I spent one hour listening to a talk about Ayurvedic and macrobiotic food movements. Most of the time I didn’t feel like the talk was directly relevant to OpenFarm. In fact, much of it seemed like playful banter and choir preaching. I came to this talk expecting to meet up with an ally who was going to introduce me to a few Cal Poly students. These were students who would potentially be interested in shadowing community members. In my mind they would be the first students to pilot our shadow program, and would glean information from local gardeners and create guides from what they learned. They didn’t show up, however, and my ally said they may not have been quite as interested as she had been led to believe.
So I’m sitting at this talk, hosted by the local seed savers organization, feeling like I’m wasting my time. I didn’t get the tangible outcome I was hoping for (student commitment to join the program) and I’m listening to someone who doesn’t even grow plants. I stuck around for thirty minutes to see if the students would show up, and when realizing they were not going to I contemplated cutting my losses and leaving. But then I realized I would have nothing to show for my efforts. What would I have learned or gained?! These are the questions I often find myself asking as I become accustomed to documenting my successes and challenges.
With that in mind, I decide to stick it out, and hope there is some value in networking after the talk has ended. I am again the youngest person at a meeting with community gardeners, and several comments about youth helping the cause were passed my way during the talk. I took this as a sign of support and interest at my level of involvement. Towards the end of the talk, the importance of preserving seeds and how to grow seeds comes up, and that resonates with me. Afterwards I speak with the person who gave the talk and tell him what I resonated with, and then tell him how relevant OpenFarm is in that capacity. He was enthusiastic. He is a local, and seems to have a following, so although I didn’t see how he would be directly relevant to my work, I got his contact info just in case. I mean, his talk was interesting (it just wasn’t what I was there for) and he did seem like a nice person. While lingering alongside him, a variety of people approached and gave him their spiels. This was convenient because I could hear what people were doing within the community, and could approach them later. I ended up meeting a local whole grain grower and the seed saver director that way. These are both people who have organizations that grow things, who are concerned about preserving their information and who support the ethos of healthy and open communities.
This felt like a win. It wasn’t the right time or place to ask these people to commit to making guides, but I was able to get on their radar (the seed saver director had actually heard of OpenFarm before through our business development team, which was helpful for establishing credibility) and bounce the idea of a shadowing program off them. They were a bit overwhelmed or preoccupied with the many other interactions around them, but seemed supportive. So I began making a list of organizations who we can later partner with in our shadowing program, and had the first few contacts for those organizations. After having a list of different organizations and types of plants they’re growing, I imagine it’ll be easier to get volunteers involved in shadowing. Depending on what the volunteer is interested in learning about, I’ll be able to direct them to a number of local organizations.
My take away here is that sometimes you have to adapt to a situation you weren’t expecting, and make a win for yourself. I got three contacts I wasn’t expecting, I had a social presence for OpenFarm (I wore my OpenFarm shirt, and some people noticed the OpenSource “O” on it and got really excited) and I got to thinking about different ways to make a shadowing program. I may not have gotten volunteers, but I didn’t let myself walk away with nothing.