An AmeriCorps VISTA

They made us say it in training, “I am Kevin and I am an AmeriCorps VISTA.” Later we sit, stand, lean, in a hotel room, 14 of us packed in. Now that we are away from the conversations of poverty, and how the VISTA program was started by LBJ it stands for Volunteers in Service To America. We are talking about going out, boyfriends, musical talents, bringing our instruments next time, and I am bored. I stand up clear my throat and say “My name is Kevin and I am an AmeriCorps VISTA, and I need you all to shut up and listen to what I have to say.” Laughter ensues, the night goes on, we go to our sessions the next day.

I stand in front of a group of Resident Assistants in a classroom, glazed eyes of people who have been sitting in seminars all day look towards what must be the front of the room. I introduce myself, “My name is Kevin and I am an AmeriCorps VISTA.” More blank stares, “I work with the Community Garden,” some recognition and nodding of heads. The next group comes in.

I am in a classroom of students who will be engaging in service-learning this semester. “Hi, I’m Kevin and I am an AmeriCorps VISTA.” People nod and smile, they actually know what that means. I cheer shaking my fists in the air, I even do a jig, at least in my head I do. “I serve for a full year, living in poverty. This year I will focus on food access, providing those in need of food with nutritious options.”

It is hot out. I know I will have a sunburn tomorrow, she introduces herself, Lisa, remember she emailed you? I think I tell her I am an AmeriCorps VISTA, maybe even told her my name. We do a tour of the garden, a half acre of property where we generate approximately 2,500 pounds of produce we donate yearly. These words and others flow automatically out of my mouth.

As we pick Rattlesnake Beans I start to explain how I started a gardening business in New Jersey, it was OK, it payed the student loan payments.  Then a friend told me about this position where I could work under a master gardener and a biology professor, bingo.

Now I am a month in and I am no longer just gardening, I am taking these organically raised beans and will be feeding them to 75 to 150 people on Monday night. Later maybe I will organize a fundraiser to purchase 2,000 dollars worth of seeds to put back in the ground next year. Then tomorrow I’ll run an educational workshop on extending your growing season, or about cooking a meal which is cheap, delicious, quick, and healthy. Afterwards I’ll need to apply for food stamps, so I can make the same meal.

My name is Kevin and I am an AmeriCorps VISTA

Zucchini and Cheese Galette

It’s zucchini season.  You might have more of those plentiful summer squash than you know what to do with…  Well, Jess Carney from the Office of Civic Engagement has a perfect recipe for you.  If you were at the LCG potluck on July 23rd you know how delicious this savory galette is.

zucchini Galette

Savory Galette 
Makes 2 – 12” galettes

Dough
2 ½ c. flour
½ t. salt
2 sticks butter, cold and cubed
½ c. Greek yogurt
1 T. lemon juice
½ c. ice cold water

Filling
The filling can be any combination of cheese or vegetables as long as you drain off excess liquid. I used a combination of parmesan, mozzarella, minced garlic and spices topped with sliced zucchini and summer squash that had been tossed with olive oil, cracked black pepper and fresh herbs (parsley and rosemary).

Instructions:
Whisk together flour and salt. Using a pastry cutter or forks, mix in butter until coarse crumbs form. Make sure your butter is very cold. In a separate bowl, whisk together yogurt, lemon juice and ice water. Add wet mixture to the flour/butter mixture and stir until large clumps form. Quickly form the dough into a ball using your hands. Wrap it in plastic wrap and chill for at least 30 minutes. Prepare your filling while the dough chills. If using zucchini or eggplant, slice and place in a single layer on paper towels or a clean kitchen towel. Sprinkle with salt and let sit for about 15 minutes to draw out moisture.

To assemble, divide your dough in half. Roll each piece out on a floured surface. So you have two 12-14” circles. Transfer to parchment-lined baking sheets. Add your desired filling leaving about 2 inches bare all the way around the edge. Fold the edges over, overlapping them, so the middle is exposed and you form a crust. Brush the pastry with an egg wash (1 egg plus a splash of water).

Bake at 400 degrees for about 40 minutes, turning the pans and switching racks about half way through. Let them cool on the pans for 5-10 minutes before transferring to a serving plate. It tastes great warm or at room temperature. Feel free to finish with a drizzle of olive oil, fresh herbs, or flaky sea salt. Enjoy!

