Harvesting Unity

Ru Allen

Unity College student Ru Allen, an Art & Environment Major, embarked on a project as part of a Community-Based Learning class “Environmental Photography”. In this project-based course, students pursue a semester-long project that pairs them with a community organization of their choosing. Students hone their technical skills and vision in the medium while exploring the inner workings of the organization, as well as develop new relationships with individuals who are part of the greater community.
Ru found a perfect match in “Veggies For All”, a food bank farm in Unity that works to relieve hunger by growing vegetables for those in need while collaborating with partners to distribute and increase access to quality and nutritious food. Since its founding in 2007, VFA has provided 108,000 pounds of vegetables to more than 1,500 food‐insecure central Mainers and engaged hundreds of volunteers in thousands of hours of community‐based hunger relief. The Veggies For All program is part of the overall program offerings and initiatives of Maine Farmland Trust.

Allen’s work is currently on display at Maine Farmland Trust Gallery in Belfast through November 16th.

A special thank you to Veggies For All Director Sara Trunzo (Unity College, ’08) and MFT Gallery Director Anna Witholt Abaldo for making this possible.

Allen’s statement about her work: “Harvesting Unity serves as document and exploration of an issue facing many communities, that of food and people. My understanding of the relationship between humans and the land has been reframed through food we grow and those who grow it. Veggies For All (a project of Maine Farmland Trust) cultivates produce that goes to the food pantry in Unity, Maine so that those who use its services have access to fresh and nutritious foods.

Alternating between camera to my eye and hands in the earth, I attempted to capture as much of the growing process from start to finish in one harvest season. These images document much of the harvest and community interactions that lead up to a product ready to be distributed around the community. The time I spent in the fields and at the washing station made it clear to me how this organization’s success relies on the hard work of a few core members and a network of part-time employees and volunteers from the community. I am grateful that my presence was accepted and through this acceptance, allowed me to capture many different aspects of the harvesting processes. Surrounded by busy people, I found it an enjoyable challenge to capture their movements in ways that reflected the atmosphere and their individual behaviors. What I was naturally drawn to, however, were the suspended moments in places that were easily overlooked. Harvesting Unity reflects the spirit of a small community operation held together by work of people passionate for the land, the food they grow, and the people around them.”