By Jason Von Kundra of Sprouting Hope in Marion, VA

It is with a heavy heart that I will be transitioning out of my position with Sprouting Hope to be the farm manager at the Harvest Table Farm. Robert Kell has taken over. You can learn more about him by reading his recent blog. Over the last four growing season, I have seen the organization grow to develop youth and mental health support programming, planted a perennial memorial garden, built two hoop houses, began our Homegrown program to support home gardeners, and planted a food forest riparian buffer. Reflecting back, the moments that will always stick with me are moments with our participants that, for me, defined our impact.

Here are a few of those moments: a child asking what a garden was, bringing cilantro every week to Maria at the soup kitchen, a participant sharing that she lost 25 pounds since starting at the garden, cooking demonstrations at the food pantry with my family’s butternut squash soup recipe, and all the smiling children hungry for nutrient dense food, eating them raw and fresh.

My last day was this past Thursday, a full day of youth education, harvesting, community hours, and distribution at the soup kitchen. The day began with sixty children from the Department of Social Services. In groups, we had the children, many of whom know the importance of our work personally through food pantries, experience the garden through a tour, learning about the six parts of the plant we eat, harvesting, eating, and learning about the bees. Volunteers came later during community hours, some who had been volunteering beside me for the past four years, and even a new energetic volunteer coming for the first time. I took bags of cucumbers, beans, tomatoes, squash, okra, and carrots to the soup kitchen where I enjoyed one last meal with friends.

Youth Education

I have started full time at the Harvest Table Farm where I will be growing produce exclusively for the Harvest Table Restaurant, selling surplus at the Farmers’ Market. The four and a half acre farm utilizes permaculture and biological farming, teaching volunteer, interns, and tour groups about our farm to table model and growing practices.

Reflecting back on Sprouting Hope, I am overjoyed with our achievement and growth, knowing full well we have a community of dedicated volunteers that brought us so much success. I’m so proud of how far we have come. It’s with great sadness and excitement that I pass my position off to Robert who I have full faith will continue to grow community, healthy food, and most importantly hope, a feeling that has overwhelmed me while witnessing the bounty of our labor together.