I’ve always heard about Cape Cod as an expensive tourist destination or place to retire. Last week I got to see a different part of the cape. We visited and volunteered with CapeAbilities farm. This rather well-known farm employs and trains people with all levels of mental and/or physical disabilities growing food and flowers or making sea salt. They have locations all over the cape with a farm in Dennis, a Farm to Table Market in Chatham, and a thrift shop in Barnstable.
Ian the greenhouse manager at the central office in Hyannis showed us around and had us seeding some micro greens, and pruning the tomatoes. Ian broke his neck about five years ago in a terrible accident out west, but you’d never know it since surgery allowed him to walk again. He said it was a miracle he didn’t die, and another miracle that they fixed his vertebra in his neck. For a short while he was stuck in a wheelchair and realized just how little he could do. He was drawn to work at CapeAbilities because it allows him to give opportunity for other people who are limited in the work or service they can give. He can find work for any skill level in the greenhouse.
I was deeply moved by this experience working with Ian, and a girl named Liz who didn’t speak to me and just filled pots with soil the whole time. I encourage anyone who visits Cape Cod to stop by one of their operations to see how growing food can change people. They'll even give you a navy blue volunteer shirt!
All the food we eat has fingerprints on it because someone picked it at some point (something I heard from our supervisor Maggie). It is amazing to think someone’s life was made a little better by having the chance to pick the tomatoes, peppers, and herbs we saw in the greenhouse. Learn more at www.CapeAbilities.org
From left to right Alex, Audrey, Libby, Ian, Kathleen
We also got to see my new-former pastor Rod and his wife Cathy who have retired on the cape. He's the one who told me about CapeAbilities and gave us some lunch and dinner one night. It was a great camping trip, and a wonderful side of food justice to experience.
After the volunteering we visited some of the beaches and toured around a wind mill and grist mill where they used to grind grains (primarily corn) into flour with renewable energy. Although the operation to dam up the water behind the grist mill is slightly invasive to natural plant and animal habitat, this was a virtually free, earth-friendly way to harness the energy of nature. I was grateful to step back into the frame of mind of a slower time when folks knew how close the natural world is to our lives. A time when people knew where most of their food came from. A time when there wasn't internet to set up a last minute camping trip on the cape....
The Cape experiences seasonal poverty when agriculture and tourism die down in the winter. Many people are left without work, and wind up homeless for several of the coldest months. Until work resumes in the summer they often can't afford rent. There is a large amount of public assistance on the cape despite it's reputation as somewhere only the wealthiest go to their ornate beautiful beachfront property, or where they retire in a condo.
In current events, a military base on the cape has been considered to host some of the millions of immigrant children coming across our boarders until they can be reunited with family here or sent home. It's raised quite the controversy on the cape with much opposition. Seemingly the ever famous pain in the butt, NIMBY (not in my back yard) mentality has folks trying to chase away people that want to do a lot of good and drop a lot of federal money in the region. This article explains some of the opposition. It reminds me of tense moments in local politics at home.
I was deeply moved hearing Massachusetts Governor Patrick trying to be of help to these many children without a home. He has quite the moving speech on this video. It gets pretty good at 6 minutes. Since he's not up for re-election he said a lot about his faith and God calling us to care for the traveler, orphan, and sojourner in our midst, and reminds us that we will have to answer for our "actions and inaction" one day. It will be interesting to see how it plays out. It's pretty evenly split in state government.
So here I stand in the food justice league bringing you the latest from the cape in my cape. Even the vacation spots have room for justice, and the cape's off to a great start with CapeAbilities!