Declaration of Dependence by Ryan Koch

Derek and a few of our SEEDS participants are seen here weeding the u-pick plot at the Seedleaf Community Farm. Our youth have been busy four mornings each week caring for three gardens, two food forests, and cooking some freshly harvested items as well!

Derek and a few of our SEEDS participants are seen here weeding the u-pick plot at the Seedleaf Community Farm. Our youth have been busy four mornings each week caring for three gardens, two food forests, and cooking some freshly harvested items as well!

The loveliest green beetles have discovered our plants. They are voracious, and not very picky about what they consume. We have squash vine borers at the London Ferrell Community Garden. Flea beetles are doing their best on many of our eggplant leaves. The cabbage looper moth is working the kale pretty hard at the Castlewood Community Garden. And on the day I am writing, we haven’t had any rain in about a week.

Gardeners face so many challenges over the course of the growing season: so much pest pressure, so much weed pressure. So many reasons to just stop watering and procure food some other way!

However, this week I tasted the summer’s first cherry tomatoes from one of our gardens. One of our Summer Youth Employees shared it with me as he watered. I found eggplants that had quietly beaten the flea beetle and fruited just fine. I ate three more blackberries and saw that the canes were so happy they were flowering again. Sometimes the work is rewarded with food. Sometimes a gardener cooperates with the soil, with natural processes, with the elements, and food comes forth. This is an ancient dance, infinitely thrilling. We discover cucumbers under the pale green leaves, potatoes under the rich dark soil. We taste these things. We photograph our food and we share it. As growers, we have every right to be proud of our work, and every reason to be grateful witnesses of the magic of cultivation.

We celebrate each small harvest—the rattlesnake pole bean we eat as we weed a row—because sometimes, we know, it just doesn’t work. Sometimes the seeds rot right in the ground and never germinate. Sometimes a cutworm fells a young pepper plant. Sometimes a groundhog samples every tomato that went suddenly red-ripe in the night. Sometimes the work is not rewarded with food but with perspective, with patience. Sometimes my best crop is humility.

I can see it all clearly in the hazy and humid heat of mid-summer. No matter what is growing or what is dying in these gardens, we have reason for gratitude. We can be grateful for the lettuces as the grow bitter and bolt, flower and try to go to seed in the heat. We can be grateful for the last carrot, and the row that is ready again to be planted, employed. This gratitude will sabotage resentment. It always does. It will water humility. In gratitude, we will renew our declaration of dependence—we absolutely depend on healthy soils, on clean air and water, on a web of relationships that can only be observed when we slow down long enough to taste and see that this is fundamentally and quietly good.

I do hope your garden is thriving this summer. But even if it is not, even if the poke weed and goose grass have already won, don’t miss a chance to go and observe, to catch the earth healing itself in your midst. See if you don’t get caught up in that humble grateful story.

Summer Update by Ryan Koch

We recently learned, as many of you already know, that our fair town no longer recycles paper products. While this is not just an inconvenience but a grief for folks who care about our community, it is also an opportunity for honesty and for changed behavior. To that end, we are not sending out a paper version of our summer newsletter this year. Instead, we will share electronically below. While we are hopeful that the city of Lexington will expand recycling services in the coming weeks and months, we recognize that the earth may groan just a bit less if there are a thousand fewer pieces of paper headed to the landfill. We appreciate your understanding in this as we all work toward a healthier earth!

Journaling is part of the learning process in our SEEDS program.

Journaling is part of the learning process in our SEEDS program.

Greetings from Seedleaf, and happy summer! We are turning the page on a busy and productive spring and are well positioned for a great growing season. Since March we have facilitated 45 Get In a Garden (GIG) Events at our 13 free u-pick community gardens. We have hosted 7 trainings, including our Compost 101s and Wormshops. We have connected with over 160 volunteers and participants, and have cultivated 550 pounds of fresh produce to share with our neighbors.

We have also gotten five weeks into our summer youth program, SEEDS. The end of June marks the halfway point, which I find to be a good time to take stock and to appreciate our accomplishments to date:

  • 22 students earned between $85-$100 for their work in June.

