Gardens with Society of St. Andrew FL
Historically, Florida has been a citrus mecca, and this produce was the bulk of SoSA’s gleaning. However, with back-to-back hurricanes and the spread of greening disease, this is no longer the case. The continuing pattern of hurricanes and other natural disasters has imperiled SoSA’s primary produce for the past two years, and will likely continue for the foreseeable future. When there is nothing to glean but many eager volunteers ready to help, they are not turned away. Rather, these volunteers are redirected to participate at farms in need of assistance. SoSA will carry out a gardening day as a typical glean, but without an agency, as no produce is being collected. The AmeriCorps member will speak with the growers to identify what tasks can be accomplished at their facility for layman participants. Typical farm work suitable for volunteers includes: mixing and preparing soil, planting, weeding, pruning, watering, and basic landscaping. On the day of the event, the farmer usually will introduce him or herself and instruct personnel and volunteers as to what is needed, and may remain on deck to supervise activities.
Volunteers on gardening days won’t get the same satisfaction of checking how many pounds of food were picked, which can lower morale and cause volunteers to not return. Rather, it is important for the AmeriCorps member to show extra appreciation and talk about the farm they are helping. Many farms SoSA helps are small-scale and family-owned with a limited number of staff. When the volunteers understand that they are helping a family directly, that will not only support the family but also SoSA’s future efforts, morale is raised and some take pride in their part of the growing process.