By Abria Brown, Social Work Intern
Mary Baldwin University, Class of 2022
As my time as the social work intern at Project GROWS comes to an end, I have started to reflect on my time here and what it has meant to me.
From harvesting popcorn with the students of Waynesboro Boys and Girls Club to broadforking soil with the amazing students participating in the Youth Leaders in Agriculture program, every single moment has been a learning experience that will stick with me for the entirety of both my personal life and my career.
Before starting this journey, I really wanted something that would challenge what I knew about social work, and while this did show me new aspects of the field, I also learned that anyone with a passion to implement a positive change in their community is a social worker to me. The employees at Project GROWS hold so many of the traits that I’ve learned make a good social worker, and I am grateful to have experienced learning from such an amazing group of individuals.
As a student majoring in social work, Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs was presented to me very early in my education and at the foundation of the hierarchy the most basic of needs can be found including: air, water, shelter, sleep, and FOOD! Since my time at Project GROWS, I think it would be important to revise that to read “healthy food”. A fed body is amazing, but a body fueled with local produce can be even better, and everyone in the community deserves to have the same ability to access and afford that produce. I’ve gotten to witness the way children’s eyes light up when it clicks to them that the ability to grow and enjoy their own produce is right at their fingertips. Implementing these skills in children will create generations of families who understand that they are capable of so many amazing things and so is the Earth we live on!
“I’ve gotten to witness the way children’s eyes light up when it clicks to them that the ability to grow and enjoy their own produce is right at their fingertips. Implementing these skills in children will create generations of families who understand that they are capable of so many amazing things.”
Due to my time here, I was also offered a position at the Staunton Farmers Market SNAP Benefits table, and that is something I could have never imagined happening at the beginning of my placement. I’m excited to be surrounded by local vendors and learn all I can about their own practices of production. I also hope to continue expanding diversity throughout the Farmers Market. I see it as a community staple and a place everyone should feel welcome regardless of age, ethnicity/race, or social class. During one of my first few weeks as an intern, I remember reading data on exactly how many families within our community felt some sort of food insecurity and it made my heart ache for all the individuals we see who may be silently suffering due to not knowing when or how they’d be getting their next meal. A sustainable food system is not a luxury, it is a necessity, and I’ve loved watching how programs within Project GROWS reinforce that belief.
I went from barely spending time outside to knowing the difference between perennial and annual crops, being able to identify sycamore trees, and even having a newfound appreciation for earthworms! This experience gave me a different outlook on the land surrounding us and encouraged me to think about how I can begin to benefit our ecosystem to create a world that will still thrive many years down the line.