As part of our “40 Chances” end of year giving campaign, we’ll be highlighting the work Tiffany Valle continues to do through our Neighborhood Produce Program. See her story below.
The Friday after Thanksgiving, I hopped on my bike with the bag of produce and eggs that I was saving for someone who had missed her Neighborhood Produce Program delivery the Saturday before. It was a beautiful sunny day and having only one delivery to make, I gladly rode through the neighborhood with the food strapped to my bike rack on my way to see my neighbor and friend.
STARTING WITH FINCA TRES ROBLES
In the nearly two years I’ve spent getting to know the recipients in this program, I have developed relationships with some of them that I never would have imagined when I first started as a delivery driver for Finca Tres Robles. When I responded to the job posting for a part time neighborhood delivery driver in the East End, I did so with zero expectations of actually getting the job; I had never set foot on the farm and truthfully, I had just found out it even existed via a friend sharing the job posting on their Instagram story. Despite this, I excitedly applied anyway. I was planning to move to the East End soon and I thought it would be a good way to get to know the neighborhood. I was also impressed with the Finca mission and values statements, and the fact that there was even a farm in the middle of the city! Having an activist/organizer background, I was glad to see the type of work the farm was doing to take care of not just its neighbors and community, but the environment as well. Stewards of health in ways beyond just nourishment, they gave the impression of a wholesome and safe community space that I was eager to be part of, even if I would only be involved for 8 hours a month.
GETTING TO KNOW THE NEIGHBORHOOD
After an interview and being extended an offer, I could not wait to learn more about Finca Tres Robles and all the work it was doing. I met my new boss Tommy on the farm early one Saturday morning to get oriented with the farm and the delivery program, where I discovered that the NPP was the only program still in operation since the pandemic began.
Suddenly this work felt much more special to me. Being a crucial part of the only operation providing fresh produce to our neighbors felt like a great honor and I was determined to keep it running as smoothly and effectively as I could.
Over the weeks and months that followed, I slowly became acquainted with the recipients, learning about their histories in the neighborhood, where they moved to the East End from, their families, and their interests–many of which included tending to beautiful, lush gardens. Many of the folks I interacted with were seniors, as they make up the majority of NPP members. They were also the majority of folks available and willing to spend a few minutes talking to me as I dropped off their box. It began as very small pleasantries–I’d smile and ask how their day was going, then after a short exchange, I’d take off to the next location. But eventually they’d ask me a little more about myself in return.
BEING INVITED IN
As months became a year and beyond, I was genuinely looking forward to meeting with each new friend I had made on the route. Hearing about the latest plant growing in their gardens, their experiences growing up in the East End, or what they had planned for the day was always a heartwarming start to every other Saturday. Here and there I’d be invited inside, given a drink or snack, or thanked for stopping to chat. I’d be asked to translate a document or configure something on a smartphone. I was also a listening ear or open for a warm hug when tragedies or despondency reared itself. When I look back on these memories, I feel extremely fortunate to have gained the love and trust of my neighbors. I felt the values of Finca Tres Robles as something that I was truly living and extending beyond the physical boundaries of the farm.
There was and is no transactional nature between me and our NPP recipients; I was not simply dropping their biweekly produce delivery at their doorstep, I was being invited into their lives and homes with loving exuberance, which I can only hope to extend back to them and others in my life with the same joyful and resilient spirit.