Guest post by Jonna Huseman
What is your profession/involvement in the community?
I’m an urban planner specializing in affordable housing by training. I’m also the director of land stewardship and farm management at Koiner Farm.
We grow 120 varieties of fruits and vegetables on one acre, so it’s really diverse. In the spring, we have a lot of root crops like carrots, turnips, and beets. Spring lettuce is coming in now also, along with kale, collards, mustard greens, cabbage. During the summer, we have crops like tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, and leeks.
How has your life changed since the community has been impacted by Coronavirus?
Usually our produce is available to the public. We usually sell through the farm stand and the Fresh Farm market, but we are now delivering through a home-delivered CSA. Because we are a land trust, as stewards of the land, we had to close the property to the public. That means no farm stand sales. It’s just the CSA right now.
It’s funny because we really wanted to do a CSA. Our organization has only officially been operating for two years. We figured a CSA is something we would do next year, but it’s like, nope—we’re doing it now. The virus is really pushing us forward.
Are you working more or less?
Specifically with Koiner Farm, it’s been hard because we’ve put our internship program and our volunteer program on hold. The people who participate in these programs are neighbors and students who support our farm management team on a daily basis. As a result, I’m in an interesting situation—it’s the same amount of total hours, but I’m definitely doing more farm work. I’m spending less time coordinating staff and more time farming. I think it’s the opposite of most people, who are spending more time in front of their phones and computers.
What are you most afraid of?
At the national level, and even in the state level, bad policy decisions are going to be detrimental. I’m afraid of this move to privatization. I mean, look at our hospitals. There’s no central authority—everyone is just doing their own thing. That increases inequality and inequity, which has serious consequences for human and economic health. We see so many examples in Europe. It’s not perfect, but where things are centralized, that means people can act quickly and in unison.
What are you most hopeful for?
Being a community-based planner, I’m really attuned to how people are interacting with each other. Just walking down the street, I see some people who are afraid of each other. But neighbor-to-neighbor, I see people supporting each other. There is a real sense of humanity that people have wanted for so long, and it’s really bubbling up through this unfortunate set of circumstances.
What has been the most challenging part of this experience for you?
It is hard not to feel helpless. You just have a terrible feeling that you can’t do things to change anything on a massive scale. Just reading the news—its headline after headline of terrible things. That’s been really challenging for me, so I’ve stopped reading the news.
Is there anything—even a tiny thing—you enjoy or like about sheltering in place?
On a very personal level, I’ve found a lot of time for all my hobbies. On a typical weekend, I want to be out with my friends, but now I’m finding time to do home-based projects that had previously been put on hold.
In addition, my in-laws are in Iran, in Tehran. They’ve been hit really hard. It’s really hard for them to leave the house at all. They can’t go out without bumping into people, so they just don’t go out at all. I call them on FaceTime now and we’ve been doing daily Farsi lessons. Talking with them has been a real silver lining for me, and for them.
What do you think society as a whole will learn from this experience?
I think it has been very clear that we need a better system of global governance, especially as we see the impacts on global health. Look at the climate. We’ve seen around the world how air pollution is lessening. If we’re going to capitalize on that and take action on global warming, we need real global leadership. At the same time, on the local scale, we’re seeing the need for holistic community engagement and planning. I think people have started to rethink things on the very local level.
How are you coping with stress/taking care of yourself?
My yoga studio in downtown Silver Spring—Grace Studio—immediately started doing online yoga. So I’ve been able to keep that routine of twice a week classes. I see my teachers and friends who I used to go to class with. It’s been incredibly grounding to have that consistency.
When future generations ask, what will you tell them about this time in your life?
I think it’s one of those rare moments in history when it feels like the world has stopped. We’re able to take a break from the crazy speed at which life has been going at. It’s something I’ve been secretly wishing for such a long time—not the pandemic, but a break, or a change from the busy lives we’ve created. It really is the time when the world stopped.
What would you like your friends and neighbors in Silver Spring/Montgomery County to know?
I think it would be helpful for people to know that Koiner Farm is doing CSAs right now. Each family who purchases a share is actually purchasing a share for themselves and a family in our neighborhood who needs produce, but can’t afford it due to job loss and financial circumstances. Also, as soon as we can, we’ll start the farm sales up again.
Jonna Huseman is a family photographer who serves Silver Spring and beyond. During the COVID-19 crisis, she is using her free time to document the lives of friends and neighbors living through the pandemic.
Author’s note: Over the coming days and weeks I am documenting the lives of dozens of members of the Silver Spring and Takoma Park community. My goal is to talk to teachers and students, religious leaders, small business owners, frontline workers, parents, elected leaders, and private citizens. I want to learn about our collective hopes and dreams, our biggest challenges, and our greatest triumphs. Mostly, I want to build connection and create community at a time when we need it the most. If you live or work in Silver Spring or Takoma Park and are interested in having your life documented at this time—or know someone who has a unique experience and is willing to share—please contact me. To all those who have made this project possible, including Source of the Spring, I thank you for your time and generosity. To the neighbors who will respond in the future, I look forward to getting to know you. And to everyone reading—stay healthy and safe. We will make it through.