In 2000, high school student Kacie Breault got involved with Seeds of Leadership at Seeds of Solidarity in Orange, MA. She went on to study sustainable agriculture at Sterling College in Craftsbury Common, VT, and graduated in 2008. She is now working on her Masters in Education and Waldorf teacher training at Antioch University New England in Keene, NH. Here Kacie reflects on her experience at Seeds of Solidarity:
I was 15 years old, a sophomore in high school seeking a new after school routine. After school the public transit bus would pick me and other students up at the high schools. It would take 30 minutes to drive past Lake Mattawa, up the bending roads that narrowed and turned to dirt. Old stone walls bordering sugar maples stood on either side of the road, letting us know we were almost there. Seeds of Solidarity (SOS) Farm and Education Center and its SOL (Seeds of Leadership) Garden program is off the beaten path and even off the grid.
Arriving at SOL Garden, we would share healthy snacks and talk about agriculture and other environmental concerns together, then get to work. Like many out-of-school programs, SOL was based on experiential learning, mentoring, and authentic, meaningful relationships. The staff worked alongside us sharing their life stories and listening to ours. They interacted with us as young adults with something to contribute, not as dumb high school students needing to be corrected, and they gave us the opportunity to learn through doing. They allowed us to take on responsibilities and grow not only food but confidence.
I got to know the other students I worked with in the gardens really well, many of whom I would have never taken the time to befriend in school. We built friendships and camaraderie, connections you can only have with people with whom you have weeded, hauled compost, harvested endless amounts of beans, or constructed buildings. Together we sold produce from the SOL garden at the farmers market, where I found myself educating the public about local food, the biodiesel/grease conversion van, GMO’s, and the importance of using alternative fuel and solar energy to limit our dependence on oil.
The work ethic and confidence I gained through SOL garden spilled over into other parts of my life. The following year I got an A+ in my English class, and by senior year I had planned an independent study at the SOS farm to do some season-extending experiments in the greenhouse. I was self-educating and self-motivating. I applied to college and got in! I would be the first in my family to go to college. I chose to study sustainable agriculture. The seed was planted and it took root.
It has been 13 years since the first time I walked down the path to Seeds of Solidarity. When I visit, I am overcome with so many familiar smells and feelings of hope, inspiration, beauty, busting life forces, and love. I have always been drawn back to my hometown to stay involved with the ever-growing education center and farm. SOL Garden instilled a sense of responsibility in me that motivated me to become an educator. Seeds of Solidarity is living proof you can succeed in doing what you love especially when your passion is to live a more sustainable and beautiful life. The SOL garden seed continues to grow through me and sends out new shoots every time I find myself working in the garden, especially with children.
Kacie still considers herself to be an SOL Gardener and always will be. In her words, “an SOL Gardeners’ work is never done.”