“Transformative.” “Changed my life.” “What a powerful community we built.” “Do it again.” These are just a few of the words from people who came to Highlander for W-7, our 1st Wild and Wacky, Witty and Wonderful Workshop Work Week, held May 25-29. From Thailand to Toronto. From the Bay Area to North Carolina. From DC to the heartland states of Kansas and Iowa. From New York to Georgetown College (KY), from Michigan to Florida and all the states in between, thirty-three people spent their mornings in educational workshops, their afternoons on work teams in service to Highlander’s land and grounds, and their evenings in cultural sharing.
In the morning educational workshops, people explored their history and current relationship to land and work, discussed the economy, studied popular education and talked with each other about how popular education can enhance their work in their home communities. In the afternoons, the group divided into 5 work teams – apple orchard, garden, trail clearing, chair/bench making and grounds maintenance.
In the process of converting Highlander’s newly acquired apple orchard from conventional to organic, thinning the apples, formerly done by chemicals, is now done by hand. A team led by intern Josh Diamond worked every afternoon in the orchard rain or shine. Very labor intensive, the work also afforded the opportunity to have political discussions as a team circled a tree and then spiraled to the next one, and people moved in and out from different teams.
Highlander has planted an organic garden for serving fresh fruit and vegetables in our workshop center and in a team led by intern Jenny Paris, crews filled in a rabbit-proofing trench around the fence, weeded, planted kale and herbs, built trellises, and designed and painted 2 signs for the garden – “Highlander Garden: How Does Your Garden Grow?” and “El Jardin de Amor, A Labor of Love”. We ate some of our first lettuces during the work week, and planted a new crop for the next group to come.
In our desire to encourage more interaction with the woods and natural beauty of Highlander’s land, we are building a series of trails throughout the 186 acres. In this first step, a team worked with Highlander staff Roberto Tijerina to clear an old postal service road that takes you by beautiful rock outcroppings to the edge of our new property.
Another team led by Louisville organizer and musician Carol Kraemer built chairs out of shipping pallets. Most shipping pallets end up in land fills so in addition to providing 3 adult chairs, a bench and 2 children’s chairs for sitting throughout Highlander’s grounds, the chair building modeled recycling and sustainability.
All of this work was overseen by Highlander’s building and grounds manager, Johnny Bailey who said “It was a really productive week with a really great group of people. Everyone seemed really motivated to help us out, we all worked hard, and everyone had a good time.”
In the evenings, we rejuvenated our minds and bodies from the day’s hard work with singing, storytelling, square dancing, and homemade ice cream.
Highlander is deeply grateful for the hard work accomplished by the W-7 crew and inspired by the people who came. Look for details for a fall W-7 on our website soon.