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July 16, 2020

Reintroducing Old Traditions, Eli Kauffman, BFA Painting 21′

by elikauffman
Terry and Susie collecting flowers to make bouquets as part of the Seeds of Success program.

This summer at the farm has been very different from what it would normally look like. Volunteer groups and visitors have been limited for safety reasons, and many annual programs have had to be adjusted. Recently one of these programs: Seeds of Success which provides job training to single mothers in poverty, has been able to come back to the farm in person.

With Seeds of Success and The Green Team working on the farm simultaneously, the past two weeks have been the perfect time to start the collaborative art project I had planned with James. Reintroducing the hand print mural project that had existed on the farm before the fire, has been a great way to bring together the women from two separate programs on the farm. In two more weeks I will be finished with the fellowship, so it feels good to know that this collaborative project can grow over time once I am gone.

Cher, Leo, Terry, and James adding their hand prints to frame a pre-existing mural on the farm. The bottom image is an early in progress shot from the first day of the project.

I was nervous about facilitating the group art project, but people were actually very excited to participate, and had lots of their own good ideas to add to it. We ended up getting some paint markers so that everyone could sign their name as well, but I haven’t had a chance to photograph it since that edition. During my last two weeks I will be making sure that the permanent staff have the materials and resources needed to continue this project into the future. This group art project will serve as a representation of all of the people in the community who have been a part of the farm, giving new participants a sense of importance and tradition.

One of the other projects that I spent a lot of time in these past two weeks, was filming the virtual tour video. The goal being to create content that allows community members to feel connected to the farm, though many cannot currently visit in person. Before COVID-19 James would regularly give tours of the farm for potential volunteers and donors, so creating a digital version is a way to reintroduce that.

My friend Ben filming Julie’s segment of the virtual tour.

After spending weeks working with The Green Team, I felt close enough with some of my peers to ask a few of them to share their personal experiences about the farm on camera. Julie, Cher, and I spoke about our involvement, and these snippets will weave together with the body of the tour, given by James, to give viewers a broad understanding of the impact and significance of the Green Phoenix Farm. My good friend Ben, who goes to film school, was kind enough to volunteer their time for a day, so that I could play more of a directorial role while we filmed. With a background in painting, and little experience with video, I found it challenging to know which shots would work best, and to encourage people to be natural and fluid on camera. In the end we probably filmed more than we needed to because of this, but at least that will give me more to work with while editing down to the final product.

Top left: Mona Lisa showing off the largest chard leaf she could find. Top right: Me painting the Wasatch Community Gardens logo on the solar shed. Bottom: Freshly harvested garlic from my section.

Though there has been a lot of new activity on the farm recently, day to day responsibilities continue. I have been weeding, harvesting, and processing veggies with The Green Team, and painting the last shipping container that I will have time to get to this summer. We are headed towards the hottest stretch of the year, with temperatures inching close to 100 degrees. Having fun side projects like the virtual tour and collaborative mural have helped keep morale up, but it is certainly still a struggle to work outside all day in the heat. Building support and trust as a team is an important part of maintaining energy in difficult working conditions. I am constantly inspired by the resiliency and toughness of the people I work with here. I am looking forward to showing them the finished video of the virtual tour, because I think they will enjoy seeing their hard work represented in film.

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