  • We have facilitated 6 cooking events with our youth, including two visits to FoodChain to create some fantastic salads featuring fresh greens harvested by the students that very morning.

  • We have delivered 15 pounds of fresh produce to the Lighthouse Mission, a feeding organization just a block away from one of our strongest gardens.

  • We have established a raised bed garden at the home of one of our neighbors on Lexington’s North Side, expanding her growing space by 32 square feet.

All this learning and service represents the good work of a dedicated group of young people excited to improve themselves and their neighborhoods. 

At our Community Composting Stations, visitors are invited to contribute their home waste to our active piles.

At our Community Composting Stations, visitors are invited to contribute their home waste to our active piles.

Another area in which we are experiencing significant growth is in our composting efforts. We are continuing our restaurant food waste pickups through our Compost Partners program and have already picked up 15,000 gallons of food waste since January. Our residential compost pickup service, the Compost Carpool, is also growing. This easy solution for upcycling food waste is available to all Fayette County residences. Due to the growing awareness about the limits of paper recycling and the environmental impact of our local trash collection sites, there are now more Lexingtonians who are wanting to move toward smart and environmentally sustainable ways of processing waste. Thanks to the subscribers for our compost pick-up program, we are creating finished compost-- a fantastic soil amendment that strengthens and nourishes our garden soils and helps lawns retain more rainwater. 

So, clearly, a ton of good stuff is underway. We are serving our neighbors, equipping our youth, engaging our volunteers, and helping residents take responsibility for their food waste. However, all of this good work comes at a cost, and at this halfway point in our fiscal year, our expenses are greater than our income. We are projected to finish the year with a deficit. Our staff and board are working together to cut costs and to be more efficient, but we are feeling the squeeze of diminishing funding from both grants and donations. We very much want to continue to do the good work of nourishing communities, as we have since 2007. At this point, we need the support of donors like you who have helped us to get to this point. Here’s how you can help:

Your support each month helps Seedleaf plan and grow more!

Your support each month helps Seedleaf plan and grow more!

  • Join our Perennial Club and support us with a recurring gift. These monthly gifts help us plan for success. For example, your gift of $5 helps us plant and maintain one tomato plant from May till October. When you make this monthly gift, we can come back stronger each year. like perennial plants! You can begin your support right here.

  • Make a meaningful one-time gift. You can do so online at right here.

  • Become a Compost Carpool subscriber. This pickup service helps offset the cost of our 13 free u-pick community gardens. Subscribe today right here. Already a subscriber? Please tell your friends and family how you are taking responsibility for your kitchen waste, keeping it out of landfills and helping it grow more productive soils. 

  • Share our stories and updates on your preferred social media platform. We need your help raising the profile of our work. It means so much when you tell your friends why you support Seedleaf.

We are confident that with your help we can continue to grow great gardens for many seasons to come. Thanks so much for keeping up with our work, and for joining in any way you can, and all the ways you to!

Things Fall Apart by Ryan Koch


Things fall apart. Specifically, tools fall apart. Or are broken. Or are left out in the rain. Or are misused. There is something woeful about a broken tool. This hoe pictured above had done a lot for me and with me over the past seven growing seasons. The flat side was great for chopping the soil on the top of a planting bed. The pointed side helped me dig a furrow to plant seeds. The handle was longer than most, and helped me keep my back straight while I did a lot of this bed prep and planting.

This hoe came back to me in two pieces recently after I had handed it to one of our high school students, a participant of the Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP, which is managed by LFUCG, Division of Youth Services.) This student has a lot of energy. In another era, he would be called a spirited boy. And on his second day on the job with us, he got a bit distracted from the task I had given him. When the tool cracked, he was busy acquiring a pile of worms at the bottom of a pile of mulch. To his credit, he did have a significant pile of worms!

