Throughout the year, I volunteered with several of GrowNYC’s initiatives. I have been a regular employee at a farmers market stand, working Saturdays in Grand Army Plaza and short hours Wednesdays in Union Square. This job gave me the opportunity to learn about GrowNYC and volunteer with several programs that partner with greenmarkets, namely Wearable Collections and City Harvest. During the fall season at the market, I participated in “Greenmarket Rescue” by helping my own stand as well as others collect leftovers from the day and load the food onto a City Harvest truck. This food was in turn distributed to mobile markets throughout the five boroughs. I also volunteered several times in Bedstuy with these mobile markets that are set up in food insecure neighborhoods and provide free produce and nutritional education several times a month. During the spring, I became more involved with the Greenmarket clothing collection. Every Saturday I worked at the market, during and at the end of shifts I also helped the clothing drives that were set up to collect New Yorker’s used clothing. This work also involved loading textiles onto trucks to be shipped to sorting facilities as well as engaging participants and involving other farmers to advertise at their own stands. This volunteer work was through Wearable Collection’s partnership with Grow NYC, a company focused on reducing landfills and fundraising for charity that uses farmers markets as outlets.
My experience working at the Farmers Markets and volunteering with their service partners has been truly the most educational community service of my life. I have discovered local farmers markets as oases of environmental awareness and hubs of ethnic and racial diversity. Having grown up in one of the most active and well known cities in the world, exposure to any other environment typically include adjusting to a much different culture. I have found that this culture divide is largely informed by divisions between rural and urban communities, a schism that extends to colonial times and prior. With farmers commuting from rural New Jersey and Pennsylvania, high school and college students engaging in part time work (often from wealthier families), other students from less wealthy families attending community college, and ages that span from 16 to 60 years old, I have never been surrounded by such a variety of voices and backgrounds applied to service and service learning. This diversity extends from the workers to the participants of GrowNYC initiatives, from Park Slope parents to families living on food-stamps. Applying the nutrition information that I learn throughout the day, so engrained in the regular and likely wealthier customers, to educating families in food insecure areas so that access to healthy options transcends wealth barriers, has introduced me to the environment’s intersection with health, small businesses, and social inequality. I am so grateful for the anthropological learning that has come with customer service coupled with the validating community service experiences that GrowNYC has given me my senior year. I am certain that I will seek out work in farmers markets during college as they truly are unrivaled epicenters of geographical, racial, and ethnic diversity that embody the use of intersectionality to address social inequality.