As spring marches forward the question comes with increasing frequency: “So, Natasha… what’s next?” This may sound preemptive to address in April, five months before the FoodCorps end of service in August. The end of my time in Ennis may be a long way off, but it already seems to be in the thoughts of the community members I work with, and it is something that has been on my mind since the day I started my service.
The way I see it, this is actually a two-part question. Wrapped up in that expectant “What’s next” is concern for the community projects I’ve helped to set into motion, as well as curiosity about how I plan to take two years of FoodCorps service and turn it into a career. I’m happy to report positive prospects on both accounts.
The school garden and other farm to school projects that I’ve been working on will continue to grow and change after I leave. The school garden is literally rooted in the schoolyard. It would take at least as much work to go backwards (imagine ripping out 4’’x4’’ fence posts, 10 raised beds, a pergola and garden gates) as it will to go forwards. Through committee work and volunteer recruitment, the school garden has been endowed with a small army of dedicated curators. The classroom teachers we’ve worked with now plan projects and lessons around what’s happening in the garden. Volunteers are eager to help with duties of summer weeding and watering, if only for a chance to harvest spoils from the garden. And students positively shriek when they see that purple FoodCorps t-shirt headed down the hallways: a sure sign that they’ll be headed out to the garden for class.
The garden isn’t going anywhere, but I am, and I believe that my FoodCorps service experience will help get me there. Until I started rooting around for potential jobs, I wasn’t sure what I’d be qualified to do after two terms of service in rural Montana. Reading through job descriptions, picking up the phone to do some informational interviews, and rewriting my resume has helped me find some confidence and clarification.
What I’ve realized through this process is that “FoodCorps service member” is just an abbreviation for project manager, volunteer coordinator, director of outreach and communications, graphic arts guru, special events planner and more.
My service experience has paved the way for a path into the nonprofit sector, classroom or outdoor education, nutrition and public health, food service, and, of course, agriculture.
“So… what’s next?” At the end of two years, I’m confident that the Ennis community will move steadily forward with Farm to School projects. And I will take away a medley of experiences that will be relevant to whatever is next for me.