In my sophomore year at Central Michigan I was given the unique opportunity to attend a three day Garden Leader Training Seminar hosted by the Greater Lansing Food Bank. Now a graduating senior, I am happy to be reflecting on this experience two years later as it affords me the chance to really express all the ways it has enhanced my garden leadership skills since. At the time I was in the spring of my second year as President for my student organization: Campus Grow. My Co-President, Meghan Marx and I were chosen by our advisor to attend as representatives for our organization and bring back the information learned there to implement new garden methods on campus. The first two sessions were held about a week apart in late February of 2015 and the third (final) session was held mid March of that same year. They each started at 9am with tea and bagels in a small building on a back road in what appeared to me to be a lesser known neighborhood in Lansing, MI. The sessions all had a sizable attendance of people that seemed to come from all walks of life. I believe we were the only university campus community garden leaders that year, but other leaders in attendance had gardens in their neighborhoods, at their jobs, churches and some people were there for the purpose of starting their garden from scratch.
The sessions were exhilarating! This was my first time going off campus for anything Campus Grow related and I was very excited to be a part of something that would help me develop leadership skills so specifically related to one of my passions. Garden leadership then was something I was working very hard to break into and become comfortable with, it is now something I have been doing for 4 years and continually try to grow in, no pun intended, really. That being said, the session’s agendas came at an absolutely perfect time for me as they centered around creating a vision for the garden and planning out goals to act on. It was very cool to hear everyones different garden plans and how they planned to follow through on them, meeting with such a diverse group of people was such a beneficial way to get our brain juices flowing. Even more than that, halfway through each session they had built in time for a networking intermission that allowed us to further connect with people regarding their garden plans. I’m proud to say that Meghan and I made four hefty garden goals that year and have successfully completed two of them! The sessions also discussed the community side of a community garden and the importance of leadership when communicating and organizing community centered events for the garden. This has become one of my main areas of focus as of late, it has become increasingly clearer to me that anyone can learn to garden, but it is much harder to learn how to effectively lead a community of gardeners. At that point we took the time to recognize our resources and the people in Mount Pleasant we could reach out to for help creating a positive gardening experience for our community.
At the end of the seminar we were able to take home the binders we had been given containing our notes from each session and numerous printed pages provided by the Greater Lansing Food Bank. The staff of the Greater Lansing Food Bank and their Garden Project staff made it clear to us that we were now partners with their organization, allies in our mission to make community gardening a nationwide norm. Since the seminar I have reached out to the people of the Greater Lansing Food Bank a few times and glanced in my garden leader training binder hundreds more. This seminar has given me a whole new perspective on gardening and taught me tips and tricks I could go on and on about for hours. However, I can say undoubtedly that the enhancement it has brought to my leadership abilities and approach have been far more valuable to me and I know they will only continue to help me both in the garden and every other aspect of life.