As I wrote in my first journal entry, this class (Anthropology 498) has been a journey, and even a change in personality, from city-girl to farm-hand. It was more than just an interesting course that gave me an excuse to be outside with my hands in the dirt though, this class was a giant leap in my life plan. I want to live amongst the orphan population in Ukraine, doing life with them and sharing the gospel while teaching them valuable social, market, and life skills with the goal of placing them in a stable job with a secure future.
I want to build sustainable program that will allow me to do this effectively and for years to come, which is where the gardens come in. Ukraine is the breadbasket of Europe. Their soil is incredible and a future in agriculture is a plausible, profitable, and even desirable, option for many orphan graduates. The problem, however, is that I don’t know the first thing about agriculture. This class has changed that, while I’m not master gardener, I have certainly gained a wealth of knowledge that has put me on the right track.
The applied agroecology class has allowed me to gain not only the foundation of agricultural knowledge necessary for these projects but has also allowed me to grow as a student and a leader. Learning how to communicate with professors and the heads of community organizations has been crucial to success in this class and these skills will continue to aid me as I continue on in life. This class has also provided me with what I see as a sort of trial run for my work in Ukraine. I began work on a year of service project here at Berry College with Dr. Campbell in the Fall of 2015. The Year of Service projects require Berry students to partner with a community member and engage in meaningful service for a year. The members of the project also all live together. It started with my passion for gardening, love of working and living in community with others, and desire to empower members of the Rome community. First I got in touch with Bagwell Food Pantry and asked if there was any need they saw that could be filled by Berry students.
Through a number of meetings and discussions we decided that the gardens would be the project that best fit my interests and Bagwell’s needs. Next, I had to go out and find others who shared my passion and who I would enjoy living with. After that we all had to work as a team to nail down the fine details of the project and plan. We had to decide who would do what in the house, how conflict would be resolved, how we would ensure we were doing effective work, how to be sustainable, and how to engage the community. We also had to work on presenting our project to the Year of Service board and gain their support. That alone, just putting together a pitch, has already grown me. I had to think through the logistics of my dream and come up with realistic answers to the who, what, when, where, and how of it. It was also my first experience as a true leader. As head of house, I was responsible for the project in its entirety. I had to schedule meetings, communicate with professors and the community partners, work with the girls on the project, fill out forms, etc. I’ve also had to take a stand as a leader and put my foot down over some situations which has been an extremely difficult lesson for me to learn.
The Year of Service pitch required a lot of self-motivation and independent work, another skill I’ve gained from this class. Doing an independent study took a bit of adjustment. I found it discouraging in the beginning because of the lack of opportunities for me to utilize the information I was learning. I do, however, recognize that I began an agricultural directed study in the middle of January and so my lack of occasions to work outside was limited. This being said, I grew to enjoy working alongside Tessa Howard on the research side of things and I feel as though I learned a lot about the mechanics of agriculture which has benefitted me for the long run. Now, rather than blindly wandering around the garden and planting seeds at random I have the knowledge needed to make informed decision for a more efficient and productive garden. Working so much in the academic realm of agriculture gave me a greater appreciation for the gardens when I was able to start work in them.
In conclusion, I have learned a lot about agriculture, gardening, and biodiversity but I have also grown as a student and as a person through this class. It has taught me a lot about self-motivation and perseverance. I also learned a lot about how to communicate effectively. In the beginning of the semester I had a lot of communication with Dr. Campbell, Tessa, and administrators at Bagwell. Towards the end I was able to lead others through the gardening process. This class has already create a ripple effect, Dr. Campbell has inspired me and I in turn have been able to inspire other students (like Tyler Jagt). I’m very excited to see where this goes from here!