Story of The Week 7/10/17

 

Growing Together

Alex Stephenson Hard At Work



By Alex Stephenson, Native Plant Nursery Grower with Poultney Metowee Natural Resources Conservation District

At the outset of my term of service I was unsure as to how the whole thing was going to pan out, and I have been surprised by one thing in particular: the degree to which growing trees can connect you to other people. Beginning my service as the head of the day-to-day operations of a small tree nursery, I knew generally what to expect: a lot of weeding, a lot of pruning, and small obsessions over the tiny nuances of achieving optimal plant growth and maximum productivity. However, I soon came to realize that, though those may be the primary concerns of a non-profit nursery, they were certainly not the only ones.

As I have since learned, the nursery serves as a hub of sorts. For our elderly and special needs volunteers, it is a place to come for candid, honest conversation, the feeling of contributing to some positive effort, and the pleasure of getting one's hands dirty. For Green Mountain College, it is a springboard for learning and future plans for conservation projects; students and faculty stop by to marvel at the trees, ask about the mission of the nursery, and (I think) leave with a clearer picture of the resources (like the nursery) that exist in the area for helping them achieve ecological sustainability in their personal and professional lives (we have collaborated with GMC professor Jim Graves to reclaim the lawns of GMC and establish an all native arboretum, for instance).

Perhaps most excitingly and most recently, the nursery has also become a place for Upward Bound students to do some honest work and get a glimpse into the post-graduate world that hopefully awaits them. I am confident that the nursery has already shown them that the working world can be a fun and educational one.

That the nursery was an organization which provides natural capital for ecological restoration, I knew going in to this. However, thus far, I believe that the much more rewarding realization has been that it is a rather supplier of social capital as well.

VHCB AmeriCorps is a program of the
Vermont Housing & Conservation Board.

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