Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Work trade for plants, produce or education

For the past five years, I've been creating gardens at my home site in part to serve as a demonstration area for M R Gardens customers—a place for you to get ideas, learn new techniques and work with an experienced grower. My hope is that as you participate in the establishment of the Gardens, you'll feel like a piece of this place is yours.

Photo of M R Gardens, by Vickie Burick

Often times, the best way to learn about gardening is by doing. The memories of our actions are embedded in our bodies so that undertaking these tasks later on becomes easy. With my "Work for Produce, Plants or Education" program, you can gain new skills, try out something new that you're curious about, or just enjoy the physical activity in the outdoors.

As we work together, tidbits of information seep into conversation that you otherwise might not think to ask me. You can gain from my unique approach to gardening that I've developed throughout my interesting educational path. Permaculture heavily influenced me at an early stage in my training, and the philosophy stuck with me as I researched and experimented with various scales of sustainable agriculture, learned from diversified farmers, gained a foundation in horticulture and landscaping from the local community college, and perfected my own style of no-till gardening that combines the methods of several of my teachers throughout the country.

This year at M R Gardens, you can participate in installing and maintaining:
  • All types of vegetables, culinary and medicinal herbs, and beneficial flowers;
  • Perennial edibles such as asparagus;
  • Native/woody edibles such as paw paw and persimmons;
  • Groundcovers;
  • Native herbaceous perennials;
  • Dwarf fruit trees;
  • Rain gardens;
  • Bamboo fencing for critter control;
  • Patio gardens;
  • and, with luck, a passive solar greenhouse.

If you tell me what you're most interested in learning, I'll include you in activities that are best suited for you. I try to adjust my tasks on the day my clients help out depending if they like active, physical work like mulching or slower, meditative tasks like seeding.

In return for your work, you can choose between seedlings, produce, or a tutorial on something in particular you want to learn about. If you have specific skills that I'm in need of (such as repairs, construction, plumbing and mechanics) then I'll increase my end of the barter. These work exchanges often lead to paid opportunities.

Contact me at or 828.333.4151 and we'll discuss work times that are good for both of us.

UPDATE OCTOBER 2020: Our farm has expanded quite a bit since this article was posted. Hands-on educational activities are generally reserved for students of our programs. However, if we're not currently offering a group program, we may have opportunities for you. We ask potential volunteers to take our farm tour, which includes a get-to-know-you interview. This opportunity is best suited for those who have gardened for at least five years, or have worked full-time at a small farm for one year, or have spent a lot of time outdoors such as taking extended backpacking trips. Volunteers should be invested in seeing our small farm thrive, understanding our resources are often limited. Thanks!