Ask and You Shall Receive: Seeds that have been planted in me this year

Sermon for St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Ojai  given by Xochitl Rocha, 2012-2013 Abundant Table Intern

Hello, I want to thank you all for inviting us here today to talk about the Abundant Table. I wanted to share with you all about how my year as an Abundant Table Farm Project Intern has been. To say the least it has been a very transformative year for me filled with much growth.

I first wanted to give a background to what The Abundant Table does in case you aren’t familiar with the organization. It started as a campus ministry of the Episcopal Church at California State Channel Islands in 2004 and evolved into a Christian community engaging people from the university and wider community in a mission to transform our food system towards increased health for people and the planet. In 2009, the Abundant Table started the Abundant Table Farm Project a one to two year Episcopal Service Corps internship for young adults to work on an organic farm and community based agencies around the county, to live in intentional community and engage in justice building. The Abundant Table also meets every Sunday and engages in worship and conversation through a house church. The mission of the Abundant Table seeks to change lives and systems by creating sustainable relationships to the land and local community.

Join the Farm! is the organic farm that is part of the Abundant Table. The farm is leasing in Santa Paula. The food grown on the farm is for school lunches in Ventura and Conejo Valley school districts as well as having a Community Supported Agriculture Model. Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) is a beautiful way of building a direct relationship between the farmer, farm, and the customer. The farm also has a farm to school model in which our Farm Educator, Erynn Smith, leads. Over a thousand students, preschoolers, elementary classes, youth groups, GATE groups, and college students, have visited the farm for hands-on service learning experiences. Visiting youth engage their bodies, senses, and minds while exploring farm eco-systems, plant biology, soil science, organic farming practices, global and local food systems and economies. Students leave with experiences and memories that change the way they see and relate to land, food production, and positively impact their own food choices.

I joined the Abundant Table because I had wanted to move back to the county (I am from Oxnard) after living away for some time. One day I was looking for jobs and came across the internship posting on a job site. I wanted to make a difference in the community that I grew up in through being a part of the Abundant Table, and by being engaged in community justice building for our local farm workers and youth. I really liked the sound of Abundant Table’s mission and wanted to learn what it takes to grow food sustainably and organically. I interviewed with Community Roots Garden as my potential work site and here I am one year later with farming and community organizing experience under my belt.

Community Roots Garden’s mission is mainly to increase food security by providing the harvest to those in need and by empowering people to grow their own food. The garden has been in Oxnard for the past four years and is a place to grow community. Volunteers from all different kinds of backgrounds come together to work the land. You have experienced farm workers, teenagers who have never gardened before, adults’ young and old, and everyone in between interested in getting their hands dirty. We donate the harvest to volunteers in need of food and to different shelters in the area. My role this year was to serve as coordinator. I have grown tremendously in my position as a leader and a teacher.

Some of my favorite moments at the garden are when a preschooler discovers that a carrot comes out of the ground. Or how excited the preschoolers get when they realize I am going to take them out to the garden and are eager to know what they are going to taste. Or the fascination the kids have with the worms in the compost bins, some of them even wanted to keep them as pets! I will take with me the great conversations I have had with many of the volunteers and all that I have learned from them and the friendships formed.
While I have learned a great deal about what is all involved with gardening through working at Community Roots I have also gotten a sense of what goes into farming through working at Join the Farm! Every Friday my roommates and I shared in a community workday. These farm workdays have shown me the value of manual labor. I have so much respect for the farm workers who tend to the crops day in and day out. When it comes down to it if you don’t grow your own food than you rely on the farm workers to feed you. Farming is hard work, imagine weeding or thinning beets in a 250 ft. long row…it’s a lot of crouching down. But it is honest work. Our farm managers Reyna and Guadalupe have taught me so much as well. Reyna used to work in the celery fields where she wasn’t treated right and now after working with the Abundant Table for quite some time has repeatedly said that she is so happy to be able to provide for her family in a job where she has dignity. Something so human that we all want and deserve to be treated with respect, is what the Abundant Table has given Reyna.

In the Gospel that we read today Jesus says, “Ask, and it will be given; search, and you will find; knock; and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.” I came in September not knowing anything about gardening or farming and now leave with some experience in how to grow my own food. I came in asking God to let me learn this year, to connect me back to my roots, and in learning how to plant seeds; I searched and found the answer, and the door opened. My year with the Abundant Table has opened my eyes to the world of agriculture. It has planted a seed in me; I know that I am forever changed. I will be moving in September to study Library and Information Science at the University of Washington. I will take the skills I learned this year in my future job as a Children’s or Young Adult librarian. Instead of teaching kids to love plants I will teach them to love books…and who knows maybe start a garden in a library.

If you would like to find out how you can get involved in the Abundant Table come talk to Jerry and I after the service. If you want to support the Abundant Table by nurturing young adults like myself in a chance to do the internship and ensuring that our farm will continue to grow and thrive, consider making a donation to the Abundant Table.

Thank you for your time.

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