The Eastie Volunteer Experience

My Eastie Farm Volunteer Experience
Cora Wright
Environmental Forum
Spring 2021
East Boston Neighborhood Farm

Environmental Forum Class
Simmons College at Eastie Farms

For my Environmental Forum class, I volunteered at Eastie Farm in East Boston on two “work days”, once on March 2, 2021, to help with the food distribution and again on March 11 to learn about trimming and grafting fruit trees.

Community Spirit

I was moved by the commitment of the volunteers at Eastie and the community spirit I saw in action. About 25 people showed up to deliver and sort food from area food banks.

Some of us packed fruits and veggies in bags; others boxed them, and others came in cars and vans to pick up the boxes to deliver to families who are “food insecure”. Even though we didn’t speak the same language, we all worked together.

This experience brought me back to my childhood. We always had a garden in our backyard and we kids worked together on weeding and watering it!
I grew up in Bloomfield, Connecticut, a suburb of Hartford, with 7 siblings. Our parents who had migrated up north from Georgia to seek a better life for their kids, had also grown up with backyard vegetable gardens.
Each spring, my father prepared the soil when the snow ended, usually in April and then planted seeds: string beans, collard greens, okra, tomatoes, turnip greens, corn, and rhubarb. He had grown up depending on the garden vegetables which his mother canned for the winter months.
We kids watered the garden and weeded it; my father did all the other work. He took pride in it.
When I went off to college, I never thought about gardening again until about 4 years ago, when I had a chance to rent a garden plot for $20 for the season. We were given vegie seedlings to plant, but my garden didn’t grow very well. So, when I had the opportunity to be part of Eastie Farms, I was excited because I wanted to learn how to garden.

Grafting Pear Tree

I was so impressed with the method I learned for pruning the trees in order to get the most fruit; the analogy that the instructor used was that the space between the branches should be enough to “throw a cat through”!

We also learned grafting. On a tree trunk, we grafted pear branches; we cut a slit in the bark of the tree, and we cut and transplanted a branch that the teacher had brought; we kind of wrapped it around the tree so that it would eventually ‘take’.

It brought be back to my childhood where my neighbor had a peach tree and we’d pick its luscious peaches in the summer when they were ripe! They were so juicy!
Although the photos of the grafting to the right are not from my Eastie Farm volunteer days, they illustrate the method we learned.

A Beautiful Experience

My two days of volunteering were a beautiful experience for me! Most volunteers spoke Spanish, as 57% of East Boston’s population is Latinix. But it didn’t matter that I didn’t speak Spanish, they made me feel so welcome and included me in every step and I understood what needed to be done!

Every ethnic group imaginable came for the food. It was really nice quality fruits, vegetables, and whole grain breads too. People were so grateful to get the bags of food. Some didn’t even know the farm existed, so I saw how this activity brought in people from the community, some of whom might get involved in Eastie’s other activities like tilling the soil and summer camp programs. 

I loved it that the “doors are never locked” and during the summer and fall, and neighborhood people are welcome to come and pick the fruit and sit around the fire pit. It’s THEIR garden!

 a fire pit in the foreground and water collection barrels.

Learning, Growing and Sharing Earth’s Wealth

When I volunteered on the food distribution day, we sorted and packed the food from area food banks. We packaged about 150 bags of food and 50 were given to neighborhood residents who came to pick it up; some requested a second bag for family members. We were glad to accommodate them. The other 100 bags/boxes were picked up and brought to homes of families in need across Boston.

What I learned most from this experience is that we can plant and harvest our own food if we are taught how to do it. This is one of the aims of Eastie Farm — to teach people to be self-sufficient, to grow their own food, use their local environment and share the work and the resulting wealth of vegetables and fruits with others.

Adapted from a Powerpoint presentation for the Eastie Farm blog with permission from the original creator.

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