Whitney Rose is a Prevention Resource Center AmeriCorps VISTA Summer Associate, serving with UM Western Campus Garden, in Dillon

With the summer coming to an end, it is easy to look out into the garden and see what we have accomplished here at the University of Montana Western Campus Garden–just check out these before and after photos!
When I first arrived, the garden was filled with weeds and hardly anything had been planted into the ground. This is only the third year the garden has existed, so there was much work to be done. 
After many weeks of weeding and planting, the plots are now filled with lively flowers and vegetables throughout. Most plentiful around the garden are dark leafy greens such as swiss chard, spinach, lettuce,kale, and bok choi. With my 

academic background in nutrition, I can’t help but smile at all of these great sources of Vitamins A and C, folate, calcium, and fiber.

But what you might not see in these photos are the equally important accomplishments of providing community education about gardening and nutrition. Every Saturday we have a booth at the Dillon’s farmer’s market, where we have a different food related activity for kids to participate in.  We have collaborated with the campus preschool, and have given the children a plot of their own to garden and experience the amazing transition of seed to plant.
We even held a summer program at the garden for YMCA day camp members. Amy Bump, the other AmeriCorps VISTA Summer Associate, and I put together lessons about the environment, showed the kids how to plant, and most importantly, let them taste test every edible thing in the garden. Watching the interest that these kids have while exploring the garden gives me hope for future generations.
I wouldn’t trade my summer serving AmeriCorps for anything- being a part of this food revolution that our country is facing has had a huge impact on me. I cannot imagine spending any more years of my life not gardening and living off the land, but most importantly, I can’t imagine not sharing with others the opportunity to grow, eat, and enjoy food that is good for people as well as the planet. I like to show the before and after photos of a single summer, but I know the real “after” impacts are still to come.
Still growing!