Growin' in Lake County

My name is Taylor and I’m an AmeriCorps VISTA with NCO Gardens Project in Lake County. This is my first ‘real’ adult job and to be honest I really couldn’t think of a better one. Every day I get to help people become empowered to grow their own food and become capable of providing vegetables for themselves and their families.

At the beginning of my term of service I wasn’t really sure what to tell people I would be doing this year. When family members asked before I moved down here I would tell them I would be building community gardens to help address food insecurity. I wasn’t wrong – but I definitely wasn’t sure about the details or what exactly that meant I would be doing on an hourly basis. AmeriCorps VISTA members are capacity builders for the nonprofit projects they work for – but what did that mean? I had a good feeling about this position, and community gardens are one of my passions so I accepted the job without ever having set foot in Lake County, California.

(Pictured above - my two garden plots in April at the Highland Community Garden in Clearlake)

I moved to Lake County at the end of February expecting California sunshine only to be met by torrential rain, flooding that displaced many people from their homes, closed highways, and a very flooded Clear Lake. During my first week I met with people who wanted to build gardens, began to plan a workshop for teaching kids how to plant seeds, talked about being on the local radio and started learning what it meant to be an AmeriCorps VISTA. In writing my job duties include for the year: fundraising money to continue running Gardens Project, coordinating and recruiting volunteers, managing social media and promotions, putting on free workshops, and setting up a sustainable system that can be continued after I leave next March. It seems like a lot of things to accomplish by next March, but I feel confident that I can make it happen.

Now I’m a little over three months in and I finally know what I’m doing and spend my days making calls to gardeners, coordinating workshops and volunteers, and helping to build a new garden down in Middletown, California that will (fingers crossed) be ready for planting by mid-June. Just this past week I’ve spent days helping set up irrigation for the garden, met with people that want to build a new garden, coordinated a garden meeting and potluck, and put together materials for a workshop I coordinated for this weekend. There is never a dull moment at Gardens Project!

I treasure the time I’m able to give our gardeners to ask questions, trouble-shoot problems, and to talk to me about their lives and the community we live in. Almost every day I get a reminder of why I decided to give a year of my life in service to this community. Sometimes that reminder comes in the form of a thank you, other times in shared excitement at the germination of seeds in the ground. It’s so worthwhile and I’m grateful that I get to spend this year working at NCO Gardens Project.


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