~Recipe by Jess Carney, Bucknell Office of Civic Engagement, July 2014

Life in the Garden as a New Intern

Even though I’ve only been at the garden for about a month, I can honestly say that so far being a summer intern while doing research on the benefits of community gardening has been one of the best “work” experiences I have had. I can hardly call it work, though, because it’s so much fun!

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Serving meals made with garden produce at Community Harvest.

Working in the garden is simply very rewarding. Not only do we get beautiful and delicious products from our labor, but we get to be a part of something bigger-a movement to develop healthy communities by growing, sharing, teaching, and learning about healthy food. It’s a cause that I’ve always felt strongly about, and it is amazing to be able to help promote local, sustainably grown food in Lewisburg. I am even surprised at how much I’ve enjoyed the physical labor of the garden. Weeding, watering, and mulching are not exactly fun tasks in and of themselves (especially on these extremely hot and humid days we’ve been having), but when you’ve been helping to take care of these plants since they were seeds, you don’t mind as much. They’re like your own children :)

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Teaching plot renters to harvest and prune their broccoli with my fellow research intern Taylor McCready.

I’ve learned a lot during my first few weeks as an intern, like how to sucker tomatoes, kill potato bugs en masse, and harvest broccoli. I’ve developed a strong appreciation for rainstorms, mulch, and scuffle hoes. I’ve learned that getting dirty is inevitable-even when I think I’m just stopping by to water for a few minutes, I leave covered in mud. Most of all, I have begun to appreciate the value of community gardening by being able to meet with and talk to plot renters, and sharing each other’s excitement over the development of everyone’s gardens. When I bring friends and family to the garden, I am just as excited to show off other people’s plots as I am to show the side we’ve been working on.

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Interviewing plot renters for our summer research.

Whether it’s through the plot renters and their families, Community Harvest, the summer camps, or volunteer hours, the garden has many wonderful contributions to the community and I’m so lucky to be a part of it!

~LCG Manning Research Intern Meg Ritchie, July 2014

Gardening as an Art Form

This is my second year working as an intern at the garden, and its amazing to see how much can change in one short year. We have expanded again, this year adding blueberries, strawberries, and asparagus. Another development is the installation of the drip irrigation system throughout the garden. Interns used to spend up to three hours per day watering each plant by hand, but now watering is as simple as turning on the spigot.

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“Insta Garden” original artwork by Jessie Horning.

I love working at the garden because I am interested in our society’s relationship with the natural world through horticulture. Gardening is a vast and complex topic, and I am particularly interested in the environmental, social, and artistic aspects of this practice. A community garden not only produces food, it has the potential to build and strengthen communities. It empowers members by helping them to understand how their food transforms from seeds to fruits and vegetables. It also shows participants that growing food requires an immense amount of work.

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“Country Flavor” original artwork by Jessie Horning.

During the past two summers I spent a lot of time working in the garden, but my main focus is my work as a mixed media artist and printmaker. In 2011 I earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in printmaking, and I view printmaking as a collaboration between an artist and a variety of printing processes that exhibit specific personalities and behaviors. In my studio practice I work intuitively, allowing my original concept to evolve and undergo unexpected changes throughout the printing process.

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“Caretaker” original artwork by Jessie Horning.

I find many parallels between the processes I engage with in the garden and the the print studio. When we plant seeds there are a range of natural variables (water, heat, nutrition) that will determine if that plant will survive and mature. When I develop a printmaking plate many technical variables (markmaking, paper, ink) determine the quality of the final print. Also, both practices prompt anticipation and an element of surprise; I never know exactly how my print will look until I pull it off the press, and the garden interns can never predict exactly how the garden will grow and change each summer.

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“False Bounty” original artwork by Jessie Horning

Successful gardeners and printmakers share a dedication to educating themselves on the range of variables influencing their respective processes, and mastery of these processes depends on how well one can collaborate with these variables. While gardening or printmaking, I value collaboration and experimentation over domination and control. Currently, American agriculture is dominated by corporations that have imposed industrial processes upon natural growing cycles, yielding a surplus of nutritionally deficient food products. Educating the public about organic growing processes in community gardens and related programs will begin to reverse the effects of a century of destructive practices upon our food supply.

