Last Saturday, The Polish Ambassador played the Warfield in San Francisco alongside Dirtwire and Desert Dwellers. With my name on the guest list and backstage access, I was one happy glamsient.
There I met the Poet Pistachio, MC for the evening.
“I’ve never seen a concert from this angle,” I said. “The energy — it’s –”
“The collection of thousands of people on the dance floor, constantly asking for more. Shaking and grooving, funky, frenetic,” he suggested.
“But there’s something else –”
“Here, people are content to be themselves. And that is the greatest thing an artist can pull from the shelves. Invite people to feel good in their own shoes; it’s there they won’t lose. Plus, it’s a lot of funsie seeing everyone in their onesie.”
I thought for a moment, “I won’t put up a fight, we both know you’re right.”
Between acts, Pistachio encouraged the crowd to join The Polish Ambassador and Ayla Nereo the next day at the Gill Tract Organic Farm in Berkeley for community service. He told us Gill Tract provides free education, experiential learning, cutting-edge sustainable research and — perhaps most significant — free food to those in need!
As a homefree glamsient, I have felt the emotional turmoil of homelessness, but I have never gone hungry, and I’ve only slept under the stars by choice. Experiencing homelessness over this past year has torn my heart open and I have given more food to people on the street than ever in my life, but it never feels like enough.
This sounded like the perfect opportunity to do more.
The next morning, stepping out of my car and onto the Gill Tract Farm, the sweet smell of wet earth greeted me. I saw hundreds of people on the grounds. Some wore face paint, dreadlocks, wild hair dye and feathers; others wore glasses, backpacks, buzz cuts and Gap t-shirts. Despite the drizzly weather, I saw many working without shoes.
Entering the gate, I met a long-time volunteer named Tina. “Can you tell me about your food program?” I asked.
Tina said, “we have distributed food to over thirty organizations. We also have a farm stand on Sundays from 3-5 pm at the corner of San Pablo and Marin. The food is free or by donation if you have the money.”
“Do you serve a lot of homeless people?”
“It’s a mix. Sometimes someone drives up in their Mercedes. And you get people who obviously don’t have money stopping by. We’ve had a lot of people who are ill, undergoing cancer treatment or with an auto-immune disease, that will come and get our vegetables because they don’t have a lot of money and need to do juicing to get better.”
Incredibly, she told me, the farm has produced and given away over 30,000 pounds of food within the past couple of years!
I was eager to help.
Tina sent me to the periphery of the farm where volunteers were planting starts. Ciara, another long-time volunteer, explained our task: “we’re building a hedge that will go all around most of the outer rim of the farm along the fence line. We got a bunch of donated plants — lavender, rosemary, all sorts of medicinal plants. It’s multidimensional by design to help the entire farm by attracting bees and we harvesting the plants for our farm stand.”
I dug and planted, adding compost to the soil as Ciara showed me. I felt strong and grounded knowing that I was part of something sustainable, something bigger — these plants would continue to give. It wasn’t just one meal. I was helping the earth and it’s inhabitants!
With rain-kissed hair, dirty hands and a full heart, I sought out David (The Polish Ambassador) and Ayla to thank them for organizing the event.
“This is incredible and inspiring,” I said. “I am so happy to be here! Where did you get the idea for action days?”
“I was passionate in answering the question, ‘how can we harness the energy of all these people coming to live music events?'” David said as he harvested greens.
Ayla nodded, “The primary thing is being in community and knowing that we are intricately connected to all life on this planet. It can be so easy to just think about me and my stuff. The second I show up at an action day it helps me maintain right relationship with the planet and our global community.”
“That’s what I was just thinking,” I said. “It makes me feel connected — like I’m part of a larger system.”
“We all deserve to eat and have clean air and clean water. It’s actually possible for everyone to have those basic needs met — we just have to show up for each other,” Ayla said.
“For me,” David said, “There’s a few hundred people out here creating community, getting their hands in the earth and learning today; that’s my piece in all of this. To stir people to come out.”
“Yes,” Ayla said with light in her eyes. “Helping people remember what it feels like to touch the earth, be barefoot on the earth, plant things; we’ve become disconnected. Being stewards and caretakers of the planet and each other — that is a worthy use of energy.”
“And helping the Gill Tract Farm is a worthy cause,” I said.
“We tend to not push things,” David said, “but rather find out where we can help and we heard Gill Tract could use amplification to let more people know what is happening here.”
“That they’re a vital asset to the community?” I asked.
“Yes, but they’re also under threat!” Ayla responded.
What?! I wanted to know more, but at that moment several people came to say hello. I would have to find answers elsewhere.
More on the Gill Tract Farm controversy next time…
For information on how you can get involved with an action day with The Polish Ambassador and Ayla Nereo, visit actiondays.us