Katie Looney is a Prevention Resource Center AmeriCorps VISTA Summer Associate, serving with Somers Middle School.
IMAG0481-1Let’s be clear. I had very little gardening experience prior to my arrival in Montana. As an acting major in college, I know quite a lot about behaving like I am a plant. But while figuring out how I might move differently if I had petals for fingers might arguably be self edifying, it would not help seeds germinate in the Somers Middle School garden.

Thanks to guidance from my supervisor, Robin Vogler, best practice lessons from local growers during work days, and a Google browser history filled with search items like “brown spots rhubarb,” “how pick kale,” and “plants response person talking,” I have learned so much about gardening, in addition to goal setting, leadership, human relations, and those How to Become a Better Person skills. I have a pretty high success rate now with plants so that only every 1 in 8 screams when I approach.

IMAG0411The garden I and my co-VISTA Jordan Bryant have devoted every waking hour of our lives to this summer (and occasional non-waking hours when I dream about picking endless numbers of pink tomatoes) is no longer a single area at the Somers Middle School (SMS). There are plants abundant in the once covered with thistles courtyard, growing high in new raised beds around the greenhouse, and thriving in the two month old hydroponic shed.
IMAG0524Who plants the vegetables at SMS? The kids. Who harvests the vegetables? The kids. Who eats the vegetables? The kids. Who takes care of the vegetables while the kids are out of school? That’s where we come in. With only a week left of our service term, the garden will be ready for harvest when the kids come back to school in three weeks. Unfortunately, that means we don’t get to work with the middle schoolers directly, but I know that we’re setting the stage (pun intended) for healthy eating.
That’s why the time I have spent here in Montana has been well worth every second of every day. While I still haven’t decided what noise I would make if I was a flower and how my petal fingers might be of practical use, I am proud to have worked as an Americorps Summer VISTA. I’m like a little soldier made of recycled plastic and paper materials marching with the FoodCorps army to fight the good fight, the food revolution.