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!