My name is Tomás Cunha, I’m 25 years old and come from Portugal. I’m the current responsible for the garden here at CICD.
I first arrived at this college almost 9 months ago. I had just finished my masters in Evolutionary Biology back in Lisbon. After several years of studies, I knew I wanted to experience something different from my reality until then. Something that pushed me a bit away from the course of actions I was taking. I needed to learn more about the world and also about me and what I want. I lived a quite privileged life and so, I tried to put together this self-discovery stage of my life with giving a bit of myself and put my energies into something that is not only about me. I thus joined the Climate Activism Team 2020 at CICD with the goal of living in community, work on myself and helping others doing the same, and finally, go to India.
I managed to raise all the money I needed for my project through working in the Gaia scholarship program and my team was ready to go but, in the end, we had to wait. Due to the pandemic that the whole world is feeling, the plans of going to India in June had to be postponed. I had to face the inevitable uncertainty that plenty are felling through these times. The forecast now is that my Climate Activism course will start in November and that I will be going to India in January 2021. But what to do in the meantime?
I was invited to stay here at CICD as the new responsible of the garden until my program starts. Taking up this responsibility was a motivation for me: I was honored to inherit the garden left in an amazing state by the previous responsible Vasile; I had the opportunity to learn a complete new skill set as I had never worked on farming before; and specially, I could turn the time until my program starts into something both literally and figuratively productive. Literally because I would produce organic food for the college and figuratively because it was a new experience for me and therefore a chance to grow myself and learn something I consider very useful for my future.
I had the opportunity to share some time with Vasile and learn a lot from him before he left (you can also learn a bit from him here - https://cicd-volunteerinafrica.org/blog/why-gardening-because-in-exchange-of-your-work-you-get-food). I’m very grateful for that as he is very insightful, with a lot of practical knowledge about organic farming and also a person who I respect. I focused on understanding what would need more my attention, how could I manage the tasks in hand and how I could organize my time and priorities. Apart of course, from some more technical learning about specific plants, soil, watering and taking care of the animals.
This type of work is very rewarding for me personally. I feel like I can join hard work with creativity when I’m taking care of the garden by my own hands. It leaves my mind at a very peaceful state. Also, I believe that taking responsibilities has a big role on feeling fulfilled and this garden is a very healthy responsibility to accept. And finally, I end up every day feeling like I learn something. Again… rewarding.
The most difficult part has been finding the time to do everything that I proposed myself to do. I’m a perfectionist, for the good and the bad, and when there’s a lot of work I struggle to do everything as I envisioned.
That will be the biggest challenge for me during this summer. Manage the time I have and keep being productive. Balance what I want to do with what I can manage while being effective.
As I said, farming was something I never did before, so everything that I’m doing in the garden is something that I learned here. I think there is a certain beauty to this. All I do is learning and I depend on everything I learn to keep the garden alive and running.
Something indeed interesting was to experience the entire process from seed to my plate. I found it very rewarding to seed some vegetable, water and maintain the plant, see it grow, make sure it is healthy, harvest at the right time, cook it in the way you chose (using some fresh herbs from the garden too), and finally eat it and share with others.
“Making” your own food is something deeply rewarding and also something that people grew to be disconnected on modern times. Present times showed that this disconnection can be very harmful. Both directly, as people faced the possibility of running out of food in urban areas; and indirectly, as this contemporary way of life ends up being very detrimental to human health and to the planet we live in. This indirect effect becomes clearer and clearer crisis after crisis.
If you found yourself on a place where you see all these wrong patterns surrounding your way of life; where you feel unhappy or even depressed by the priorities unbalance of modern societies; where you understand the vices that are leading to catastrophic climate change; where you feel that you want to do something about it… then keeping an organic garden becomes something to aim. A small part of a big solution.
And this thought is a nice way to conclude my explanation about what means to me to work in this garden.
From seed to plate