Teaming up with Americorps

Today would be a good day to have a guest writer share their side of the story.  I was in my own world for most of the day, giving an orientation and tour to a new Americorps NCCC group in the morning, leading our last plant sale seeding with a few of them until lunch, and again leading them with potting soil and a couple solo projects later in the day.  I overlapped with Michael, Phil, Sophie, the UO interns, and Kiya and David just for a couple hours in the afternoon for a workshop, but the glances I could steal out into the fields toward the end of the day gave me an idea of how hard they worked out there all day. 

Our first rounds of plantings are now established, weeds have sprouted and been hoed out, and they're ready to get jump started.  We do this by laying and testing drip tape in the beds, then covering each one with a white floating row cover to trap in extra heat and help keep flea beetles at bay.  Every stage of the process is a project in itself: hoeing beds over again to ensure they're 100% clean of weed seedlings takes a lot of people power, laying out and testing the drip tape for leaks takes skill and attention to detail, and securing the row cover with sand bags takes fortitude and a team of sturdy backs.  While I was chatting with the new folks, organizing seeds and covering trays, and coordinating the creation of another batch of potting soil, Michael and the crew were tackling these big, physically demanding projects all day.  I felt lucky in a sense to forgo the wear on my body, but I would've loved to be out in the sunshine and dirt, and feel floored at the end of a hard day.

In any case, I got to work closely with a team of ten young service members who are in the middle of a yearlong series of projects.  They started in Washington in October doing restoration after a wildfire, moved to the Virgin Islands over the winter to help rebuild after the hurricane season, and are now spending twelve weeks in Eugene at Northwest Youth Corps.  They'll be in the Laurel Valley Educational Garden most days, trade off Thursdays between the Youth Farm and Grassroots Garden, and spend a couple half days every week working with Positive Community Kitchen, cooking healthy meals and delivering them to people with life threatening illnesses.  What an awesome introduction to gardening and farming!  The group is a mix of people in their late teens and early twenties, most just out of high school or college, and from all over the country.  We'll be hosting them every other week until July, so I hope to get to know each of them more.  After I showed them all around the farm and we divided into a couple groups for projects, a few people that were seeding with me dove right into an intense debate about ethical investing.  I interrupted them here and there to give directions and feedback, and every time, they dove right back in without hesitation.  "They do this all the time," said another.  At the end of lunch, several of them were laying with heads on each other's stomachs, laughing and resting in the sunshine.  They must be learning a lot about each other and themselves, in such close proximity for ten months.  Seems like it's working well so far.

The surprise challenge-- and ultimately best part-- of the day for me was that I got to teach Ted's nursery and propagation workshop with the whole group.  (Minus Michael, who ran off to flame weed and keep the fieldwork rolling.)  The group seems gigantic with the Americorps crew there, and we all sat near the nursery and looked around inside for a bit for a couple hours after lunch.  I had reviewed the material quickly over lunch, and because it was such a last-minute decision (Ted was too sick to teach), I let go of wanting to feel prepared.  I have this nagging desire to be right in what I say and do, which I don't think is bad, but it's also not always the point.  And, feeling shaky on some things gives others more room to speak up about what they know.  Sophie contributed a lot of her knowledge that's fresh from her Master Gardener class, and a guy from the NCCC crew asked a few great questions that guided the discussion.  For most people there with me today, it was probably information overload, even as I ended thinking there must've been so much we didn't cover.  All in good time, I suppose.