In the Garden
by Monica McDougal
When I applied to be a Belle H. Bennett Fellow, I imagined myself in an office somewhere in Nashville. I thought I would be in business casual clothing and spending my days working alongside adults. I never pictured myself in a garden at an early learning center, wearing jeans and working with four year olds. However, as the Garden Education and Outreach Intern for Plant the Seed, that’s precisely where I find myself three days a week.
Plant the Seed is a non-profit program that creates outdoor classrooms in school gardens to educate and empower under-resourced young people. Currently, Plant the Seed has six sites, but I work primarily from Ross Early Learning Center in East Nashville. In the garden, I help with programming by assisting in facilitation of garden lessons and helping to maintain the garden. I also help Plant the Seed by curating their social media content.
Since I announced that I would be working with Plant the Seed, I’ve had several conversations with people in my own life about the work that we do. I’ve found that folks get the education part, but sometimes struggle with the empowerment piece. How is leading garden education programs empowering the children I work with? This is a question I plan to explore thoroughly over the next nine months. However, while talking to my co-worker in the garden between classes, I began to answer that question when my co-worker said, “Growing your own food is a revolutionary act.”
To be honest, I had never really spent time thinking about how food insecurity is directly linked to systemic oppression. Now, I find myself face to face with the effects of systemic food insecurity every single day. My goal for the next nine months is to familiarize myself with this. I’m hoping to become more informed about food justice, and where my own food comes from. I want to know how I can take the lessons I’m learning in the garden and use them to transform my activism in the future.
Monica McDougal is a 2016 graduate of Washburn University. She is currently a Belle H. Bennett fellow at Scarritt Bennett Center where she is exploring social justice at Plant the Seed.