I moved to Prescott back in August 2015 after graduating from NAU. The first thing that I remember thinking when I arrived here was that something must be terribly wrong with my car — it was making a screeching, high-pitched noise. When I popped my head out the window, the noise was coming from all around me and then I realized — cicadas. Welcome to Prescott!
One of the most frequently asked questions to outgoing service members is, “What are you most proud of?” Those 6 little words pose a really difficult question, because I have worn so many different hats as a service member. I have built 3 new school gardens, taught 3 after-school garden clubs and 1 after-school cooking club, organized 26 school-wide Farm to School Taste Tests, brought in 500 pounds of local produce to schools, and taught over 8,000 kids the importance of growing food and eating healthy. On top of this, I organized local agriculture-based activities at the farmers market education booth, established fruitful community partnerships with local organizations, installed drip irrigation systems, packed bags full of garden produce for the backpack weekend meals program, and most of all, embraced being called the “veggie lady,” “garden gal,” and “healthy girl.”
So, what am I most proud of? My students. Although I would like to say that I’ve shown superior resilience in the face of challenging circumstances, these kids really take the cake. The majority of my students come from low-income households and many are faced with difficult home lives — financially, emotionally, or otherwise. My students are brave. They say “yes!” to trying new fruits and vegetables. They get excited at the prospect of weeding or watering the garden, especially in freezing cold weather. My students eat bright pink beet hummus… and LIKE it. My students love to help during Farm to School taste tests. They encourage their peers AND their teachers to try weird fruits and veggies and cast their vote so that their voice can be represented. My students aren’t afraid of touching composted manure, slimy dirt or even worms in the garden. They dig in with their bare hands and plant seeds so that we can give future food to families who need it. My students rock.
I have been fortunate enough to teach these students in the classroom, in the garden, at the farmers market, in the grocery store, at a local farm — yet my work here is still not quite done. I have built a foundation for learning about the environment, our food system, nutrition, cooking, and what it means to be a community. I hope that these schools, students, staff and families take these ideas and run with them. I would love to come back and visit in 5 years to find the students talking about the purple carrot that they ate at lunch — because they grew it in their school garden.
I have met so many wonderful, generous people and have enjoyed the challenges of growing food in a high desert climate. Although I didn’t understand at first what brought this community together — with the variety of ages, demographics, and interests that define the Prescott population — I think that I’m starting to understand now. Prescott is a community driven by hard-working, kind people, no matter their religion, gender, age, or occupation. I have been so blessed to be welcomed into this community and supported in bringing healthy foods and gardening into the public school culture and community. I will never forget my experience as a FoodCorps service member, and I hope to carry the skills that I have gained with me everywhere that I go in the future.