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July 3, 2020

Networks of Mutual Aid Throughout the City, Eli Kauffman, BFA Painting ’21

by elikauffman
Julie telling her story about the connection between Wasatch Community Gardens, and Odyssey House, while Ashley, Sid, and I listen.

A little more than half way through my time with Wasatch Community Gardens, and I have really started to understand the network of support that The Green Phoenix Farm is a part of. In my last post I mentioned the virtual tour video that we will be improvising, to give the public an opportunity to “visit” the farm despite the current health crisis. In the past week or two I have been trying to figure out the right way to weave personal stories into this video, to show visitors the genuine impacts that the farm has.

While we were packaging veggies for the weekly CSA shares, Julie just happened to tell a story about her experience with the farm, that perfectly represents this. She was briefly a part of the job training program last year, and had to leave for personal reasons, however during this time off, she was living at Odyssey House (a substance abuse treatment center I mentioned in my last post) and advocated for Odyssey to start their own garden. They did not have the funding for it, but Julie reached out to The Green Phoenix Farm, and James donated free seeds to get the ball rolling. Because of this connection that she created, The Green Phoenix Farm now donates fresh produce to the Odyssey House on a weekly basis, and Odyssey has an ongoing garden in their center. Since then she as returned to the job training program, becoming an integral part of the team. She has agreed to share this story as a part of our virtual tour, which we will begin filming next week.

To me this is such a genuine representation of what Wasatch Community Gardens stands for. Their mission is not only to provide healthy food to the people of Salt Lake, but to provide resources for residents to become independent and build agency. This empowers community members to help themselves and creates a more long-lasting impact.

Top: Sid, Joel, and James mixing a new batch of compost. Bottom: Measured ingredients for the new compost pile.

One of the big tasks on the farm recently was making some new compost piles. Doing the grunt work as part of the team has helped me learn so much about agriculture, but most importantly, has helped me integrate into the community on the farm. Building that trust has made it easier to get feedback on the murals, and get people excited to participate in the creative process. This is important because next week I will be facilitating a collaborative art project with the team, reintroducing the hand print mural tradition (mentioned in my first post) that previously existed on the farm.

My view of Utah Arts Alliance from across the street at the farm.

When planning the collaborative project with James, I was noting which supplies would be needed so that I could go pick them up, but he came up with a different solution. Literally right across the street from The Green Phoenix Farm, is Utah Arts Alliance, a non-profit focused on providing resources for artists and art related events. We got in contact with a representative over there, and were able to go get some paints and other supplies for the project. I’m not even joking I just walked a wheelbarrow across the street and picked up a ton of second-hand spray paints and house paints that they were happy to donate to the project. It was also an opportunity to let them know about our Free CSA program, which some of their members might benefit from.

It was inspiring to see that relationship between two organizations grow, and exciting to know that the collaborative art project was a factor in sparking up that communication. The further into this fellowship I get, the more I understand the larger impact these projects could have.

View of the locker room building from the back an the front.

It has certainly been a busy week and a half since my last post. Along with discovering and building connections to other non-profits around town, and getting my hands dirty with day-to-day garden tasks, I have been finishing the mural that wraps around the locker room. Despite being the middle of summer in a desert climate, the weather recently has been very stormy. I got rained out a few times while painting, and had to redo those sections on a later day when the weather was more forgiving. My transportation to and from the farm is my bike, so during my ride I also almost lost some sketches for the next mural to water damage. Though there were some frustrating set backs, two buildings have been finished, and there is at least one more to go. I am looking forward to seeing how the virtual tour, collaborative art project, and other mural work weave together.

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