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Snow, Compost, Hope

By Katie Townsend, AOLC Urban Farm Educator


My Dear Students,


It is New Year’s Eve. Before I revel the night away my habit is to revisit the year. Sometimes I retrace my footsteps. I like to stand one last time in the places I have labored and dreamed. So I find myself at the sleeping garden we have tended together. Tiny snowflakes melt into blackened soil. We have done our part and nature is about to do her rejuvenating work. Snow, compost and hope all go together. You will see come April.


Dan Janssen, a University Extension Educator in southeastern Nebraska, said it simply. "Snow cover makes winter complete.” The benefit of snow is that it can act as a warm blanket for plant life. Isn’t that funny because it makes us shiver. Our chives, mint and cover crops are snuggling in snow. The roots are protected from extremes. The same protection prevents soil buckling from freezing and thawing. A steady temperature is like an anchor keeping the stems rooted. Snow is really good. To top it off, it conserves water and releases it a little at a time. I wish for a great northerly and some more white stuff to bless this land.


Damp autumn days made our organic fertilizer sticky and heavy to our shovels. I am sure you all had some words for me (which I appreciate you kept to yourselves) . Thank you for not ruining the ceremonial giving of presents to our rocky, clay -impacted  gardens. The shredded leaves, plant matter and a bit of dung will increase the growing potential next spring. The benefits of soil amendment are huge. Just think of more rainwater available to thirsty roots and the effects of salts and toxins being reduced. The satisfaction of doing the right thing is pretty big too. We are replacing with interest what we have taken from the land in growing our vegetables.


Let us not neglect to reflect on what living close to the earth teaches us. There are experiences, challenges and coldness that snow on us. We cannot avoid our personal winters. What if the snowy times are setting us up to succeed. The restrictions are protecting us. The meager resources that slowly drip into our hands are steadily watering growth and providing safe- keeping from the traps of quick or illegal gain. Likewise could the gooey compost in our lives be super vitamins to our character and build our work ethic? I hope so. Cling to the hope of a green spring in southwest Rockford and in yourselves.


Sincerely your teacher and fellow learner,

Katie Townsend


Katie works with students in the Eco-Advocates program, an urban agriculture and vocational preparatory program for young adults facing barriers to employment in Rockford. Eco-Advocates is coordinated by Comprehensive Community Solutions (CCS) and training is offered by AOLC. Eco-Advocates is a member of the Learning Center's Roots & Wings urban agriculture network in Rockford.


Katie with Eco-Advocates