Thursday, January 29, 2009

Getting Started

So I'm sure you all remember my "master plan" and you are wondering what I'm doing to achieve it (because the world revolves around me and you are all paying very close attention). Well, let me tell you.

After I graduated from undergrad I learned the hard lesson that the college degree is the new high school diploma. It means relatively little especially if it's from a liberal arts college. I'm not being cynical it's just true. So the best way for me to get my foot in the door is to volunteer, volunteer, volunteer. I recently "informationally interviewed" someone from White Dog Community Enterprises here in Philly, and she said that a lot of their new hirees started out as volunteers who made themselves so indispensable that she was forced to hire them or lose their talents to someone else.

This is my new mantra, Make Yourself Indispensable.

These are the places where I have decided to focus my efforts:

Bartram's Garden
This is an historic house and estate originally owned by one of the most forward-thinking botanists of the pre-Revolutionary period, John Bartram. I've been helping out with their children's education classes (right now we're doing lots of butter churning classes with a colonial butter churn and I have amazing home-made butter in my fridge waiting for me to bake it into something delish). They might be hiring a part-time gardener for their children's garden this spring, keep your fingers crossed!


Tyler Arboretum
There are 650 acres of diverse outdoor landscapes and habitats at this arboretum in the western suburbs. I've been volunteering with their education department, mostly doing maple-sugaring classes right now. They have some of the highest quality education curriculum I've ever seen, especially with respect to the diversity of activities and amount of information in each class, as well as the thorough training that each educator gets. I will also be helping them out with their new vegetable demonstration garden, which currently lacks a gardener (again, fingers crossed).

(from the Tyler Arboretum set on Flickr)

Weaver's Way Co-op Farm
One of only two co-op grocery stores in the city, Weaver's Way does community programming on and around their farm in North Philadelphia . I've been volunteering with their education programs, mostly helping to build a greenhouse at Martin Luther King High School which the students will plant and tend. They also do farm field trips which I'll be helping out with soon.


Mill Creek Farm
The farmers at Mill Creek are on vacation for the winter, but in the spring I hope to get my hands dirty helping out with everything that goes into growing food on this urban farm (which is not far from my house in West Philly). They also do education programming, mostly farm field trips. The farm is on a small plot of land and has a shed made of cob with a green roof, solar panels, a composting toilet, mosaic, and grey water collection. Loves it.

(view from the shed's green roof, from the blog Mac&Cheese)

Pennsylvania Horticultural Society - Garden Tenders Training
This is the most exciting thing I'm doing right now. It's a free workshop series for people interested in starting community gardens in and around Philadelphia. Did I mention it's completely free? (I just CANNOT believe that). It consists of 10 three hour classes with guest speakers who teach you how to organize, plant, and sustain a community garden. And each year at the end of the training sessions there are several new gardens that were formed right there in class. After the first class I thought my head would explode with excitement. I've already met several people in class who live in my neighborhood and are interested in starting a new community garden (one of whom already organizes a garden at 47th and Spruce and is inundated with plot requests every day).


So we'll see where all of this takes me. I'm now nannying three and half days a week and the rest of my time is full of volunteering of one form or another. I don't expect to be paid to do anything in my field until April at least, but I'm optimistic. I have a rolodex of over 50 contacts that I have met and/or spoken to on the phone about my interest in environmental ed/urban agriculture and them's good odds, I think.


akatsuki said...

You'll be livin' the dream in no time!

Nicole said...

That's amazing---hello networking! That's soooo great! You are bound to find a cool job through one of those organizations, and volunteering is really the best way to show people they should hire you!

Felicia said...

I'll send some positive energy out for you to get a fab job and one of these groovy places :)

heggae said...

See, it always (and hopefully will for you in the near future!!!...) pays to do your homework...