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“Phantom Fruit” original artwork by Jessie Horning

In August I am moving to Columbus, Ohio to pursue an MFA in Printmaking at Ohio State University. I’m excited to see how access to the resources at a large research university will take my artwork in exciting new directions. But no matter where I go, it will be impossible to forget the unique education I received while digging, weeding, watering, and harvesting at the Lewisburg Community Garden.

~LCG Intern and Artist Jessie Horning, July 2014

 

Reflections on the Summer So Far…

Summer 2014 has been off to a great start and has been amazing so far! Working in the Lewisburg Community Garden and with the Office of Civic Engagement is exciting and very enjoyable. I can easily say that we have an amazing team working at the garden this summer and it’s simply very motivating to work with such hard-working and fun people.
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Dressed up as a chili pepper for a fun garden photo shoot. Never a dull moment at the garden!

Besides the long list of tasks that are completed in the week, we also have a lot of fun. I love the blend of our unique sense of humors that makes any dull, gloomy day, not so boring and tiresome. On some days when the sun is determined to beat us down, we still thrive and there’s always a rewarding satisfaction at the end of the long days when the garden looks flourishing and rich in greens and bright varieties of produce. Other days we enjoy each other’s company a little more in the local restaurants after a hard-working day in the garden.
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Working with summer camp students from Essex Place on their garden journals.

The past week we worked with the summer camp kids and it was fun to have kids at the garden. On Wednesday our usually quiet and peaceful garden, was buzzing with children chatting and running around. There definitely was more excitement and playful life in the garden that day, and it was a productive day of playful learning and creativity. These children seemed to love the activities that were planned for the day. They learnt a lot from gardens, spinach and fennel to butterflies and beetles. We look forward to this Wednesday when we will have the next summer camp for an entire day at the garden!
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Preparing meals for community harvest patrons with my fellow intern Taylor McCready.

Besides the fun and playful learning, the impact of the community garden, the community harvest program and the office of civic engagement can’t go without notice. There’s a surreal sense of gratification when we see the produce from the garden directly impacting lives of several people.
~Sonam Dolker, LCG Summer BPIP Intern
July, 2014

 

An Education in the Garden

“Gardening is very simple, really you
just have to think like a plant.”
~Anonymous

I can’t believe my first summer at the LCG is halfway over! As a rising sophomore, I could have never imagined coming in to Bucknell that I would be spending my first summer at a community garden. Being a biology major I expected that I would have to work in a lab all day if I wanted to get involved in research. My first year at Bucknell though has proved me wrong and I couldn’t be more thankful of the unexpected turns my journey has already taken. Taking Sociology 100 with Professor Elizabeth Durden has changed my journey dramatically as it led me to pick up a second major in sociology as well as be introduced to the idea of a summer internship at the LCG. 

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The 2014 summer staff. I’m the third one from the left.

I, along with Meg Ritchie are Manning interns for the summer gardening season. We both split our time between helping out the garden and Community Harvest and completing research with Professor Elizabeth Durden and Professor Mark Spiro. This summer Meg and I are conducting short interviews with the plot renters at the garden to assess the benefits, motivations, and challenges associated with community gardening. We hope to see common themes such as wanting to improve mental and physical health emerge from our interviews. Eventually, we hope to even expand our research to include the Selinsgrove Community Garden.

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Building a drip irrigation system with my fellow interns.

When I began telling my family and friends that my internship for the summer was working at a garden I would usually get funny looks and remarks like “Your going to college to work in a garden?” or “How will your work there help advance your career?” At first I didn’t know how to respond to these questions, but after working at the garden for only 5 weeks I have quickly realized what my answer is. 

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Interns get the best jobs. Our costumes for the 4th of July parade.

This internship has provided me with a unique opportunity to combine service learning and academics. Unlike just working 40 hours a week in a lab (no offense to people who do of course because they are very necessary) I feel like I’m truly making a difference this summer in the local community by doing research along with work in the garden. Whether it be providing more fresh produce for residents, or helping to cook a meal at Community Harvest, or even having fun with the campers at the garden I am proud to be giving back to the Lewisburg community.

~LCG Intern Taylor McCready, June 2014

 

A Learning Curve for All!

