Emilio Botts, FoodCorps Service member at The Volunteer Center of Grant County & The Guadalupe Montessori School Silver City
When I first joined FoodCorps, I thought like many of us, how I desired to make a difference and help change the world. I saw pictures on the national website of service members putting together workshops, being featured in newspaper articles, or even being interviewed on TV. My ego got the best of me and I couldn’t wait to be recognized for my efforts as a FoodCorps service member. Obviously my motivation for being involved with FoodCorps is my passion for helping youth, sustainable gardening, and teaching kids that food can be grown and is indeed medicine.
I first was notified that I’d be placed in a small town called Silver City, about 4 hours south of Albuquerque. I had never stepped foot in New Mexico, nor had I heard of Silver City. I was warned of rural living and the lack of resources in Silver City, but this I ignored as I was excited to join FoodCorps (and daydreams of Oprah calling me to be interviewed because of the amazing work I am doing entered my mind).
When I arrived in Silver City, I was welcomed to a quaint town, absent a movie theater and shopping malls, but full of charm as well as character; and although missing a Starbucks, containing several amazing coffee shops. I was told that I was to be assigned to Guadalupe Montessori School and if I desired, Jose Barrios Elementary. As I accepted the challenge and still excited to be somewhere new, the realities of my service started to evolve. Rural small towns aren’t like the big urban areas I was used to. The resources and funding aren’t as available, and food justice has a different meaning. I was ready to put my fist in the air and impact Silver City. However, the only direction my fist was moved was to the ground, as I pulled weeds to prep the beds for winter. The question I had to ask myself is what was my agenda for the people and community of Silver City, and what did the town and community need from me? I realized that what I desired to accomplish, and what was actually needed and possible, were not exactly aligned. To me, making change had to do with hosting workshops, getting written up in the paper, and making a little noise every now and then.
Making noise may satisfy the ego, but is it necessary to make an impact? I reflect on my own childhood and how just going to a health food store with my parents, or helping my mother juice carrots contributed to my interest in real food. We are often told the example of a butterfly flapping its wings and influencing a wind pattern half way across the world. I believe that we, as service members are butterflies flapping wings, making an impact that may not be felt directly or for years to come. Although some of us have been interviewed by radio or tv programs, and may have received national recognition, others may be experiencing a quiet service term in a rural town; and it can be difficult to feel like one is making a difference.
When you notice a service member “doing big things” and all you’ve done is pick weeds, and shovel manure, the ego does start to whisper, “Am I doing enough?” Am I really making a difference?” My response is absolutely! The reality is, that just like the butterfly cannot see the chain of events that’s happening as it flaps its wings, nor can we see the immediate impact of our efforts.
As I was working in the garden, a child asked me if this was my profession. He had a look of enlightenment, as I could tell that for the first time he had the idea that he could grow up to do similar work. Maybe just being out in the garden and showing children that there are other options is radical enough. Not all of us will receive recognition for the work that we are doing, to provide the external validation that we are “doing something.” Although we may be alone in a garden for hours prepping beds, swatting away flies, people do notice and our work does matter. We may not be able to see the fruits of our efforts for years to come, but as gardeners we know how to wait, and we should rejoice in knowing that what we do today will affect the wind patterns of the food justice movement tomorrow; that our work is making a difference and an impact.