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(Editor’s note: By way of illustrating the value of Dr. John Wilson Community Garden Apprentice Program, apprentice Julia Michael talks about what she’s gotten from her work at the garden. Emptea Bowls is the program’s primary fundraiser.)

“I initially came to Warren Wilson College to study sustainable agriculture, but I found that I wasn’t interested in learning agriculture from a classroom. I found it hard to connect to the romantic idea of agriculture and food security that I had in mind. I didn’t feel engaged with my community; I felt lost in the science of it.

“I eventually changed my major to study art, but I was still longing for an experience in agriculture where I felt like a connected part of the community and where I could gain practical skills. I was put in touch with Diana McCall at Dr. John Wilson Community Garden through the Warren Wilson service learning program, and I began working there last September.

“Working with Diana at the garden has been one of the biggest blessings in my life. She has been an amazingly compassionate and knowledgeable mentor. Every day that I am able to work with her I learn something new and useful.

“Coming into this apprenticeship I knew I would be learning things like double digging a bed or proper tool use, but it has been so much more than that. I know that it is best not to disturb the soil layers because there are microorganisms that thrive at different depths, and so I find myself working more gently in the soil.

“I’m intentional and thoughtful with every action, and that has translated into other parts of my life. I find myself more engaged and intentional with my relationships and my work outside of the garden.

“Like I said, I could list off all of the technical skills that I have learned, that I value and the reason why I thought I wanted this position, but it has evolved into more than that. Because of Diana and the garden, I was able to attend the Organic Growers School (an annual event in Asheville) and learn even more ways to incorporate sustainable agriculture into my life. And I connected with so many community members.

“This opportunity has evolved into so much more than just service - it has reinvigorated me. I feel like I am finally a valued member of a community where I can learn from amazing people and I can teach others.”

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