Saturday, July 24, 2010

Harrisonburg- The Friendly City

After the week well spent at Micah and Bethany's Trav was feeling healthy as a horse again and we wound our way through Pennsylvania's Big Valley to Harrisonburg, VA, the home of my alma mater EMU. Harrisonburg is also home to a few giant poultry processing plants (Cargill, Perdue and Tyson have facilities there) and the smell that wafts over the town on rainy or humid days is quite atrocious (unless you like eau de rendered chicken). You can find a wide variety of folks in Harrisonburg and the surrounding towns, old order mennonite farmers, urban farmer/social workers, a large Mexican population working mostly for the poultry honchos, and lots of students at EMU and JMU getting the idealism knocked right out of them (just kidding, I for one am still plenty idealistic).

The first place we stopped was at the EMU physical plant office to see if my old boss, Will Hairston was there. He was! What a reunion it was, I hadn't seen him in 5 or 6 years and he had been my mentor through college. Will is the epitome of quiet kindness, he is soft spoken, wise, and aware of everything that's going on on the EMU campus. Many students sought him out in my day for his gentle wisdom and perspective, and it was so good to see him again. When he understood what Travis and I were doing his eyes lit up and he whisked us away in his Honda to introduce us to s few farmers he's in touch with.

In no time at all we met Dennis and Mildred Showalter, an Old Order Mennonite couple with a family dairy and plant nursery in Dayton...Tom Benevento, a farming social justice activist on an urban plot in Harrisonburg... and Taylor Weidman, student caretaker of the EMU garden. After introducing us to these wonderful people Will also gave us a place to stay with a washer and dryer and shower (we desperately needed showers by then!) and met us for dinner that first night. If you are ever lucky enough to cross paths with Will Hairston, you are lucky indeed.


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