Heather and Emma, WSC AmeriCorps members serving with Hood Canal Salmon Enhancement Group in Belfair, WA

My name is Emma and I have been serving as Americorps Sustainability Coordinator at the Hood Canal Salmon Enhancement Group (HCSEG) in Belfair, Washington for the past six months. This past quarter at the Salmon Center has been a busy one! From finishing up Salmon in the Classroom, starting our Food and Nutrition Program, a visit from our Program Coordinator, Erika Jenkins, and building our accessible garden bed, every day has been filled with rewarding work.

The accessible garden, our latest addition to the U-Pick garden at Farm at Water’s Edge, has been one of our biggest hurdles and accomplishments this quarter. A past Americorps member was able to secure a grant from the Whole Kids Foundation to build raised garden beds in our garden so that people with disabilities would be able to easily access our pay-by-donation U-Pick garden.

This bed, although a seemingly simple project, was not an easy feat! After carefully planning our materials and design for months, to assure it would comply with both organic and ADA regulations, we were finally ready to start building. But this type of construction would require real manpower. To be able to weed whack a 30x30ft section of bush grass, dig deep trenches for the walkways, carry hundreds of concrete blocks, and haul 19 tons of gravel, we needed a dedicated and enthusiastic group of volunteers to assist. Who better than the Cadets at the Washington Youth Academy in Bremerton, Washington? On one sunny Saturday in February, 53 cadets came to the Salmon Center equipped with shovels, rakes, and pickaxes to assist in this large project. The cadets were attentive and followed directions eagerly and by the end of the day we had the pathways dug out and the raised garden bed built! However, we still needed to put gravel in the pathways.

With the cadets gone, in the next couple of weeks we relied on the women from Mission Creek Corrections Center, a group that comes bi-weekly to the farm to assist with projects in the garden, to continue this hard work and transport the gravel from a large pile in the back of the property to the paths of our accessible garden.

Without the help of our dedicated volunteers, this project would not have been accomplished as easily as it was. As an Americorps member I am constantly amazed by the time and dedication that our volunteers put into this organization. I have also become aware of the huge necessity to engage with the local community as a way to recruit volunteers, as without them this organization would not run as smoothly as it does. By working with volunteers in our community and educating them on the connection between people, our garden, and salmon habitat restoration, both parties leave with a new appreciation for each other and our role in the ecosystem.

WSC AmeriCorps member Heather and community volunteers serving at Hood Canal Salmon Enhancement group in Belfair, WA