Mar 2nd, 2015

Volunteers Get HandsOn in the Community Kitchen Garden

by Hilaire Ashworth, PR & Marketing Intern, Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden 

Hands show perspective on the seedling size.

Starting from the top clockwise: verbena, snapdragon, leeks, and arugula.

Today volunteers from HandsOn Greater Richmond  helped Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden staff prepare for the spring growing season in the Community Kitchen Garden. Since the weather has been too cold to plant anything outside, volunteers assisted with repotting seedlings in the greenhouse.

There are approximately 3,000 seedlings already started and more to come once the weather permits plants to be moved outside. All of the produce will be harvested in the summer and fall and benefits Central Virginia’s neediest citizens via FeedMore Inc. Among the plants are several varieties of kale, celery, leeks, arugula, and even snapdragons, verbena, and bee balm to attract pollinators. Once temperatures rise and become more stable, volunteers will be working outside to prepare plant beds and eventually place these seedlings in the ground.

It was such a pleasure working with these four wonderful volunteers and Community Kitchen Garden Horticulturalist, Laura Schumm. After getting my hands dirty and speaking with the volunteers, I learned that most of them were relatively new to gardening with the exception of one long-term gardener and plant enthusiast — São Berkowitz. All were eager to learn and contribute.

Volunteers standing in the Massey Greenhouse after completing their work.

From left to right: Laura Schumm, Jahleel Athey, São Berkowitz, Ariel Lawrence, and Edmund Burke.

Personally, I have enjoyed volunteering and learning about gardening from Laura Schumm as a Conservatory volunteer. I was curious to know what made my co-workers-for-the-day decide to volunteer with the Community Kitchen Garden. After a few brief conversations I learned that I was surround by truly amazing people.

Athey aspires to one day complete a degree in botany and eventually create an off-the-grid, sustainable community. By volunteering, he can hone his skills and make his dream a reality. Berkowtiz expressed that she wanted to build new friendships and was enthralled with contributing her time towards “such a great cause.”  Lawrence says she’s interested in exchanging “labor for knowledge.” The Richmond waitress likes to spend her mornings learning all she can about gardening and will soon starting planting in her first vegetable garden. Burke was very expressive about his desire to give back to his community. He is a successful barber shop owner and likes to give his spare time to helping local organizations, such as the Ronald McDonald House in Richmond.

We are so thankful for all of their wonderful help and I personally look forward to working with them in the coming weeks.

Hilaire Ashworth is an Assistant Butterfly Curator in the Butterflies LIVE! exhibit. Here are a few more facts about her: Q: If you were a butterfly, which one would you be? A: Bat Wing (Atrophaneura semperi)! I love the vibrant red against the black and white wings. Q: What do you do in your spare time? A: I spend most of my spare time with my adopted street cat and organic gardening. However, I love rock climbing, hiking, and spending as much time outdoors as I possibly can.

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