Howdy! Okay, even though I am from Nashville, I only use that word when I’m really excited to greet someone… such as the people of South Whidbey!
My name is Mechelle (you can call me Mech or “meesh”), and I’m here as one of the new apprentices for the Good Cheer Garden, the Westgarden at Whidbey Institute, and other projects around the island. I’m living at the Whidbey Institute in what I like to think is a luxurious 7×10 woodland condo, complete with a chic outdoor kitchen and an enormous backyard. You may see me around on a newly loaned yellow mountain bike (thanks loaners!), so don’t be afraid to say “howdy!” I would love to get to know the people of this beautiful community.
Perhaps you’d like to know a little about myself before you risk your reputation with a word like “howdy,” so I’ll give you a little background. I’m primarily a student. Whether I’m learning from the Earth, the critters, other people, or experiences, I think of life as one big experiment with a multitude of lessons we discover in the process. That said, I have gained much of my knowledge from this thing called “school.” I earned a B.A. in Environmental Sociology from the University of Tennessee in Knoxville and studied French and African Studies along the way. While in school, I became fascinated with the idea of feeding, supporting and enhancing community through growing food, so I worked as an intern at UT Organics, and again after school at a small farm called Broadened Horizons Organic. I’ve been incredibly lucky with my learning experiences so far, and it seems I’ve gotten lucky again! I look forward to speaking with you all and getting started with this unique opportunity.
November 2014 UPDATE:
After working and living on Whidbey, I moved to quite the contrast– Vermont. For my going-away present, actually, some of the folks at the Whidbey Institute got me a nice pair of gloves (thanks y’all)! In Vermont, I worked as a farm crew member for a year at Farm and Wilderness summer camps. I learned so much about animals, and simultaneously fell in love with animal husbandry. Goats, sheep, alpaca, cows, chickens, ducks, rabbits, and pigs. The farm was diverse and full. I worked at the young women’s camp there and was able to oversee a garden and several animals at the camp. From there, I decided I wanted to focus more intently on farm education, so I applied to be a teacher-in-residence at Slide Ranch in California (why stop coast hopping?). I found out I got the job as I was driving back to Nashville from Vermont. Before I knew it, I found myself on Highway 1 riding out to the ranch and I’ve been here since January 2014. Here at Slide, I’ve been teaching young folks (PreK-12th) about farming, wild lands, tide pools, food justice, history of the land, and even interpersonal skills. What a journey it’s been! I’ve learned countless lessons about not only teaching, but also community living, non-profit management, and communication. It’s been quite the power year for me, and I’m thankful for such a moving, shaking, and solidifying experience. Next steps are unsure, but I am ready to have more responsibility in farm education, animal husbandry, or both!