Gun Violence and The Next Right Thing by Ryan Koch

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This past Sunday morning our country was grieving, processing the reality of even more gun violence, more victims, more vigils. My daughter and I walked to church and the events in Dayton and El Paso were very much on my mind. Then I saw a man walking through the North Pole Community Garden. He carried a medium-sized ceramic bowl full of something. I quickly surmised that he was putting kitchen waste into a Community Composting Station there on the fence line near our raised bed garden. We got to talking as he walked back home. His family was new in town, living about a block away, and he was glad to have a spot to take his compostable things. I told him how glad I was to see the thing being used, and I welcomed him to town. We parted ways.

Of course, community composting will not stop gun violence. These two things may only be linked for me because I care about them both, a lot. Bur we are all processing our grief, lamenting what is. At some point along the healing path, one appreciates one’s own capacity to contribute again, to look around and to offer help to others. It may be a song, or a mural, or some community project. I believe that gardening and composting together creates opportunities for human connection, which is a profoundly healing force. We can share work and share food while we heal our land, and heal ourselves. I believe that the cycle of violence will not overcome the cycle of healing, which is cultivated and watered by small acts of kindness and sacrifice. We cannot mend our country’s divisions overnight, but we can do the next right thing. And the next right thing will help us cling to hope in a time of darkness.

This bin is open and ready for your food waste. Just visit the North Pole Community Garden at 909 North Limestone, a space owned by the NoLi CDC which we help maintain.

This bin is open and ready for your food waste. Just visit the North Pole Community Garden at 909 North Limestone, a space owned by the NoLi CDC which we help maintain.


Love One Thing by Ryan Koch

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Today I will rise and I will love one thing

stubbornly,

fully.

I will love one thing that cannot return my love,

one thing that will not say thank you.

I will love one thing that officially does not matter,

one thing that is not news-worthy.

I will love one thing quietly,

the way the fog waters lettuce leaves.

And this will change nothing.

This will rescue no one,

except,

possibly,

myself.

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!