It’s a cool, crisp October morning when I approach EarthDance Organic Farm School, occupying 14 acres in Ferguson, Missouri. Located just over three miles from where Michael Brown was shot on Aug. 9, 2014, EarthDance is hope in the middle of a food dessert. It’s there that I reconnect with Alum Service Corps (ASC) alumna Colleen Daly, who served last year at Regis Jesuit High School in Denver. After volunteering as an ASC teacher and mentor out of gratitude for her Saint Louis University Jesuit education, Daly was eager to search for ways in which she could continue to serve with and for others.
Today, as a development associate with EarthDance, Daly helps cultivate relationships and raise money for the organization. Perhaps most importantly, with a major in Nutrition and Dietetics with Culinary Arts and Entrepreneurship, Daly helps educate the Farm’s many field trip groups. When asked what drew her to EarthDance this year, she replies, “I want to continue to give back in the tradition of Alum Service Corps (ASC), and especially give back in the community that helped form me, St. Louis – as an educator, a food and nutrition consultant, and in union with a community in need, Ferguson.”
EarthDance’s mission is simple: create more farmers to grow more food. Their vision? “Individuals from all walks of life coming to EarthDance to learn skills in organic farming and gardening, to taste a fresh-picked carrot, and to see where their food comes from.”
EarthDance Organic Farm School makes food more accessible to the neighborhood by growing it on site and selling it locally.
The farm is protected by a conservation easement and is tucked away in the shadows of St. Louis Lambert International Airport and a stone’s throw from Florissant Ave., a thoroughfare that is home to some commercial enterprises, an abandoned grocery store, and plenty of pedestrians who walk their shopping carts filled with boxed-up-belongings, and where Our Lady of Guadalupe’s Church sign challenges passers-by, to “Look for the Saints Among Your Community.”
When asked how her ASC experience has enriched her experience this year on the Farm, Daly explains, “Last year ASC community life was huge. We supported and loved one another. This year, I try to make my workplace a supportive community. I am also using my ASC teaching and mentoring skills with groups who come to the Farm and in planning EarthDance events.
“Last year, ASC lit a fire in me . . . a fire to serve, to find my passion, to seek what I love, and to be in community with others who seek the same things.”
That’s the ASC Way! Asked for her advice to others considering a year of service in ASC, Daly muses, “Before beginning a lifetime of paid work, why not volunteer, using talents and gifts, and learn about and serve others while doing it?”
Perhaps Daly’s life – using her talents and gifts to work on the land and in communion with and serving the marginalized, out of a sense of gratitude for what she has been given – is the most effective modeling of the spirit of Reconciliation with God, humanity, and creation, that the Jesuit General Congregation 36 calls us to.
For more information about the UCS Jesuits-sponsored Alum Service Corps (ASC) and to apply to teach in one of our six participating college preparatory schools next year, visit our website.