9.24.2020 Season of Change

Season of Change
Fall is a season of change.  GROW has found our organization is no exception to this.  Over summer we planned, and installed three new garden sites.  Two of those gardens are at schools new to our program.  It is energizing to know these spaces will help us connect with over 600 new students this fall.  In August we enthusiastically announced the finalization of our merger with Hillview. After months of dedicated work to bring these projects to fruition and years of passionate work to connect children to healthy food and nature through school gardens and farm camps, Jamie O’Neill announced her resignation. 

Jamie O’Neill, who has been executive director for more than three years, is stepping down to focus on helping her children with online learning and investing more time in her roles as county board supervisor and Rotarian. 
“I am so fortunate to have been part of GROW. I have seen this organization grow from a small group of volunteers to a thriving nonprofit,” O’Neill said.  She also shared that she feels honored to have been part of a great team that has built 10 school gardens, led over 2,000 children in outdoor educational lessons and provided free farm camp opportunities for children in the area.
Jamie O’Neill
Kari Bersagel Braley is serving as GROW’s interim executive director.  Kari has been with GROW since its birth.  Her involvement has been a source of success for over eight years.  As a parent she was part of a group that helped establish GROW’s first garden at State Road Elementary School.  Concerned about how school children learn about their food, where it comes from and how to make healthy choices Kari was moved to act.  Her passion has impacted thousands of children in her time as a volunteer then as one of GROW’s first employees.  Kari has helped cultivate and grow the organization as a Program Director.  We know her passion, experience and dedication will continue to carry our programs into the future with the high quality you have come to expect.  
“I am honored to be able to serve in this role during this transition.  I have seen this organization “grow” throughout its eight years of existence and seen its impact on children and the community from all angles.  

I continue to feel passionate about the work that GROW does connecting children to healthy food and nature and am grateful for the continued support from the community in making this happen.”
Kari Bersagel Braley, Interim Executive Director
The delivery of garden lessons during a pandemic has provided another opportunity for change through challenging our creativity to meet the needs of our community.  Most of the schools we work with have started the school year in a virtual teaching model.  In order to reach students, teach them about their food, diversity and to inspire them to spend time in nature, in a safe way, we have developed virtual lessons.  Each week we provide teachers with a new video lesson.  Our theme this fall is “Cultural Connections”.  We look at diversity in our gardens, our food and our community and how rich our lives are when we embrace this diversity.  Just three weeks into the virtual school year and we have gotten some fantastic feedback.  
Linda, Garden Operations Director – Star of the GROW Fall Lesson Videos
Katherine Erickson, 2nd grade teacher at Hamilton Elementary shared,  “I have been sharing the GROW videos with my class. The interest has been high! The Hmong cooking class was a particular hit. I had a student send me so many heart reactions, it was so fun! She was so proud. She brought her family over to see it. Another student said he wanted his mom to see it so maybe they could make the dinner too. The effort and the time that you put into these videos is appreciated and has helped make connections with my students and with our school. Thank you so much!” 

This is certainly a season of change. With that change comes new opportunities and a chance to reflect on where we are finding success and how we can do more to ensure our programs meet the needs of our community.  By the guidance of our mission, the direction of seasoned leadership and our commitment to ensure children have quality educational experiences connecting them to healthy food and nature we will continue to thrive.