I came across my third volunteering venue while working at the Community Table. I was busing tables when I looked up and saw a flyer for the Community Garden. I asked one the volunteers about it and they said they obtain a large portion of their donated produce from this resource.
So I took a drive out to Cullowhee to see this garden. There I met Adam and his faithful canine friend, “Magnolia”. Adam started this garden as a project of the Jackson County Department of Health, with the help of the NC Cooperative Extension, Jackson County government as well as other local services. There are a multitude of plots taken care of by individuals or groups. No money is required to adopt a garden plot but two rules are strictly followed. All gardeners must use organic gardening techniques and half of their crop is donated to organizations to feed the people in need in Jackson County.
Adam is a self-proclaimed “plant nerd” and is happy to be one. I told him my interests in volunteering and my weaknesses when it came to gardening. He was more than happy (actually more like thrilled) to pass on his plant knowledge and teach me about his pride and joy- The Community Garden. Every Wednesday from 3PM to dusk and every Saturday from 9AM to noon are volunteer days. He has a plethora of volunteers from all walks of life to help him.
The afternoon I came, he paired me with a financial student from WCU. He had us quiz him on random plants and was proud of all the native varieties of trees, flowers and seedlings they have. It has taken years to get the garden to where it is today, Adam told me. Most of his gardening ways are old school. For instance, one of our tasks that day was to water a strip of plants on the West side of the garden. To do this we packed large empty jugs into a wagon and pulled it down to the creek. We dunked each jug into the cool flowing water and placed it back into the wagon, before driving it back up a small hill to the parched plants. Each individual jug was then sprinkled out over the land.
It was an arduous task and made me appreciate a hose.
However, Adam pointed out this way of watering makes you cognizant of conserving water. We weren’t going to waste that precious liquid we worked so hard for. Since Adam had learned what I did for a living, I paid close attention to my back body mechanics to not be a terrible example. But what I didn’t pay attention to was how heavy these large jugs were filled with water, and never took the time to switch arms when lifting or pouring. I wound up getting an over use injury to my right arm. The next morning I couldn’t turn my neck or elevate my shoulder very high.
Needless to say, I would be useless on a working farm.
Adam taught us how to make “hippie soil” and used it to plant wildflowers to attract more bees. They recently found a beekeeper to donate their time to the garden and as luck would have it two students from SCC got a grant to build natural bee houses and donated them all to the Community Garden that afternoon. I thought Adam might cry over their generosity if he hadn’t been so excited to have them. He has a way of hugging you with his thankful smile. He truly is grateful for any giving spirit who crosses his path.
While he was thanking them, I took a stroll through the garden with Magnolia by my side. It’s a small maze of raised plant boxes with paintings of peace signs, and words like “Hope” and “Love”. Mini wind chimes blew in the breeze and in the distance I heard a bird call. Gazing upwards I saw a large heron gliding across the sky heading towards the orange sunset behind the mountains.
It was a sweat-filled, enjoyable afternoon. I gained an appreciation for the hard work it takes to bring forth organic produce that I so easily grab in the grocery store. Adam, as well as the Community Table crew, inadvertently reminded me how accustomed I’ve become to the negativity and self-centered world we circulate in. To be so surprised by their selflessness and sheer excitement over the simplest things told me how little I encounter it in everyday life.
I look forward to volunteering with Adam and Magnolia more this summer.
“The wise man puts himself last and finds himself first.” ~ Lao Tsu