by Alysse Gear
Program Support Specialist
A few weeks ago, our FarmStand opened for the season. In between weeding, planning, talking responsibilities, and eating salads fresh from the garden, I told two of our main youth staff (self-proclaimed managers Alex and Ivan—see section above) that I would be leaving a little early this year. Their response: “I know you’ll still be here, Alysse.”
In nearly three years of growing up alongside each other—them quite literally, me in a whole slew of nonprofit skills—they know me too well to expect me to stop coming to Concordia Gardens. After all, helping with the FarmStand has never been an official part of my job, but I find myself there on Thursdays more weeks than I don’t. Watching the kids funnel their creativity, thoughtfulness and energy into the FarmStand, turning into the sharpest little entrepreneurs in the process, gives me so much hope for our future. And it is exactly the kind of thing I want to be part of every single day.
After years of writing grants (with a special place in my heart for our youth education), marketing our programs and empowering volunteers to help make them happen, doing much of the administrative dirty work to keep this beautiful organization afloat, crunching numbers and running events, it is time for my bittersweet departure.
My time at Victory Garden Initiative has challenged me to think bigger, empowered me to turn my ideas into reality, and showed me just how powerful a group of people can be with a common vision. July 21 will be my last day on staff, but it will certainly not be my last as part of this movement.
So now it’s up to all of us—the volunteers, the donors, the supporters, the cheerleaders, the community. It’s up to us to keep digging up our lawns and replacing them with gardens, sharing peas and conversations with passersby. It’s up to us to take a little bit of money we save from growing our own food to donate a garden for a family in need. It’s up to us to lend a hand, turning the desires of our hearts into the actual, tangible world we wish to see.
Looking back on the 2013 Victory Garden Initiative that I joined—not even 1,500 gardens yet, three staff, Concordia Gardens’ production area just a sparkle in Gretchen’s eye—I am so proud to see how far we have come. We’re DOING this!
As I move on to pursue a career in teaching elementary school, I know our beloved VGI is in excellent, incredibly resourceful, capable and creative hands. And I don’t just mean Kelly’s and Alex’s, Gretchen’s and Quinn’s—I mean all of ours. Since that very first little BLITZ in 2009 that started it all, this has been a community effort, an incredibly resilient vehicle for all of us to pour our hopes and dreams into, yielding delicious food and stronger community.
So before I depart, I want to use my one last newsletter for a few personal requests to ensure our momentum continues forever and ever until VGI is no longer needed; “When fruit trees fill our parks and nut trees are harvested by our neighbors, when food pantries house vegetable gardens and school children participate in growing their lunches, we will have a secure, sovereign, socially just and sustainable food system”—this is VGI’s vision.
- Visit the FarmStand! It’s open 2-6 every Thursday, and Concordia Gardens’ produce is divine.
- Join the Food Leader Certificate Program! My “unofficial” project as a 2013 Food Leader was to make a leap into the gardening and environmental education world—and it’s safe to say I succeeded. This is your chance to invest in yourself, and I hope you take it.
- Sign up for a volunteer orientation in July! These are the last I will be leading, and I’d really like to see you.
I am forever thankful for my time with all of you.
Until we meet again,