“Our trainees aren’t just beginning new jobs: they’re beginning new lives…”
Stephanie has worked for Growing Home for several years, down at our Les Brown Memorial Farm in Marsailles Illinois. Currently, she’s one of the field technicians involved in training our interns. When she’s not farming, she’s a writer living in Chicago. She recently went hiking with our second cohort of interns, one of her favorite moments of the training season.
For our interns’ last day out on the Les Brown Farm
work site, we took them on a hike through Matthiessen State Park. We chatted about the season while traipsing through leaves, down stairs and slopes, and while hunting for poison ivy and deep mud puddles to avoid.
At the bottom of trail, we were surrounded on all sides by sandstone, and a most of our group ventured into some smaller caves. As we climbed rocks to take pictures, interns joked that even on a “day off,” they still got to build muscle.
Part of the reason we do these last-day hikes is to give a natural reward for weeks of hard work. But the other part is reinforce the fact that urban food systems aren’t just about empty lots and neighborhood boundaries, but also about nearby rural farms and unfarmed natural spaces.
And that all of this belongs to them too.
Because our trainees aren’t just beginning new jobs: they’re beginning new lives with deeper understandings of the skills they need, the communities they live in, and the world they are engaging with.
When you shout inside a cave, there is a moment before it bounces back—a short beat of silence before the echo appears to tell you that you are surrounded by millions of years of work by water, rock, and critters.
And it reminds you that for each sound you send out, a greater version returns.
“This,” Charles said, “this is something special. We don’t have this in Chicago.”
“But it’s so close,” Raven said. “We can come here again, right?”
“Anytime,” we told them. “Anytime.”