Only Anecdotal

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As the buds have started popping on nearly every stick in my yard, I have become excited by the prospect of another year at my community farm. Yes, the CSA of this title stands for Community Supported Agriculture, and it is a movement that has brought me back to my time in Vermont, as well as to my childhood full of gardens and the wonder of planting things that sometimes produced beauty, and sometimes beautiful meals. Our family joined Stearns Farm in Framingham a few years ago, and our lives are richer each time we go there, not only because of the vegetables, herbs, and flowers we find there, but because of the community that surrounds the effort.

Last year, I drove in to one of the year’s first pick-ups, and a woman stopped me, and called me by name. She looked familiar, and I paused, wondering who.. where… When she reminded me, I could picture the driveway where we met, and the living room where I had met with her aunt. I was glad to hear that her aunt was doing well, and was touched that the woman had remembered me that well. These memories remain far beyond the first encounter.

My consular work gave me many similar experiences to meet people and to help a person in a moment, but also to gain something myself in the process. I sometimes run across people I met then, too. I still feel honored by the moments that many people shared with me in vulnerable circumstances, and I hope that this sharing allowed them all to get where they needed to be, and live the kinds of lives they wished for when they came to me. Going back farther, I rarely see students from my teaching days, and it has been years since I worked in my first job for a translation company, but I still remember so many students and clients from those days, and the great things we were able to achieve in these relationships.

I realize, though, that these relationships were no accident, and given the stressors in many of these situations, they could have been nightmarish, horrible encounters for both client and employee in the wrong sort of place. Likewise, a community supported agricultural project cannot happen without both a farm and a community, both responding to a bountiful harvest as well as to low-yielding crops.

We have all encountered toxic organizations, if only through attempting a customer service call to a service like Groupon that refuses to handle questions through an actual phone number. A bad culture may grow in places where employees have no reason to care, but we can foster positive environments with some consideration to the way we choose to operate our organizations. I titled this piece “CSA” thinking of a new acronym to attach to my love of this farm movement, and apply it to my pondering about working life now.

The C in my mind stands for Connection. I think about connection a lot in the work world, as I remember places where I have worked most productively–and also those from which I have made the happiest purchases. It is a joy to walk into an environment of colleagues sharing contributions, regardless of stature in the organization, where the boss can pick up a broom, too, where the most junior intern is invited to networking events, and the maintenance staff is included in team meetings. The practical worth of Viele Hände machen leichte Arbeit (more hands, lighter work) is a part of the efficiency, but intrinsic in that notion also is the sense of togetherness in the day-to-day of a company’s mission that no afternoon of team-building exercises can replicate. For the customer, it is nice to be greeted by a smiling face, no matter who opens the door.

The S is for Stewardship. I don’t mean this in the sense of fundraising and giving, but more in the way we interact in our world. No matter our position or place in society, we are caretakers of our own self, as well as of the environment in which we live. In our work, we have a responsibility to create spaces where all can shine, where strengths are appreciated, and weaknesses are supported, where the mission is more important than any individual or profit margin. It is about caring, but it is also about action, and doing something to take care of things, rather than to talk about it.

A is for Agency. We make decisions constantly as we go through our own personal day, but there is a great benefit to the organizations that acknowledge these judgements of their employees and gives them as much individual control as possible. A sense of agency is more than a willingness to remain in a role and keep a head to the grindstone; it is the idea of being a part of something, and that our efforts and expressions are unique and make a difference–and that we have agreed to the social contract involved. It makes us look forward to weekdays, to the opportunity to contribute rather than worshipping the weekends and the chance to escape the work environment. An organization may chug along with cogs to run their machine, but it will never achieve greatness without employees who have agency.

Connection, stewardship, and agency. It is easy to feel connected, caring, and intentional with our technology and the multitude of choices we can make now, but appearances can be deceiving. We are in this together, but hopefully we realize that a good life involves supporting one another and our equality, in work as in society as a whole.






Written by Only Anecdotal

24 Apr 2019 at 2:37pm

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