Last month we had the pleasure of hosting the Tucson Chapter of Latino Outdoors for a day at Deep Dirt Farm. The morning began with an opening circle, introductions and reflection on the question: “What brought me here today?”. Our circle connected through shared grief over the catastrophic losses that our planet is witnessing. The rich conversation, darkened by today’s realities--loss of biodiversity, plastic-filled oceans, 68.5 million people forcibly displaced from their homes worldwide, and so on--was uplifted by a quote from Jane Goodall shared by LO member Julia:
“There is still so much in the world worth fighting for.”
This quote set the tone for the rest of the day. Kate Tirion led the group on an inspiring and informative tour of the farm, eliciting questions on timely topics ranging from plants and watersheds to worms and compost toilets. Following lunch, Latino Outdoor and Deep Dirt Institute members teamed up to stack chunks of urbanite in a mosaic pattern along the bank of a nearby erosion channel. The urbanite (repurposed concrete pieces resulting from the removal of sidewalks, walls, and other solid concrete structures) allows rainwater to penetrate and hydrate the soil. Over time, indigenous grasses take hold end eventually cover the urbanite. We facilitated this process by scattering small clay balls containing native grass and wildflower seeds throughout the mosaic. What we will see in the future--thanks to the stabilizing, mulching action of the urbanite interspersed with seed balls--is that the seeds will have a chance to sprout and grow on the eroded slope. This will lead to grasses holding the landscape together, increasing soil moisture, and gradually rebuilding the topsoil. The erosion channel will fill in, and the underlying water table will rise.
Later in the afternoon, as storm clouds began pushing over the Santa Rita Mountains toward the farm, our group retreated to the farm’s Visitor Welcome Center for a closing discussion. Kate posed two questions to the group:
What did you take away from today?
How will you put it into action?
As each person answered with their reflections from the day, common themes emerged. There was a shared sense of urgency for the need to educate and inspire others, and to act quickly in order to save our planet, people, and other species. Julie felt this urgency when she said "I find a part of myself that I don't realize I'm missing while I'm in the city. I'm terrified that it will all be gone." The group was also collectively motivated by Deep Dirt Farm’s upcycling and repurposing of discarded materials, such as those used in the composting toilets and the urbanite castaways from the Nogales airport. Marlene, who stepped outside her comfort zone to absorb each new experience and nugget of knowledge that Deep Dirt Farm has to offer, observed: "When I first saw the bathroom I thought they [the toilets] were so strange, but now I know how to use them!"
The Latino Outdoors group spent the rest of the night on site, staying dry at the farm’s Perch covered camping pad. Deep Dirt staff had a wonderful time working with the youth from Latino Outdoors. We hope to see more of them in the future!
Latino Outdoors has groups nationwide with leaders and members passionate about bringing latino/as outside and connecting families and youth with their roots in nature. To learn more and support their work visit http://latinooutdoors.org/.