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Celebrating Our Volunteers
Gardening for Community Well-Being
By Eliana Meyer, Multimedia Communications Strategist at WellPower
From the first moment I met Rick Phillips, it was clear how at-ease he is volunteering on the Dahlia Campus for Health & Well-Being’s Market Farm and Aquaponics Greenhouse. Munching on an apple and prepared with sun hat, water bottle and farm clothes, he seems ready for any task requested of him.
Rick has been volunteering at Dahlia Campus since January 2020, and has shown an unwavering commitment to the land, plants and people providing for the Northeast Park Hill community, even in the face of a global pandemic.
While showing me around the farm and greenhouse, he lists off his duties as a long-time volunteer – everything from cleaning the floating rafts in the greenhouse and catching fish in the water tanks to seemingly-endless weeding on the in-ground farm.
A Day in the Life
Rick typically spends two days a week volunteering at Dahlia Campus – three hours a day in the greenhouse and three hours a day on the farm.
“I love the physical parts of this work because it’s good for my well-being and I know my efforts help this neighborhood,” he says as he grabs a net on a pole and demonstrates how to catch and transfer fish from one tank to another. “It’s rewarding to see the work I do benefit this community. It’s basically the mission of this farm and greenhouse to provide fresh, healthy food for the residents of Northeast Park Hill. I love that my effort impacts that mission.”
Dahlia Campus for Health & Well-Being was designed in collaboration with the residents of Northeast Park Hill to fit the needs of the community. Before the campus opened, the neighborhood was considered a food desert — an area severely lacking in fresh produce. Through these combined efforts, Dahlia Campus’ in-ground farm and aquaponics greenhouse have filled vital gaps in well-being.
After getting splashed by a fish determined to evade the net, Rick leads me to another part of the greenhouse, where plants of varying sizes are nestled on floating styrofoam rafts. Each plant is secure in its own space on the raft, with roots touching the water below. He shows me all sorts of leafy greens in varying stages of growth – from seed trays to kale ready for harvesting.
“One of the things I do in the greenhouse is plant seeds in their germination trays,” he says. “Usually, there are 12 or so trays to fill with all kinds of seeds and plants. I love to go back over there every week to see the trays that I planted and watch the little plants get taller and taller. I love seeing how the plants grow, both inside the greenhouse and on the farm.”
He chuckles and adds, “The weeding gets a little tedious though.”