By Alyssa Scarborough, Camphill Soltane
Camphill Soltane is a nonprofit organization with locations in Phoenixville and Glenmoore, Pennsylvania. Soltane cultivates and strengthens inclusive communities by advocating along side people with disabilities. With a strong horticultural program already in place, Camphill Soltane chose to participate in PHS's Harvest 2020 this summer by pledging to grow and share fresh fruit and vegetables from their orchard, berry patch, and gardens.
Following is a day in the life of a Camphill Soltane staff member, Alyssa Scarborough:
I hop over the electric netting outside the barn. Pippin, our angora goat, trots over to greet me. I give him a good belly rub and enter the chicken coop. Hints of rosemary, basil, and calendula linger in the air above the nesting boxes. Yesterday, Nick and Sandra stripped and sieved dried herbs for our Coop Blend which keeps mites at bay and promotes respiratory health in our flock. I recall Nick and Sandra sharing about their weekend from a distance, their mouths hidden behind masks.
My phone rings; it's Danny. He has arrived at Kristina’s House, named in honor of a dedicated and hardworking Camphill Soltane community member. After a routine health questionnaire and temperature check, Danny gets his tools together for the day. After years of training on the Soltane campus, Danny skillfully operates our battery-powered landscaping tools with precision and care. Today, Danny will tackle the mowing in the blackberry bushes.
As the temperatures rise, Danny finishes up his volunteer work. Before his sister arrives for his lift home, he helps me load the produce into the van. Today we have beets, onions, basil tops, cucumbers, squash, and vibrant lettuce to be donated. Before the pandemic, we started to supply one of Camphill Soltane’s enterprises, the Soltane Cafe, with the fruits of our labor to be cooked up in quiches, pies, and croissants. When our area went into lockdown, the need to safely distance ourselves impacted our ability to work closely together as a community, which in turn affected our horticultural productivity. Thankfully, it was not halted completely. The decision to temporarily close Camphill Soltane’s Phoenixville enterprises left a lingering question for the fate of Soltane Horticulture goods. In early spring, each seed planted by volunteers came with excitement for and anticipation of the possible bounty it would provide. Much of the learning processes of Soltane Horticulture are fueled by the promise and fulfillment of our harvest.
We still hold the ambition to support our community-based food initiatives with fresh, organic ingredients, and to provide Entwine, our textile enterprise, with flowers and herbs for dying handwoven fabric—but what to do with the abundance now?
I pull up to the back door of Phoenixville Area Community Services (PACS) and put the four-way blinkers on. After a quick knock on the back door, a friendly masked face arrives and remarks on the color of the summer crisp lettuce neatly packed in our van. She helps unload the weekly delivery and begins to efficiently place the produce into the coolers. PACS has provided food distribution in the Phoenixville area for over 45 years. After pledging to be a donor to PHS Harvest 2020, Soltane Horticulture has found a home for our abundance.
Nick reminds Courtney to be aware of uneven ground around the barn. Throughout the lockdown period, Camphill Soltane has provided safe and familiar grounds for daily walks through the orchard and visits to the animals. Courtney volunteered on campus before restrictions were put in place due to the pandemic. She spots her favorite barn cat, Smokey, and asks how the rabbit is doing. “She seems to be doing great even in this heat,” I reply, as I refresh the water for the animals. With new protocols and guidelines in place, Soltane Horticulture resumed the ability to safely accommodate volunteers. I look at the calendar hanging inside the barn. Tomorrow we will rotate the pasture for the animals, the perfect job for Michael. As with Danny and Courtney, Michael has a long history of training and volunteering on these grounds. He has learned to soothe the goats as they are being sheared, collect eggs, and give belly rubs to our potbelly pig. He is becoming more confident with the placement procedure for the pasture netting and tomorrow will be another opportunity to hone his skills even further.
I check my field notes from the day and enter the data into the Harvest 2020 Donation Tracker. As with so many, this was not the growing season I had anticipated. Our volunteer structure within Soltane Horticulture may look different with the addition of masks, temperature checks, distancing, and periodic sanitation breaks, but the sense of gratitude and wholeness is the same. I am grateful for each and every volunteer who keeps the plants watered and tended to; I admire the resilience of our community and fellow growers; I am encouraged by the abundance, not only of produce, but of strength and hope in these anomalous times.
For more information on Camphill Soltane, Soltane Horticulture, or to volunteer within our various initiatives, visit camphillsoltane.org.