I was thumbing through a copy of “The New Organic Grower” by Eliot Coleman the other day. (This little book, which was published in 1989, is worth a read, just for attitude!) What caught my eye was: “A good employee who is familiar with your operation is worth three who are not.” Obviously this is true, and it is one of the challenges of working in an educational setting. Students come and go! I have often wished I could just hire a particular student to work with me as a regular employee, but that’s not how it is. They work part time, in between classes. They take time off during exams (first week of May–how inconvenient!). They find jobs “at home” and move away. They graduate!
This year, I have been really fortunate to have great students working with me, and plenty of help. I have three volunteers, and three student employees. A few of them worked with me last year and that is where the work that goes into training a new employee really pays off –when they stay and become the one who is “familiar with your operation”. So, let me introduce them and their answers to the question “What do you like about working in the Gardens/Greenhouse?”
Lauren is a senior from South Kingstown, RI, studying Studio Art with a double minor in Horticulture and Italian (!). She was an intern at the Phipps Conservatory last summer, came back to URI in September offering to volunteer at the Gardens, and was quickly offered a student employee position. Lauren said, “I like working at the greenhouse because it is very rewarding and I learn things every time I’m here.” She is a fearless slayer of insects.
Adam is a junior from Cumberland, RI, studying Horticulture. He came to the Greenhouse looking for a job, any job, decided he liked it, and stayed. Adam said, “I like working at the Garden, because, along with providing work that is rewarding, it gives me a place to “escape” to. Devoid of the typical hustle and bustle sensibilities, it lets me be myself and work with very interesting people who I thoroughly enjoy and respect.” If you see Adam, ask him what’s on the ipod.
Dennise is a senior from Pawtucket, RI, studying Animal Science, pre-Vet. She is a dedicated volunteer who also volunteers with the Biocontrol program here at the greenhouse. Dennise said, “For all the years I’ve spent at URI, the Garden has served as an escape from the madness that surrounds college life. It reminds me to sit still and be patient because, not unlike the foliage surrounding those weathered but sturdy benches, growth takes time. Every seed planted holds a promise of a new beginning, if given the proper care. This is why it is an honor for me to be a part of a process that reminds me to continue to grow despite rough weather. In the classroom, we are constantly urged to “wake up and smell the coffee”, but I’ve found it far more rewarding to “stop and smell the flowers”.” In addition to animals and plants, Dennise loves music and plays the piano.
Ben is a sophomore from South Kingstown, RI, studying Landscape Architecture. He spent last summer working 60-70 hours a week for a high end landscaping company near Albany, NY. Ben said, “I like learning about the care and maintenance of plants in the greenhouse setting. It gives me a lot of real world experience that I don’t find in the classroom.” He is planning to start his own landscape construction business.
Samantha is a junior from Washington, DC, studying Environmental Science. She began volunteering last year and came back again in September to continue. Samantha said, “Volunteering at the Greenhouse is a great way to learn more about plants and how to complete tasks like propagating and pruning. It is also a way for me to decompress and take a break from my stressful week.” Samantha came to Rhode Island hoping for more snowy, wintery winters than in Washington.
As I was beginning this post, another volunteer, Emily, told me that she wouldn’t be able to come in any more until next semester. I know, school comes first, that’s why you are here! So a special thanks to all of you who help us keep the Gardens and Greenhouses looking good and running smoothly.