After years of searching, I have found some amazing programs that will offer me the ability to serve my home, my school, and my community more efficiently.
Our garden space includes winding paths of stone, potted herbs, wild plots of mint and rhubarb, hanging pots with climbing veg, a small pond with fish and frogs, native perennials, flowers, a diverse tree population, raised beds of greens and legumes, a Garden Tower Project growing system with a composting feature, and a versatile club house with a restaurant window, twisty slide, and climbing wall. The tree house even has a window box of mint and lavender and hanging pots of mosquito-deterring herbal plants.
“When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe.” ~John Muir, author, naturalist, and conservationist
Picture yourself as a child running on small paths, winding through trees and bushes, smelling the sweet scent of summer blowing through your hair. When we found this property, I gasped, "Oh, this is a magical, fairy garden! My children [and so many other children] will make many happy memories here!"
It looks like a lot of work —and don't get me wrong it does take some maintenance, but this garden just keeps growing and growing. The bounties are amazing. I can't tell you how many times we have pared down in the garden and gifted saplings, lilies, echinacea, mint, flowers, ferns, vines, ground covering, shoots, sprouts, seeds, and about one hundred hosta. I love it: the shade, the spaces, the privacy, the magic. There is always a mystery to uncover back here—always something new to find. This garden is constantly reminding us that so many things are connected, diverse communities of life are necessary, and we all play a role in our micro- and macro-spheres, no matter how insignificant it may seem at first.
There are so many times I wonder how are these things related? Science, art, nature, food, education, sustainability. Okay, truth be told, I don't really wonder how art and nature are related to anything because they are pivotal and integral to everything—but I hear this discussion or argument a lot, "But how are these topics related?" The more classes I take, the more knowledge I gain, I keep coming back—it is as if I am creating this huge spiral and I'm collecting the pieces of a puzzle. Nature-based education, agriculture, horticulture, floriculture, permaculture, art and design, gardening, food security and sustainability, community outreach. Even breaking these words and meanings down what do we find? "Culture" is defined [by Merriam-Webster] not only as "the arts and other manifestations of human intellectual achievement regarded collectively," and "the customs, arts, social institutions, and achievements of a particular nation, people, or other social group," but also as a verb it means to "maintain in conditions suitable for growth." What do all of these topics together really have in common for me? They create the conditions which allow growth spiritually, mentally, physically, and in my heart-space. So I felt it was finally time to cultivate those feelings and turn them into actions.
I will be participating in a few programs this summer. Along with volunteering at a local experimental organic farm and presenting at a national (virtual) conference, I will continue my studies in gardening and consulting while learning new design software, garden layouts, and integrating my love for design, research, and community outreach. This will culminate with the completion of a consultant certification program which will offer me the tools to assist others on their own personal journeys of food and garden sustainability. Later in the summer, I will be working towards a school garden coordinator certification which is offered through the continuing education department of a well-known university. This university offers many amazing programs and certification courses in the realms of sustainability, permaculture, gardening, organic farming, and other similar topics which I hold near and dear to my heart. These are just the first steps while I continue to hover around the loci in which I will ultimately complete further studies and degrees.
Gardenary: The Garden Coach Society, Consultant Certification program
I had already been discussing permaculture and sustainable gardens, organic and regenerative practices, and gardening with children. Of course, I am already taking bits and pieces from here and there and integrating them into my daily practices but I still feel as if I can learn more and I can learn how to be more efficient. I can learn how to teach and lead others. Working within my local government, I have been taking small steps to beautify my town. But I was thirsty for more. "How is nature, gardening, and food security related to art?" they asked me one day as I presented my proposal to the council. I'm currently in the process of working towards creating a Children's art-inspired edible garden for a local town park. This would be a place where families can gather and learn about food, gardens, plants, art, literacy, culture, and the list goes on.
I've taken School Gardening 101 at Longwood Gardens ages ago so I decided that if I could find a garden coach or garden coordinator certification program I would take it as a refresher and, if needed, use it as some leverage. Enter Gardenary. Now, I have been watching and contemplating about Gardenary for some time and I decided it was time to take the plunge.
The Garden Coach program offers access to all of the smaller courses like Kitchen Garden Academy, Herb Garden Guide, the Salad School but it also offers real time talks and discussions, mentors, software courses, and simple business plans. The program spans 12 weeks from June to August and has both asynchronous and live features. I am really excited to start this program while I work on redesigning my front gardens and growing space. I have also already started working with a few friends for re-design or [really] the initial designs for useful and manageable layouts of their outdoor living spaces. In high school I took all the drafting, orthographic drawing, CAD, and design/layout courses that were offered. At Drexel University, my major was graphic design and not only did I have to design by hand for most projects, we worked on all projects from sketches and conception to outsourcing and completion. This is kind of my jam. Taking these elements and mashing them together in nature is really a love of all things in the same place.
Oregon State University: School Garden Coordinator, Certification Training
While Gardenary will offer so much insight and the tools for creating, designing, and maintaining several types of gardens, the certification training offered through Oregon State University is specifically geared towards best practices from start to finish for school and youth food gardening programs. The School Garden Coordinator training program also focuses on Farm to School initiatives, works with the Growing Gardens Organization, and has a diverse teaching body with educators all located in Oregon. The program covers planning, community engagement, design and maintenance, education in the garden, harvesting and food-based activities, and sustainability both physically and financially. This course is a six week program running from July to August. The grant that I wrote for the edible art-inspired garden should be announcing the "winners" sometime in August. Everything will be wrapping up around the same time and I will be prepared to hit the ground running in order to meet our proposed opening ceremony on Earth Day 2022.
While there is a lot going on, I will be re-organizing and developing my own personal brand. What do I want to do with all of this new knowledge? How can I use what I'm learning to serve my community? What if I don't earn this grant this time around? In the end, I want to live my best life, I don't want to just sit around existing. Having two children of my own and several other children that are learning or playing with us on a regular basis means I need to be flexible, realistic, and stay positive. Thinking about great things isn't enough, it is the collaboration of imagination and motion. The thoughts and the drive that take us to where we need to go. For now, I'm going to lather up my sunscreen, get my hands in the dirt, learn about every plant I can find, and then hit the books. This is going to be a wild ride.
Thank you for joining me today. Remember to take some time out of your day and get outside, play, learn, love, and grow—no matter how young or old, everyone deserves the wind in their hair.