By Jason Von Kundra from Sprouting Hope in Marion, VA

What was your experience with gardening before Sprouting Hope?

Gardening is my favorite thing to do. I grew up in the city and then I moved to the country. We didn’t have a garden growing up. In my 30s I experienced some mental health challenges. But I learned all kinds of stuff; I read the book by Euell Gibins, Stalking the Wild Herb. I gained an amazing appreciation.

Why do you volunteer?

Knowing that you can feed the community organic produce, which is better. We’re doing the most we can for people.

Have you seen a need for access to healthy produce in the community?

Soda is a staple from the adults all the way to the kids. I think there is a need for educating and having the produce taste good. Because if it tastes good, people will eat it. When people come out to the garden they exercise, create energy, and it brings families together to do something meaningful and have fun.

What is your favorite vegetable?

The butternut squash and the herbs! When I come home from volunteering I will eat my whole bag of lettuce and berries raw. The flavor is intense, 1,000 times more intense than regular produce! I love spinach, broccoli, greens. All the herbs make my food taste better. The butternut squash was new to me.

You helped make a few batches of butternut squash soup, gave out samples and the food pantry, and distributed 200 pounds of squash with the recipe and herbs for recipients to cook at home. Could you talk about the importance of combining access to fresh produce and helping people take the next step of knowing how to use and cook the produce?

That’s taking the produce from the garden, right to people’s home when you combine cooking education. Usually it is just given it but we went above and beyond to take it right to them. Because if it’s new, people don’t know but this way they could sample recipes and it tasted awesome and it made it so easy and fun to do at home, which is beautiful.

Being new to the area, have you found Sprouting Hope to be a good way to meet people in the area?

Anytime that I get picked up and get a ride down, I get to meet someone new. I get to share good and bad experiences; it is just life and life is every day and eating is every day. It has been good for me to meet new people because I am in a new town and it has opened up lots of doors for me. I lost my mom last year and I have some struggles going on. It has been so amazing. Otherwise I would be sitting here with nothing to do with my favorite thing being gardening but I don’t have a garden. Thank God I was able to come out and help.

We focus on youth education from preschool to high school. As a mother, could you talk about the importance of bringing children into the garden?

They love it! When you’re a kid, you’re curious. How does that work? They get saturated with all this education and they get to have fun. They learn how to grow something, something tangible. It tastes good, easy to do, and it is fun. It has a huge positive impact on the children!

What would you say to someone who is on the fence about becoming a Sprouting Hope participant?

It’s such a beautiful area. You forget about everything going on around you. You just go out and work. Everybody is easy. You can do anything, plant or harvest. You don’t have to work hard or you can work hard. It is up to you and it doesn’t have to be the same every week. We can all work together as a team to do what needs to be done.