With the last of the harvest being stored for winter, and the first frost settling on the grass, we are wrapping up our pilot season with Grow Appalachia. Fall & Winter are periods of reflection for farmers and how to better our techniques for the next growing season. As my service year is in the home stretch I am looking back on the program and how I can set up the next Americorps member for success.
I began my service term back in February of this year, and was thrusted into the deskwork of the program such as ordering seed, equipment, compiling data, and general logistics. This was a nice transition from my time last year (2020) as an Americorps VISTA into the more direct service State/National allows. I definitely prefer the direct service to capacity building VISTA does, but deskwork is a necessary “evil” to get to the hands-on work.
Alongside my duties as the sole Americorps tasked with working on Grow Appalachia, I also did the regular education programming throughout the spring and summer. While I am a person that likes to keep busy, there were times when I felt stretched paper thin. Looking back, would I change anything about that time? Probably not, because when I think of all of the people I interacted with, and educating them on the wonders of growing your green thumb, I feel a sense of pride I haven’t felt with any line of work I’ve done previously. To give some autonomy to remove themselves (in any degree) to our global food system, is noble work and I am humbled to have had the opportunity to work with various demographics.
I also met genuinely wonderful people along the way who shared a passion of mine: Food Sovereignty. From Grow OV staff to participants in the program, it is refreshing to be in a community with like minded individuals. These individuals helped me get out of my apathy I was experiencing prior to moving here and really work on my individual and collective changemaker skills. To grow a garden is one of the most radical things you can do. Virtually all of my gardening know-how is from hands-on experience, I’ve yet to pursue a formal education in agriculture, but am planning on it after my time in Wheeling.
In the last 9 months, I’ve experienced a thriving community within a dying Rust Belt City. I’ve partnered with my dream college with one of my activist passions. I’ve established relationships with people that I will carry with me in my next endeavor and on. I’ve had moments where I questioned my sanity, my time and my ability to do the work. But I am incredibly thankful I said yes when offered the position back in January and put my life on pause to get that “Wheeling Feeling” for a year. I will always consider Wheeling a home to me, and will definitely not be a stranger to it, or to Berea as well.
Many thanks to all who allowed me this opportunity. I appreciate the trust in me to pilot this program in the Upper Ohio Valley and I hope next year is even better.