Written by Zheyuan Yang, Shuli Lo
Edited by Chenglin Li and Maggie Morgan
Translated by Hong (Ariel) Chan
Tzu Chi USA hosted its inaugural One-Day Farmer’s Market at the organization’s San Dimas campus in Southern California. Teachers and students from Tzu Chi’s Continuing Education Program collaborated with local gardeners to put on an event that revolved around Planet Earth. It was a weekend of falling in love with nature; organizers set up booths in the park where the public could learn about environmental protection and how to start and maintain a greener garden.
An Intimate Experience: Connecting at the Farmers’ Market
The Golden State of California is sunshine personified. Full of warmth and fertile land, many families use the optimal weather to grow fruits and vegetables in their yard. The pandemic proved to be a time of learning new hobbies, and growing gardens seemed to be a popular pick. The fresh flowers, vegetables, and fruits that come from hard work and dedication are a sight to be seen. Knowing how to properly care for your plants is essential in producing a plentiful harvest.
The activity itself is great for leisure, and you can quite literally reap the rewards. Seeing others enjoy food and flowers they’ve grown themselves is a joy that spreads not unlike the vegetation. When Tzu Chi announced the news of their One-Day Farmer’s Market, it touched on that same positive contagion. The event attracted enthusiastic attendees, bringing together novices and experts alike.
There were 12 tents set up in front of the administrative building, and each one was full of life. Vegetable seedlings, fruit trees, succulents, fertilizers, flower pots, gardening tools, and organic agricultural products were like treasures waiting to be discovered by garden-lovers. The sun was sizzling that day, but the crowd was in high spirits; everyone gathered to discuss cultivation and planting methods, exchanging hidden gems of gardening with one another.
Tzu Chi likes to think of every event as a learning opportunity. No matter the underlying theme, there can always be something more to the message. The severe water shortage in California gave the volunteers the idea to teach some water-saving methods. The team led visitors on a tour of the ecological park to show some smart systems at work in the wild.
As Shakespeare once wrote, “though she be but little she is fierce”, and that was certainly true for the market. Small and serene, the event was bustling with life as visitors interacted with each other and learned more about what nature has to offer.
Tzu Chi’s Jing Si products were put on display, with Jing Si black tea and handmade soap among the most beloved items. The visitors strolled around, perusing tables and picking up new plants and agricultural products. Booth owners eagerly shared their experiences with every person who stopped by, happily planting the seeds of horticulture in their hearts.
The event also served as a platform for the recruitment of the Community Education Program’s upcoming session. Ching Chuan Shih, Jingjuan Shi, director of the Education Development Office of Tzu Chi USA, spearheaded the planning of the market, saying, “I hope the public can take advantage of this event to learn more about Tzu Chi’s Community Education Program and take this opportunity to visit Tzu Chi’s beautiful headquarters to revitalize this hub which has been silent for more than two years due to the pandemic.”
Anticipated to Become Annual
San Dimas Mayor Emmett Badar and his wife, Pamela, were invited to attend the market. They took the time to enjoy the atmosphere, touring each booth and chatting with owners. Pam especially liked Tzu Chi’s meditation booth. She said that she loved the Jing Si Black Tea brewed by volunteers and was impressed with their introduction of soaps and other products. Pam took out her phone and snapped some pictures to remember the occasion. She planned on sharing her experience on Facebook so others could learn all about the market.
California has been enduring a severe drought for years, and this year’s conditions were especially bleak. With this in mind, a lot of visitors bought water-saving succulents. Emmett stood in front of the succulents booth, watching volunteers explain to residents how they could help improve the environment and California’s current crisis.
Emmett had a lot to say about the initiative: “Growing water-saving plants in the garden is the best choice. I want to invite them to hold this event on the last weekend of each month and make this event a part of our city community. If there is an opportunity, we could even incorporate this into San Dimas Farmers Market.“
Some Booths Boosted Environmental Health
Enzyme fertilizers sparked a lot of conversation as visitors spotted them and wanted to learn more. Teacher Zhiren Liu, a teacher from the Tzu Chi Community Education Program, enthusiastically expounded on the various uses of natural enzymes. She explained how to reuse waste to make organic alternatives to pollution-prone chemical fertilizers; the aim is always to leave a cleaner earth for future generations.
Xiuping Zhang is a student in Tzu Chi Community Education Program. She has always been interested in organic cultivation. On the day of the market, Xiuping buzzed between the booths like a little bee, buying lots of plants to support Tzu Chi and the planet. She said: “This is a very meaningful event. I hope more people will participate in promoting organic products and protecting the Earth together.”
Michelle Thompson, a visitor, has worked as a volunteer at Tzu Chi before. “We came to check out these succulents, and wanted to support Tzu Chi by buying vegetables, fruits, and plants.” When asked what she liked about the exhibits, she said, “I like Taiwan’s handmade tea, and my favorites are these handmade flower pots. I believe that these pots are all glazed, painted and shaped by hand. We are delighted to be here to support this event and look forward to coming back next time!”
Adriana learned about the market through a friend, and this was the first time she had been to the Tzu Chi USA headquarters. She hugged her hand-picked water-saving succulents and praised the event for giving her a weekend to remember.
The One-Day Farmer’s Market brought life and laughter to Tzu Chi USA headquarters. Visitors were able to soak up knowledge while enjoying the outdoors; people were quick to ask volunteers when they could do it all over again. One day wasn’t enough, and Tzu Chi was so grateful to have had such a positive response.
Though it was only an afternoon of activities, the insight visitors gained and the products they purchased will help the Earth for much longer than that. It’s always a success when we can connect with other humans who inhabit this beautiful planet and teach them all there is to know about giving back to Mother Nature. Simple actions and small steps lead to big changes, and hand-in-hand we can continue to make a difference.