It’s hard to believe that I’m in my fourth month of service with the KCCG Schoolyard Gardens team. These past few months have been fulfilling and fun, and I feel incredibly fortunate to serve alongside fellow KCCG AmeriCorps members: Abby Ewert (Beanstalk Children’s Garden), Colleen Freeman (Family Gardens), Priest Hughes (Community Partner Gardens), and Sarah Israel (Giving Grove).
A unique component of being an AmeriCorps service member at KCCG is being connected to an extended community through the Missouri River Communities Network (MRCN), and attending quarterly meetings with the Missouri Healthy Food AmeriCorps team (there are thirteen of us in total serving across the state of Missouri). Aside from KCCG, other partner organizations and service sites include: Columbia Center for Urban Agriculture (Columbia), The Green Thumb Project (Kirksville), Southern Boone County School District (Ashland), and EarthDance Organic Farm School (Ferguson).
During the first weekend in November, all thirteen of us met in St. Louis for our quarterly meeting with MRCN Executive Director and Missouri Healthy Food AmeriCorps Program Director, Jenny Grabner. The last time we were all together was at our AmeriCorps orientation in August so our November quarterly meeting was both a reunion, and a chance for us all to re-connect and share about our service experiences thus far.
We kicked off our quarterly meeting by visiting EarthDance Organic Farm School in Ferguson, MO. During our visit, we joined the farm team for a tour of their fields where we learned about their soil, permaculture practices, and the year-round growing that takes place in their high-tunnels. As AmeriCorps service members, a farm visit wouldn’t be complete without a chance to get our hands dirty, and an abundant sweet potato harvest provided just that opportunity! Big thanks to Rae Liening (Farm Manager), Jena Hood (Assistant Farm Manager), and Autumn Sparks (AmeriCorps Assistant Grower) for welcoming all of us to EarthDance and sharing it’s farmy-good-vibes and idyllic landscape (adorned with colorfully & creatively painted shipping containers).
While in St. Louis we were also able to attend the Missouri Environment Education Association (MEEA) Annual Conference held at the St. Louis Zoo. MEEA’s mission is to help educators inspire Missourians to care about, understand and act for their environment. This sentiment was felt deeply during the keynote, workshops, and sessions held throughout the conference, and I’m grateful that our AmeriCorps cohort was invited to attend and participate.
Though our trip to St. Louis was a whirlwind, I feel inspired to continue learning and growing in my role as an AmeriCorps Schoolyard Gardens Assistant while feeling the ripples of connection to the land, community, and our environment.