We have been busy busy in the garden! And as you may or may not know, the community garden is designed as a learning garden. So last week, in addition to our normal routine of watering, weeding, and general garden upkeep, we had not one but two local summer camps come in.

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Essex Place campers journal about the things they have seen in the garden.

On Wednesday we had a day camp from Essex Place come in to see the garden and learn about the natural world. Many of the kids don’t get to garden much, so we had a bunch of activities and lessons planned. Turns out that we had some learning of our own to do to. Like learning that no matter how prepared you are with an arsenal of fun and educational activities, sometimes kids just want to crawl around in the dirt looking for bugs and worms. Or that sprinklers and yoga make a pretty good combination. Or that frogs are pretty much the coolest thing that could ever happen in the garden. We found out later that the kids loved coming to the garden and said that it was one of their favorite days of camp.

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A little afternoon yoga to calm everyone down after time in the sprinkler.

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An army of handmade caterpillars went home with the kids.

 

On Friday, Buffalo Valley Recreation Authority (BV rec) camp came. They come to us every week so we are part of their routine and they are part of ours. This particular week was caterpillar and butterfly themed. Like the Essex Place campers, the kids got to make pom-pom caterpillars that are absolutely adorable and colored cut-out butterflies. They also took magnifying glasses into the garden in search of caterpillars. There were not very many to be found – lucky for us because we have pests under control, but not so lucky for the kids and their hunt – but they seemed to enjoy looking as much as actually finding. And like with Essex Place, these kids totally loved looking at the potato beetles on the potatoes. They even helped us pick them off the plants and put them in water. Although some campers felt sorry for the beetles, we explained that pest managment is a part of growing food.
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Labeling the parts of a seed.

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Professor Mark Spiro explains that tomatoes house the seeds for the plants.

Overall, a whirlwind week of learning for everyone – campers and gardeners alike! With campers from Meadow View coming in next week, we are looking forward to more of the same.
~Written by LCG Intern Sarah Frank, June 2014

 

Zombie Outrun: Who Can Survive the Apocalypse?

The garden hosted its first annual Zombie Outrun on Saturday the 19. The apocalypse began at Huffnagle Park, where students and community members showed up to transform into the walking dead.

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The terrifying transformation from human to zombie just beginning.

 

After some applying some crafty make up and worn down clothes the zombies were ready for the chase.

The Zombies stand by, just waiting for their chance to chase down the 'living'

The Zombies stand by, just waiting for their chance to chase down the ‘living’

Runners were suited up with a flag football belts resembling lives and set free to run amongst the monsters. Their challenge? Make it through the entire 5k without loosing all their lives and falling to the apocalypse.

Garden Intern Jasmine gets her own fair share of scare from the zombies!

Garden Intern Jasmine gets her own fair share of scare from the zombies!

Sounds easy until Zombies are coming after you…

Those who were able to made it through with all their lives were safe. They had survived the apocalypse. Those who lost their lives… are all now zombies! Or at least says their shirts!!

Runners display their shirts announcing whether they survived or fell victim to the Zombies.

Runners display their shirts announcing whether they survived or fell victim to the Zombies.

To end the day trophies were announced to the fastest surviving human and to the zombie who claimed the most victims. Also an award went to the best dressed zombie for their outstanding terrifying appearance.

The trophies for the Zombies able to terrorize the most humans.

The trophies for the Zombies able to terrorize the most humans.

So what do we learn from this weekend themed run? Next time you really don’t want to go on a run, think about being chased by zombies, it’ll get you out the door!

What better motivation could you have to run faster?

What better motivation could you have to run faster?

 

Second Annual Harvest Festival

As another family weekend came and went the Garden celebrated its second annual Harvest Festival. The event featured fun for the whole family with great fall festivities!

It was a beautiful day out, and many people stopped by the busy festival for crafts, snacks or just to listen to some music! Many families enjoyed the free crafts for children, including bracelet making and festive face painting! Very popular among the kids was the pumpkin painting, allowing them to let their inner artist shine!

To appeal to the less crafty folks out there the festival also offered easy-going games such as Cornhole, ready for some competitive throwers. Also ready to pose for a picture was a Halloween ready Mr. Pumpkin head, all dressed up for the great occasion.

