This story appeared in the 2021 spring issue of The Maine Organic Farmer & Gardener in response to the theme, “Breaking Ground.”
On March 3, 2020, an F3 tornado hit my neighborhood of Bells Bend, a farming community west of downtown Nashville. Uprooted cedars rode 150 mph winds across the bottomland, striking and killing cattle. A 2-by-6 skewered a pickup 50 paces from my bedroom window, and the historic barn it once belonged to lay in rubble. The next week, I made a record – generally the most expensive, high-pressure and cathartic event of an independent singer-songwriter’s year. My producer and session players checked phones between takes as the World Health Organization declared a pandemic. Every gig I had booked for the next six months, along with the income and housing they would provide, evaporated instantly.
During the third week of March, I received a call from “back home” in Maine. Mary Leaming, my longtime friend and Veggies for All gleaning manager, had been fielding calls from fellow organizers and concerned citizens eager to strengthen hunger relief in Waldo County to prepare for the economic impacts of COVID-19. I spitballed with her on speakerphone while packing up my house for another move. Friends Colleen Hanlon-Smith of Daybreak Growers Alliance and Jonathan Fulford of Sierra Club were soon in the mix. MOFGA and Cooperative Extension staff and volunteers from Mainers Together and Unity Barn Raisers helped to articulate a vision, build an organizational structure, widen our circle and expedite on-the-ground work. Waldo County Bounty (WCB) was born from these conversations, from a global crisis, and even my personal upheaval.
I stepped away from WCB in fall to focus on music projects, but continue to be inspired by the effort. We were not ground-breakers, maybe just seeds ready to drop into ground broken for us. Luckily for those of us who want to do meaningful work, the world is ever breaking open and calling for whatever we know how to grow.
Belfast, Maine & Nashville, Tennessee