This sort of thing is not uncommon. A mistake like this is bound to happen as we do this garden work with two high schoolers and 24 middle schoolers (the later through our SEEDS program; more on that here.) Only four of our students in 2019 were in the program previously, so there is a lot of training going on. Kids are getting used to being outside for 2-5 hours each day. As we learn the tasks of gardening and cooking, inevitably, some beans will be picked too small. Some weeds won’t be pulled thoroughly. Some squash will be missed and will grow to ridiculous proportions. Work may be derailed by discovery: a new bug; a pile of worms. This is part of the learning process. After all, anything worth doing is worth doing badly a number of times before one gets it right!

Our student/worker who broke the tool in Week 1 has done a lot of good too. We have come to appreciate his enthusiasm and his people skills. On Week 2 we delivered 15 pounds of fresh produce to Lighthouse Ministries, where Director Tay Henderson told our youth about the recovery community in Lexington, and all the folks in need of food who come through their doors. While all of our youth were moved by this interaction, our kind-hearted and enthusiastic worker immediately asked how he could help, when he could start volunteering.

Such a bright spot, a small moment of transcendence, is also not uncommon in this work. We never know which memory will be a seed of compassion, or which snapshot will inspire a twelve-year-old to go on and do great things to address a systemic problem. Or maybe the child will go on and do small things with great love over a lifetime.

It has been an honor and a joy for Seedleaf to facilitate the SEEDs program each summer since 2009. We have had over 150 youth work alongside us, earning their stipends, making their contributions, caring for green spaces, healing our Earth. We hope to be able to continue this nourishing work for many seasons to come. Your donation today will help us grow more. Consider a monthly donation and join our Perennial Club. Or donate $35 so we can replace that handle!

Here's An Idea: Community Composting Stations by Ryan Koch

Seeing is believing: a working community compost station in Michigan

Seeing is believing: a working community compost station in Michigan

Jodie K. my partner of 15 years, recently sent me this photograph as she traveled in Michigan. She included a message: I saw this pile of rotting vegetables and it made me think of you. How’s that for a belated Valentine’s text?! But she knows me, and she knew it would make my heart sing. This photo was speaking a thousand words to me. Without knowing the whole story, I have a sense of what is going on in this pile in Traverse City and why it is important.

As you may know, recent studies estimate that 40% of the food grown in the United States ends up in our landfills. Here in Lexington, a waste audit in 2008 showed that 29% of our waste stream was organic material that could be composted. Since 2009, we at Seedleaf have been doing our part to pick up pre-consumer food waste from restaurants and kitchens throughout Lexington, diverting that material out of the landfills and into our gardens as finished compost. (We call this our Compost Partners service.) We have been inspiring and educating area citizens about what they can be doing to take responsibility for their home waste stream. We are field testing small solutions to these systemic problems, and we are poised to do much more.

We are offering our Compost Carpool as a solution for Fayette County residents who want to push the easy button with regard to their home food waste. You can learn more about that and sign up right here. This is the residential version of the Compost Partners service, which has the support of the city of Lexington (LFUCG), Division of Waste Management.

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Throughout the rollout of the Compost Carpool, we meet people who are willing to do the work of being even more involved. They are willing to move their kitchen waste themselves, by car, or even by bike! These folks are our kind of weirdos—we salute this level of responsibility. And we are trying to find more outlets for these passionate people.

In order to accommodate this level of interest, we are planning to establish and manage (as needed) more Community Composting Stations. To do this we will need to locate more spaces like the North Pole Community Garden at 909 North Lime. At that site we have several cinderblock compost bins with simple signs that orient visitors to the composting effort, specifically where the can drop off their prep waste, and sometimes, where they can pick up finished compost for their garden. And there’s nothing special about cinder blocks—the piles can be contained in pallet bins, or in something like the container seen here.

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Is there space in your neighborhood for a Community Composting Station? We would love to help neighbors and neighborhood associations set these up all over town. This level of civic engagement, partnering with neighbors to take responsibility for our waste stream, is one of the small acts that can make a big difference. If this is the right intervention for your home or neighborhood, please contact us today for a free half hour consult.