Slight change of direction

Following my previous post on seeds, here is a little update on the garden and my volunteering gig as a whole.

The garden and overall urban agriculture program have definitely changed hands. It feels like the new “owners” of the garden don’t really have an idea of what to do with it (or perhaps they decided to simply not tell me). A consequence of the transfer, and a big problem for me, is that the agricultural worker who has been working in the garden for more than 4 years (and has the most in-depth knowledge of the place) is basically being let go.

The whole process turned out to be kind of a joke. About two months ago, I was informed that he would have to undergo an evaluation in order to decide whether or not they would keep him as a member of staff. First, I asked when the evaluation would take place. They told me two weeks before the end of his contract…I pointed out that it wouldn’t be a lot of notice in case they decided not to keep him, but it wasn’t a concern for them. The evaluation eventually took place a week before the end of his contract…The farm manager who was supposed to do the evaluation was very honest in his assessment. He simply said: “I can’t evaluate him because I don’t work with him (which is true), can you complete this questionnaire for me? thank you.” That was it. Some evaluation… Turns out the evaluation won’t matter  one way or another because there is no money in the budget to pay for his salary. And this is one thing that I truly struggle with here. Basically the farm relies on casual workers. They work at the
farm for 4-5 months and then are replaced. The reason is that this way they don’t have to pay social security contributions for the
employees. Now, we are not talking about a business here. This is a University. They have money. Not on the scale of a US or European university, but they’re doing alright. Arnold’s salary is not great, believe me, so it wouldn’t be such a headache to find a bit of money to pay him. Yet, they prefer to employ someone who knows little or nothing about the job (with all the training necessary, etc.) rather than keep someone who has a experience and does his job well. That just kills me. So counter-productive, so utterly the opposite of something that makes sense if you want to have the best possible space from which your
students can learn.

They said they’ll just send one of their casual worker to work on the garden a few hours a week. So, soon I’ll be pretty much alone working there and that will slow things down a lot. I have no idea about the (medium- to long-term) goals of maintaining this garden, so it’s hard to plan anything with it.

So these are the people I’m supposed to work for/with from now on…Needless to say, it doesn’t sound promising and I’m
increasingly lacking motivation. For now, the focuses are herbs (which are doing well) and soil improvement through compost.

My “volunteer contract” is expiring at the end of May. I have decided to reduce my hours with the university and instead of working 5 days a week, I will scale it down to 3 days a week (maybe 2). During these 3 days, I’ll focus my time on the rehabilitation of the garden.

I’m planning to use this new ‘free’ time to go work/volunteer in a farm nearby. It’s owned by a very nice Swiss-Filipino couple. It’s an all-natural/organic farm not far from the city. I met the guy (Swiss) at the garden and he proved to be really interesting character with a deep knowledge of agriculture, horticulture and composting. He has been in the country for the last 25 or 30 years so he knows his way around. He doesn’t hold back on sharing his knowledge and I feel I have probably learned more from him about agriculture and compost in about two or three days spent hanging out with him and his family than I
have with the people at the University in six months…

Maybe moving away from the university is what I need to do at this point (there are plenty of signs telling me to do so) so I’m going to do just that and shift my focus (maybe not entirely but at least significantly).

3 thoughts on “Slight change of direction

  1. Victor Halsig says:

    Chris – Life never seems to be fair, particularly in the economic area. All you can do is follow your heart and moral code. You know what’s right, so just do it!
    God bless you and good luck.

  2. Mom says:

    I would hope that if you decide to leave the University that you would do so by writing a paper explaining your position, your ‘hoped for’ goals for the Demonstration Gardens; your $$ investment with those goals in mind, and your exasperation and disillusionment for the way things are being handled. And, perhaps, before you leave the Philippines, you would consider giving your story to the papers. Things don’t change until the facts are brought to light. Good luck—bring the rest of your seed to France; bet your Dad could use them.

  3. Jan says:

    I’m soo sorry about your dillema; however, you don’t have to be in the Philippines to run into this situation. It’s right here in the states, and, yes, it is very frustrating. Please know that you did the best job you could under the circumstances, and then let it go, because if you hold on to it, it will eat at you. I think you are making a good move, by backing away and moving on. Cheers, Jan

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