My name is Ashley McGall, and I have been an intern at Roots Memphis for this past semester. I am a sophomore at Rhodes College here in Memphis but I have also lived in Denver, Colorado and most recently in Nashville. I am majoring in Anthropology and Sociology at Rhodes and I am hoping to do some kind of non-profit work once I graduate. In addition to this internship, I am an officer with the Rhodes chapter of Amnesty International and am a mentor at Big Brothers/Big Sisters of America at Springdale Elementary School. Though I had no farming experience before joining Roots Memphis aside from growing some terrible tomatoes in a planter in my mom’s backyard, I was interested in the growing movement of urban farming. One of my professors recommended that I apply for this position after we had discussed urban gardens in an anthropology class focusing on Southern foodways. The concept of urban farming was different to me, so I decided to join Roots Memphis to get new experiences and learn firsthand about urban gardening.
Since I joined Roots in early September, I have been selling produce at farmer’s markets as well as helping around the farm itself. I have worked booths both at the Germantown Farmer’s Market and the Local Lynx Market on Rhodes College’s campus using my experience from my fantastic service jobs working at Chick Fil A and Pizza Hut. I also planted, harvested and weeded the beds at the farm and did some small projects such as clearing the grass for a greenhouse to be built. Without any kind of farm experience and no upper-arm strength, I think I did a pretty good job of helping run the farm. The whole time I have been working, I have gotten to be outside in this awesome fall weather which is just the break I need from classroom work.
Farming taught me some pretty important skills like figuring out how to cook vegetables that I have never heard of and recognizing when produce is ready to be picked and eaten. I also honed my weed-wacking and composting skills that I did not even know I had before starting. I had never considered having a vegetable garden at my personal home, and working with Roots has given me the confidence to try to start my own garden plot on my own property. Before working here, I had little interest in organic farming methods or even growing my own food, but I now have a greater appreciation for local and organic farmers who grow the healthiest food that they can for people while strengthening the local economy. Wherever my future career path leads me, I will be sure to keep a few garden beds around.