From Cornfields to Community Gardens: An Interconnected Journey

by Thomas Fisher, Lead Social Responsibility Analyst

Each year, as Earth Day rolls around on April 22, I am reminded of the main reason I started on my environmental journey over two decades ago. It was 1997 and I was cataloguing flora and fauna species based on their field zones within a cornfield in central Illinois. The zones were designated by the number of years the species were left dormant to regrow back into a natural habitat. The five-year plots appeared to be resting and recovering from many years of depletion and overuse, while the 15-, 20-, and 25-year plots were well into their phases of revitalized maturity.

Hiking near Havasu Falls within the Havasupai Indian Reservation.

What amazed me most was the progression of species growth and variability the more time went on in each of the plots. The mature areas were intricate, complex, and beautiful, balancing and sustaining the various forms of life within it. Life always finds a way, and that little plot of land proved to me that interconnection and interdependency is key to creating a fertile space for multiple species to thrive. When we create that environment together, the benefits of living in harmony compound in ways that we are sometimes not able to anticipate.

I have spent a considerable amount of time pondering the intersection of interconnection and interdependence along my career journey. I think about it daily in my role as lead social responsibility analyst for the San Francisco Fed.

In many ways, our systems, relationships, processes, and people are just as intricate, interconnected, and beautiful as that 25-year (now 49-year) plot of voles, ladybugs, wildflowers, grasses, and deciduous trees in central Illinois. I’ve been at the San Francisco Fed here a little less than a year forging cross-functional partnerships to strategize and harmonize all the good work we are doing.

Some accomplishments that I’m particularly proud of are:

As I continue my environmental and career journeys, the themes of interconnectedness to each other and interdependency to our communities also continue. I wonder:

What can we do to together to create healthy practices in our daily lives and our operations that translate into a healthier planet overall? How can we create programs that not only bring environmental benefits to the SF Fed, but to our employees and the communities we serve? What do we need to do to adapt to any environmental challenges ahead and provide resiliency to our operations and our communities?

Using my VTO to build flower beds at a community garden.

It has been over two decades since I was inspired in that cornfield in Central Illinois, and I now not only work as a sustainability practitioner building programs that can help environmental programs flourish, but I also volunteer in our parks and green spaces to benefit our local community. Fortunately, the SF Fed’s employee benefits include volunteer time off (VTO), which allows us to give back to our communities during the work day. Earlier this month, I used my VTO to volunteer at a local community garden, working in a socially distanced and safe manner to help bring it back into order after a year-long pandemic.

It’s an incredibly exciting time for my environmental journey to weave into the SF Fed’s journey, and I see the great hope and opportunity ahead!

Love Tom’s story? Take a look at the opportunities to join our team!

We represent the 12th District of The Federal Reserve System. Proud to be a Community-Engaged Bank. This is our official Medium channel.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store