Ourselves and our organizations are living systems immersed within the living systems of society and our more-than-human world. Giles Hutchins
I think often about community and it’s meaning for humanity and our planet. Community is a way of interacting with a focus on interconnectedness. Community creates a living web in tune with nature, as part of nature and the natural way of existence. In moving away from community, we have created systems of being that are unnatural, the results of which can now be seen all around us as unbridled social injustice, the economics of privatization, and environmental degradation to the extent that we are changing our climate. Think about that. Our current existence is changing our climate!
As an AmeriCorps Project Conserve member serving Organic Growers School, I work toward the natural way of existence in everything I do. I have the opportunity to learn about and support agricultural practices that are in tune with nature. I also have the opportunity on a daily basis to work with organizations that model natural living systems in the way they conduct themselves as communities within communities working for the good of the whole. I believe that, in time, these practices will lead to a being with nature, the natural flow of nature, which is then no longer ‘out there’ but within us. This way of relating with life as part of the living web is key to a sustainable future. The key.
AmeriCorps is such an organization. Just one very sweet example of this is a recent exercise at a retreat. We were asked to sign up for preparing one of three meals and given a limited budget to purchase ingredients. I chose dinner and dessert with a dozen others, mostly women. We decided to shop at discount grocery, sending a smaller contingent off to a major retailer for dessert items not otherwise available. I was amazed at how well we worked together with very little planning, picking and choosing items as we cruised through the store, making decisions together for the good of the whole. Cooking together was nothing short of magic. In an unfamiliar kitchen with a variety of skill levels and personalities, we hummed like a beehive, bringing a complex meal and dessert to the table on time. If ever there were an example of a successful living organism, we were it.
Organic Growers School is also an organization that focuses on the good of the whole, not only with regard to the services we provide, but within as well, in the way we organize ourselves as a group. There is a high level of purposeful communication, trust building and strategic exploration of our intent to serve. OGS models the shift some are calling the Great Turning, from a perspective saturated in materialistic and mechanistic systems entrenched in self, separation, fear and control, towards an awareness of communities within communities and the inter-connectedness of life.
This perspective, on building and creating change through community, can be seen in the activities of regional non-profits as well. Bountiful Cities, for example, is bringing their community gardens together in a more tightly knit network or larger community. The Urban Agriculture Alliance focuses on supporting disenfranchised communities. The Asheville Buncombe Food Policy Council, working across a wide spectrum of community needs, utilizes consent-based decision-making to ensure inclusiveness in their process.
I am fortunate in my position with AmeriCorps and Organic Growers School to participate in and learn from these amazing examples of living systems immersed within the living systems of society and beyond. And I am guided in my own work to focus on creating community, on bringing people together in a symbiotic way for the good of the whole.
I intend to carry out the support and facilitation of connected, inclusive, balanced communities within my current role with OGS. One example of that is the relationship I’m building with a Habitat for Humanity community in Hendersonville. Introduced to Dodd Meadows through an AmeriCorps service day, I’m working with residents there to co-create a community garden. Like the group charged with creating a meal together, this group is in unfamiliar territory with a variety of skill sets and personalities. Their vision, though, is for the good of the whole. This, I believe, will carry them through the learning process to a humming hive of garden activity that feeds the entire community, both literally and figuratively.
The Greeks have a term for “the right and opportune moment.” Kairos is that place on the precipice of change from which, if we so choose, old assumptions give way to a deeper, more authentic worldview. I’m excited to be involved in work with people who take their responsibility for creating the Great Turning seriously. I fervently believe that we are not only enabling our organizations to become more resilient, purposeful, and vibrant, but that as part of a larger living system, we are doing that for the world.
Jillian is the 2016-17′ Home Grower Program and Outreach Coordinator and AmeriCorps Service Member at Organic Growers School. Jillian grew up in Los Angeles County, later moving to Tampa, Chicago, and Asheville iin pursuit of her passions. She developed a strong bond to the land early on, and remembers fondly the time spent with her naturalist father and on her grandfather’s farm. These experiences led to professional interests in zoo exhibit landscapes, organic gardening and permaculture as Jillian learned to live with the land, rather than on it.