It has been a whirlwind of a week here in Wheeling. As I write this, I’ve been back in the country for exactly 1 week, after taking 5 weeks away from work to explore Italy (that could be a whole other blog post!), and boy did I come back at the right time. Not only was it the spring equinox this week, signaling the start of the best and busiest time of the year, it was also my one year anniversary of working with our Grow Appalachia Backyards Gardener’s program. Amidst the chaos of getting caught up on work, I couldn’t help but think this week about how much things have changed in the last year. 

Much like this time last year, our team spent many hours packing countless seeds for our gardeners to pick up this week. While it’s not my favorite job (who could really love weighing hundreds upon hundreds of seeds to the tenth of a gram for hours on end??), it was a great opportunity to spend time with the team, chat, and get caught up on all I missed over the last month. This time last year I was just beginning to understand my job and just getting to know my team. This year, we’re like a well oiled machine. We know our individual roles and how to help each other out when needed. We also know how to make a mundane task bearable (mainly by asking silly and probing questions, and trying not to distract the entire office in the process). 

Now is also the time to start the seeds for our transplant distribution in May. Last year, I was just learning how to do this, and spent a lot of time with our farm manager asking what seeds need to go in the germination chamber, if my soil blocks looked okay, how to label my seed trays, and so much more. I also spent a lot of time re-making my soil blocks, reseeding trays when they mysteriously didn’t germinate, and despite my best labeling efforts, still ended up with hundreds of pepper starts and no idea what was what. This year, it has been totally smooth sailing so far. In just a few short hours I made my soil blocks and seeded a few hundred tomatoes, no problem. I also owe a shoutout to my team for seeding peppers when I was gone, and hopefully they’re labeled better than last year! 

Perhaps the biggest contrast to last year and a huge point of celebration came from our Garden Planting workshop last night, where we had almost 40 gardeners join us in person to learn about starting seeds, soil preparation, and other garden planting topics. This was huge for us because for the last two years this workshop has been held virtually. It warmed my heart to see so many people come out to learn and build community. Having the workshop in person also allowed us to try some new things, like a hands on seed starting demonstration and offer assistance with fencing calculations. The gardeners were also able to pick up their first set of tools and get an explanation of how to use them, and start talking tilling. It was my first time meeting most of this year’s gardeners and I can already tell what big dreams they have for this season. It’s clear they’re eager to learn, ready to work, and anxious to grow some food, and I’m excited to help them do that! 

 It was a pretty crazy first week back, but I’m so glad I returned in time to kick off this busy and exciting time.