Volunteer Interview

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Below is an interview from November 2014 with Lacey Starkey (far left in the photo), one of our most dedicated volunteers and board member.

Enterprising Volunteer helps Urban Farm Project take root

Enterprising Volunteers - An ongoing Hi! series highlighting the volunteer efforts of Humana associates across the enterprise...

Humana Facilitator Lacey Starkey has discovered a harvest of personal and community benefits growing in a garden near her home in Conway, Arkansas.

Originally a 2010 competition between students at three area colleges, the Faulkner County Urban Farm Project is now a collaborative effort between volunteers and the community to celebrate the art, science and process of growing local, organic food. The Farm Project offers programs to teach people the small-scale agricultural process from enriching the soil to starting seeds, transplanting the seedlings, growing organically, and harvesting the final results. Most of the food is donated to a local food pantry, but volunteers who do a little work to help sustain the project’s garden can take some produce home as well.

Lacey serves on the Faulkner County Urban Farm Project’s board of directors, though she’s not the least bit afraid to get her hands dirty. In a conversation with Hi!, she talked about what makes the project worth her time and energy.

Hi!: Does your work for the Farm Project involve watering, tending, or harvesting crops?

LACEY: Yes, since I started tracking my volunteer time with Humana in April of this year, I have logged over 130 hours and most of these hours are in the garden. I’ve done everything from starting seeds in my own house, watering, planting, stirring compost, digging beds, and managing the volunteers who come out to the garden on our work days. (The garden is open to volunteers five days a week.) Also, when kids come to work and we finish and they’re wanting more fun, I sometimes do cartwheels with them..

Hi!: What do you raise?

LACEY: Green beans, peppers, and tomatoes are really great for donations. We also have apple and pear trees. My favorite is the asparagus. It only grows for about 6-8 weeks in the spring and is delicious. We eat it right out of the ground.

Hi!: The garden is open to the public. If someone shows up at the garden during your open hours, what might they do? How would they know what to do?

LACEY: Your tasks really depend on the time of year. In the colder months, we’re adding cover crops and enriching the soil. We had materials donated for hoop houses recently so we hope to have greens through the winter. During the spring, there’s a tremendous amount of prep work to be done to get beds and soil ready for the seedlings we’ll be putting out. And this is an organic garden so there is always weeding to be done. We guide the entire process. No experience needed.

Hi!: What do you personally find the most rewarding about the effort?

LACEY: Supporting local farmers, buying from businesses that also support them, composting scraps that will turn into rich soil, etc. That’s all very important to me. Plus the food tastes better. People are surprised when a freshly dug potato has more flavor than a grocery store potato or they thought they hated greens until they tried ours. Our garden is in the middle of the downtown area behind the library. People see how easy it can be to grow their own food or at least be encouraged to source local food. There is nothing like watching kids - or adults - grab a vegetable they think they wouldn’t like, take a bite, and love it.

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