Snacks were sold to those with a rumbling stomach from a bright truck offering delicious Korean Tacos, which were a big hit!

For those hungry for more than just a snack, the watermelon-eating contest served as a perfect excuse to stuff their faces! Countless pieces of watermelon, and a lot of laughs later, the festival had its 2 champions of the 2013 contest!

Keegan shows his competition how real boys eat watermelon, laying into a huge piece!

Keegan shows his competition how real boys eat watermelon, laying into a huge piece!

Volunteers stop to pose with their Pumpkin Faced Friends!

Volunteers stop to pose with their Pumpkin Faced Friends!

Watermelon Eating contest Winners Keegan and Duke pose with their cool trophies!

Watermelon Eating contest Winners Keegan and Duke pose with their cool trophies!

Folks wait in line to get some yummy Korean Tacos from the Taco Truck.

Folks wait in line to get some yummy Korean Tacos from the Taco Truck.

 

 

Confessions of a Second Year Garden Intern

Round two of my summer LCG experience is finally over and I can say that it was a summer full of learning and rewards! Now it cannot top my first summer at LCG but it was definitely worthwhile as a result of the changes made and being able to use all of my learned skills from my first year with LCG. There have been a lot of changes made at the garden ranging from new leadership, expansion of the physical garden, transforming to more of learning based garden with a variety of workshops and classes for both youth and adults, participating in more community activities (Lewisburg parade, WNEP news showing, etc), and much more. My favorite part of this summer was working with more interns. Now I know you are thinking it’s because it meant less work for me but it’s not (Keep it a secret between me and you, the physical expansion of the garden coincided with the expansion of the garden crew which meant that there was not less garden workJ). I really enjoyed working with the new garden crew because everyone brought new perspectives that really forced me to think about agriculture in America and different issues related to gardening. In addition, gardening is more fun when you have a crew opposed to gardening by yourself. Now don’t get me wrong gardening by yourself can be very rewarding as it is a good time to do self-reflection, but it’s always nice to do things with friends.

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Relaxing with my fellow interns at the BV Rec Summer Camp.

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Working on our new garden murals.

This summer my position was through the Biology department (Overseen by Professor Mark Spiro) which meant that there was an academic component along with the garden work. I worked at the garden on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and some Saturdays or Sundays and I did research on Wednesday and Friday. I really enjoyed this set up because it was a combination of “book learning” and hands on experience. I think that this setup is the best way of learning because it allows you to develop your ideas and then allows you to put them to use. I looked at obesity and diabetes in Black America and explored how diet affects these diseases. I then proposed adoption of more plant based foods and participation in community gardens as a potential solution. This opportunity was extremely rewarding as I was able to explore and expand my knowledge on issues that were important to me in more depth.

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Communing with my insect friends.

What I didn’t like about this year was not being able to travel to Dream catcher farm (a local CSA in the area) as part of my work. It made it more difficult to get out to Dream catcher because I had to shift my schedule around to make it work out. Last year I really enjoyed spending time with Joe and Jackie, the owners of the farm because I was guaranteed to learn something from Joe, get a good laugh from Jackie, and eat (who doesn’t love food). I think that involvement with other farms and gardens is a good learning opportunity for the interns because it allows them to gain knowledge and insight on what others are doing which could potentially allow them to take the learned knowledge and apply it to their own work.

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Getting ready to march in the Lewisburg 4th of July Parade.

What I would like to see in the garden in future years is continued expansion and being able to reach out to more families through our food donations. From observing the reactions of individuals who receive the food from the garden at the hot meal programs that we serve, I think that people really enjoy having fresh produce because they always come up to us and tell us how much they appreciate the produce from the garden.

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Making Solar ovens with my fellow interns.

This has been a very rewarding summer and I would not have wanted to spend my summer any other way. Even though I’m excited to be going home, I’m also sad because it’s like I’m leaving a part of me behind. While I’m home I will be thinking about the new baby carrots that I put in a couple of days ago and anticipating whether they survived. I’ll keep my fingers crossed. I will be returning in the fall to continue to help out with the garden but until then ADIOS everyone.

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I want to give a BIG thanks to everyone who made this summer a success. Thanks and I love you Guys!!!!!!

~Post written by 2nd year LCG intern Jasmin Johnson.  Photos by Jessie Horning.