by Will Brown
The fondest memories that I’ve formed during my time in high school have been in the garden, with my hands in the dirt and my head in the clouds. The sights, sounds, and smells of The Green Heart Project’s urban garden have the uncanny ability to lift my spirits despite the difficulties and misfortunes of my worst days. The beauty of a blooming sunflower, the whirring of a bee’s wings past my ear, or the sweet scent of freshly picked strawberries fill me with serenity and bliss. The central site of The Green Heart Project, the Urban Farm at Enston Home, the place that I’ve grown to love so deeply, hasn’t always been the sanctuary for indigenous plants and convivial community members that it is today. I’d like to share with you all my story of the urban farm, the story of how I grew right alongside this ambitious project.
As I first entered the heart of the Enston Home Community, truthfully I was overcome with nervousness and regret for committing to this project. Litter scattered the roughly cobbled streets and cracking sidewalks. The remnants of the morning rain shower left the desolate field beyond the farmstand flooded. Doubt permeated my eagerness as the mud did my white shoes. I was totally out of my element. More and more students, none of whom I had ever met before, filed into the farmstand. There were eight in total, and they all seemed to share my skepticism. I vividly remember the cerulean blue shirts with bright green hearts of the people that greeted us, their bright eyes and smiles seeming so at odds with the gloomy morning. “Welcome to the Green Heart Project!” they said, and the introductions were made. Their voices were filled with an enthusiasm and fervor that mystified me. They acted as if the Enston Home Community was the Champs-Élysées. They must have seen something in this place that I simply couldn’t fathom. After a brief day of orientation and acquaintance, we got to work.
The work was grueling and the days blazing, but little by little, the garden came to fruition. I developed a passion for the work and became familiar with the Enston Home Community and its residents. I began truly looking forward to the long days in the sun, and I took pride in each small step towards our goal. I began to understand the staff’s ardor for this place, and I noticed that I had started greeting community members and volunteers with the same enthusiasm that once seemed so peculiar. The summer soon ended, but our work was far from over. There were no plants in sight, wood and tools lay askew, the place was in complete disarray, but I could see the potential. I could picture what was previously unfathomable. The dreary Enston Home that I once knew had truly transformed into our Champs-Élysées. I began volunteering during the academic year, driven and eager to finish what we started. At last, the project was complete. Sixty-two raised beds, ready to be planted, and so they were.
During that first summer with The Green Heart Project, I developed grit, responsibility, and initiative, but most importantly I developed the ability to see potential hidden beneath what seems hopeless. The Enston Home has always had this latent beauty, this untapped potential to be a beacon of joy and community, it just needed someone to draw these things out from within its innermost reaches. This newfound perspective has affected so many aspects of my life, and the experience I had during this first summer prepared me to step outside my element and tackle tasks with zeal. I know that the skills and knowledge I gained that summer will continue to inspire me in all of my future endeavors.