In his several weeks at GrowGood, 20-year-old Keenan Rohlf says, he was struck by the idea that “nothing is wasted. We waste so little, as little as possible.”

Rohlf, one of a dozen Americorps volunteers who spent time on the farm in the fall, says it was working to make compost that made that so apparent. 

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In the three months that GrowGood’s first group of Americorps volunteers worked, they spent a lot of time rescuing produce from the nearby agency Help the Children. The volunteers took fruit and vegetables that otherwise would go to landfills and used that to build compost piles on the farm.

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In January, GrowGood’s second Americorps cohort began work. Americorps can be likened to a domestic Peace Corps in which people ages 18 to 24 work for most of year at sites that need them. The young people at GrowGood also work at the Bell Shelter kitchen and warehouse; the first group also was deployed to Ventura to help firefighters and people evacuated from their homes because of wildfires.

The Bell Shelter applied to be an Americorps site in part to increase the Salvation Army’s emergency resources, which are based there, says Nick Nguyen, the emergency disaster services and service extension director.

Anyone walking through the gate at the farm can see the compost operation immediately on the left. Along with food scraps, compost piles are made with mulch donated by tree trimmers and leaves and plant scraps from the farm. Any scent from the piles generally is the pleasant smell of the tree mulch.

In addition to the compost, the volunteers got experience at various farm jobs.

“I liked pretty much everything,” says Rohlf, who is from Hays, KS, and was happy despite a few allergy eruptions during work. “I like being outdoors. I really dislike being indoors. I feel cramped.”

Moira Kisch, 23, who is from Clinton, NJ, is the team leader. She said she was impressed by GrowGood’s connections to the Bell Shelter. “The idea of growing food for yourself is great.”

“When you are working with nature, you can see what you are doing as metaphors for everything in life,” Rohlf says. Compost, for example. “That’s how the world works.”

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