“Feels good man, being back with the plants and fish again.”

Two things I’ve known I’ve wanted to do for my whole life: Be in AmeriCorps and work with fish. Those two strangely achievable goals led me to FoodCorps. When I graduated from college in 2014, I signed on for my first AmeriCorps service term with my hometown Habitat for Humanity affiliate. The selfish reason being I wanted to get really good at building things. The service part being I wanted to stay involved in the community development efforts happening through the urban agriculture network I had become a part of, and fallen head over heels for. FoodCorps hadn’t yet found Charlotte, so I jumped in building houses with Habitat, an organization I’ve served with for many years now. AmeriCorps gave me what I was really seeking: A life dedicated to a cause bigger than my own little plight.

For a year my world was trusses and bracing and walking atop three and a half inch wide walls, studs and fasteners and blistered hands. We worked through every kind of weather imaginable. The pace was tough, the expectations were high, it was a hard year. But work is what I do best, and for all the tough stuff there is an undeniable sense of peace one can find and share through service to others.

As soon as I heard the word that FoodCorps was sticking around in Charlotte with the possibility of opening a second service position, I started to slowly make my way back into the loving arms of the urban agriculture network here. I knew I wanted to continue serving my community, but I missed the urban farm at Garinger, my current high school service site. I missed hearing the pep band practice while working down a row of carrots in the field, and the steady hum of the cooling system mingled with the trickle of water in the fish tanks in aquaponics system in our greenhouse. My folks left the farm, but couldn’t take the farm out of me. I was ready to grow things again.

These days I’m back at it: Showing students the feeding frenzy at feeding time for our tilapia, the roots of kale and chard and lettuce dangling from the hydroponic rafts, weeding our carrots, saving summer crop seeds and talking about preserving cultural traditions, building hoop houses and low tunnels to keep crops over winter and open up new avenues for lessons our kids and be able to send them home with fresh produce for their families on those cold winter days. I’m back with the plants and fish again, and it feels good man.

Garinger aquaponics IPM - 2013/14
Garinger aquaponics IPM – 2013/14
Garinger students at the farm, "rethinking weeds" - 2015
Garinger students at the farm, “rethinking weeds” – 2015
Cooking lessons in the Garinger greenhouse - 2015
Cooking lessons in the Garinger greenhouse – 2015
First harvest, Garinger aquaponics - 2013/14
First harvest, Garinger aquaponics – 2013/14
First fish going in at Garinger - 2013/14
First fish going in at Garinger – 2013/14