by Tattiana Bamba

Before going on my Branch Out trip I was a little apprehensive: I didn’t know anything about sustainable farming!  After two days of hard labor in freezing temperatures I was less than impressed to say the least.  But then there was a break in the storm, literally, and I started to realize how important the work that we were doing was.  During this trip I learned a lot.  One of the interesting things that I learned while preparing for our presentation on the trip was the difference between organic food and sustainable food.  I learned the importance of being conscious of where your food comes from and how costly food miles can be.  After watching a TEDx talk on urban sustainable farming, I became motivated to make a more conscious decision to get involved when I move back to New York.  Sustainable farming is becoming more of a big deal because people are running out of options (either food is cheap but really bad for you or its really expensive, mass produced organic food with a million food miles on it). The root cause of the sustainable food issue is that it’s too easy for people to just run to the grocery store without thinking, but soon that won’t be an option for them and it certainly won’t be as easy for our kids and grand kids.

Lynchburg Grows makes it a point to hire people with disabilities, and one of the most enriching experiences that I had on the trip came out of our work with them.  People with disabilities a lot of times are not given the opportunities they deserve, which at times can make their conditions worse.  Lynchburg grows benefits by having extra hands but what they give back is by far more valuable; they’ve created a community and a safe place for those with disabilities.  They aren’t treated any different, as should be the norm, giving a hand up instead of a hand out.

Working with Lynchburg Grows was not only socially enriching but academically as well.  It really helped me get some hands on experience with nonprofits.  In my social entrepreneurship class we study how nonprofits are starting to develop for-profit business models.  In speaking to one of the head members of Lynchburg Grows, Lewis, he described how the organization is begging to develop similar model.  For instance, by using rose sales (the for-profit arm) to fund the non-profit arm of the operation.  He stressed the importance of having a “business mentality” when dealing with non-profits and being able to strike a balance so that the ultimate mission is not lost.

All in all it was a great trip and I would recommend EVERYONE to get to know how Lynchburg Grows!