Choosing Hope and Finding Community.
Opportunity knocks differently for each person. For me, being given the opportunity to spend the day with the people who are neck deep in giving and public service at the 2017 Blaine House Conference on Service & Volunteerism was the opportunity to share gratitude, thanks, and appreciation for those who give us all good reason to choose hope and those who strengthen our communities. It was a perfect fit for a week that celebrates National Farmers Day because without our communities we farmers would be all alone. I was honoured to be able to address the conference and speak these words of thanks and gratitude to the volunteers and service leaders there :
While we rarely need reminders of the importance of a well spent energy and a well loved community the forces of nature have recently provided us with unavoidable and undeniable prompts that make it hard for us to forget the importance of the spirit and well being of volunteerism and community. Whether it is Mother Nature and her relentless ravages against the land and those who call it home, or the unknown lurking of evil within Human Nature that leads to the twisted rubble of lives from wanton violence, there is one thing that remains true and strong: hope and community will see us through.
When the flood waters recede, rubble cleared, wounds triaged the landscape of lives is surveyed and who is there? Those who are there first and remain to the last and who endeavor to never waiver. Those for whom service and volunteerism is a calling. And whether they are standing in stagnant water, among broken timbers and crumbled bricks, or surrounded by broken bodies and heavy hearts there is an underlying bedrock to provide those on the scene and those they serve sure footing: it is hope and it is the strength of community.
Why we hone our skills and perfect our abilities in the pursuit of managing, inspiring, and curating service is because Mother Nature and Human Nature have an endless well of energy to provide us with these reminders and these reasons that prove well spent energy and a well loved community is imperative. Imperative to ensuring there is strength for the tests of nature. Imperative to bolstering the bonds and love that encourage our communities to flourish. Imperative to nourishing the hope that truly grows the spirit, the soul, and the heart of our neighbours, our communities and our future.
As a dairy farmer, mother and community member I am in a deep relationship with the growing of things, from our soil to our cows, our crops and our farm, our family and our community. I know intimately and personally that when we are faced with dark times and challenges on our farm, within our family or within our community; up close or from afar, that the strength of those we connect with by geography, by profession, or by experience is instrumental in arming us with the necessary armour and tools to navigate whatever nature may throw at us. I know all too well that strong communities make a difference when it comes to rebuilding and grieving in bad times, and in the good times it brings progress and betterment. While Mother Nature and Human Nature waste no time hurling at us their reminders of the importance of hope and community it is during the good times that we actively grow our communities and foment faith in hope. These good times are when the investments are made. That is something everyone in this room understands- that there need not be flood waters or hurricane or fire or rain of bullets for us to grow our strengths and nourish our communities and that the investment we make now will better prepare us for the tests.
As a Cabot Farmer and member owner of the Cabot Creamery Cooperative I am incredibly proud of the recognition and respect our Co-Op gives to the model and practice of volunteerism and community service. It is a culture that finds itself at home on our dairy farms as much as it does in our Cabot offices and creameries, from dairy farmer to cheesemaker; tractor cab to office; field to warehouse and every person and place in between. As a Co-Op and business that revolves around dairy farming it is all perfectly logical. The connections between farmers and communities are seamless and so indelible that over time we begin to assume that they are one in the same. And in a way they are-inseparable and unable to exist without each other. From the dairy farmer who answers the tone when the local Volunteer fire department rolls out to an emergency, to the dairy farmer who sets aside some of their sweet corn for the local food pantries; there’s the sponsorship of a youth t-ball team and the friendly tow out of a snowdrift.. the list goes on and pairs so very well with the good food that comes from these farmers and finds itself on their neighbours’ tables.
It makes perfect sense that a reflection of this give and go between communities and Cabot farmers culminate in a program dedicated to encouraging, fostering, and rewarding volunteerism and community service. Reward Volunteers is a web-based program that tracks and rewards the efforts of volunteers and the organizations they serve. This unique program allows organizations to help schedule and track the hard work of their volunteers and helps volunteers to log their service and it provides all with the opportunity to promote their causes and efforts and the chance for volunteers and Organizations to receive rewards for all they do. Celebrating those who make our communities stronger fits perfectly into who we are as dairy farmers and a Cooperative and is just one of the ways we are able to express our gratitude. As farmers our strength is our community, and we are more than willing to return that favour by being the backbone of our communities, and that includes thanking and recognizing those whose service supports and strengthens where we live, where we raise our children, our cows, and our crops. Each of us is an echo of the loudest voices we hear and the words that are spoken to us. Our Co-op repeats the values and community involvement of our farmers; we farmers are emboldened and elevated by the tenets and goodness of our Co-op and the people there who work so hard to be the good and be the change; our farms and families are as intertwined with our communities as the roads and highways that link us to one another. While we may be ever dwindling in number we farmers work hard to be ever louder in our deeds and our conversation and we are proud to thank those who speak and do the heavy lifting and hard work of moving mountains, especially those who do so quietly and sometimes go unnoticed. That’s why Reward Volunteers is so important to us, because we know Nature. and we know that all the forces of Nature will test us and try us and that our community, however small, can weather and rally us if it is strong.
By choosing hope we find our community, build our communities and set ourselves up for success. It is a righteous endeavor this active and conscientious choice of hope and it enables our communities to grow and flourish. I am a farmer and I may not know the details and the art and the skills of administrating community service and organizing the agencies and mechanisms that are so integral to our service organizations, and in turn our communities. But, I know what it takes to plant a seed and grow it so that its roots firmly secure it to the soil and that it is nourished with goodness and how that seed, once grown, begets more goodness and strength, because that is what a farmer does: we hope and work to ensure the seeds we plant will grow to feed and serve our communities. So it appears, as I look around me, that I am surrounded by farmers who choose hope and grow communities and for that you have the gratitude of Cabot Farmers like me, and our thanks.