Handwriting is an implement
One of the small but unique things we do as part of our "Food from Home = Food for Home" urban agricultural project is to put up signs identifying the names of all our growers in their growing spaces. Our goal is to build a real collective; a genuine sense of community. But, not everyone is able to be there at the same time so we need other ways of "getting to know one another." Sharing email contact information is one way, but whose email name goes with which body? which face? Moreover, not everyone has a computer and-or consistent access to internet. Not everyone is agile on a computer, especially in another language. Sometimes we don’t even notice that someone in the “email list” is not responding; and when they don’t, we sometimes put it down to a lack of interest in the group or the project when in reality it might be that they are not getting or understanding the messages. These are the folks we have to think of first when we talk about “building community.” Putting all our names in writing, in handwriting, on small signs, in English and in their own language, in the actual places where we actually work growing food, is a way to do that. It turns out to be an amazingly simple, easy way to knit all the pieces into a whole. We all know the names of all the others who are growing food and flowers there, and we know exactly where they are growing food, flowers, herbs.
And what they are growing (we also put the names of plants in different languages, in the raised beds). These simple signsfacilitate talking to others in the gardenwhen we do happen to bethere together. We can call each other by name. We can ask questions about the food each other is growing. We have been given the first tools of speaking across small distances with big differences. And this, in turn, helps in the successful growing of food and less wastedproduce because we can more easily help one another weed, or water, or harvest. For instance, the Okubatsion family might not be able to make it to the garden one week, and they can ask the Ponayo family to water their tomatoes? It's person to person, and land to land. Or: the Osorios might have too much arugula than they can eat one week, and they can let the Eltayebs know to help themselves. These simple hand-written signsalso signal to the many after-hours visitors to our little urban farmtwo important things: a) that these are beds that are the hard work of particular individuals --this can help with the pesky problem of food theft that menaces all the community gardens in town; and b) it signals to the greaterGuelphcommunity that this is a space of low tech yet authentic inclusivity and diversity.
(Picture below: The Osorio girls with some greens).