High Tunnel builds are a common occurrence for organizations that participate in agriculture. Many people feel they could easily fall into place while working on things shown to them in a way that have worked for others in the past. The High Rocks team as a whole are no strangers to high tunnels; we just started on the third tunnel build and although many participants had some experience with what building the structure would look like, others did not.
If you have virtually no idea or experience with how the tools should be held much, less how to apply that knowledge to the task, asking for help can be incredibly daunting. Without tool skills it can seem like any attempt to participate highlights that you are in the dark and in the way. In a world where “I don’t know how” seems unacceptable, building projects like this leave a lot of people feeling alienated. Although, this is the case for many projects, it was not the case in this instance! The High Rocks local food team knows that getting a high tunnel built, although beneficial to the ability to grow crops, is also a vehicle for getting engaged with the community and a way to empower young program participants who haven’t had a chance to learn these skills.
The entire experience, although technically about building a high tunnel, was still incredibly geared towards helping those who were unsure of what to do feel empowered through an opportunity to learn and grow. Those who asked for help understanding how to use a new tool were walked through how it works, how to properly handle and use the new tool, etc. While watching the interactions between the team at the site, it became clear to me that it was less likely people (myself included) were unable to use these tools, but rather no one had shown them these skills. The other participants and I walked away excited to show our friends and family pictures of what we had been a part of, what we had done for our community, and even more so the newfound knowledge that we would be able to apply.