjoyed it every step of the way, the respect for workers who must do this to eat at the end of the day grew. I would gladly spend more of my summers volunteering at farms to help even while knowing that I did a fraction of what others do.

In the two and a half days I was there, I learned more than I could ever imagine. How to deal with food scraps, how common food insecurity is, giving children outside experience, and so much more that I didn’t go over because I would have to write a book. It felt like a lifetime of wisdom had been bestowed to me, yet I have only digested bits and pieces of it. Ultimately, I am so grateful for the experience Bridge Adventure has given me to explore different perspectives of life as well as meet such hard-working people who will undeniably create something that will change the world for the better.

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