SLT Narrative 2017

This SLT, I was involved in the Vulnerable Pollinator project. We had the objectives of learning more about pollinators, specifically bees, raising awareness, planting small trees and shrubs for better nutrition/ living conditions, and overall contributing to the wellbe(e)ing of our pollinators. During this term, we had five community partners. We met with Bill Mares, the president of the Vermont Beekeeper’s Association, who is a longtime beekeeper himself and we got to see his apiary. This was the most contact we had with actual living bees throughout the entire term, so it was very valuable and provided a firsthand perspective on the insects we were attempting to help. We also were able to get a presentation by Samantha Alger and Alex Burnham, two UVM phD candidates who are studying diseases in the honeybee population, and also spearheading the National Bee Survey in Vermont. They talked about challenges bees are facing right now and gave us a good overview of the reasons why bees are dying so much more quickly now than they were 100 years ago. As well as these partners, we also worked with two farmers from different farms in the area to help cultivate healthy habitats and food systems for pollinators, as well as to create our final project, a recycled beehive that will serve as an informational display. One was named Jon Turner, a former marine who found solace in agriculture and owns Wild Roots Farm in Bristol, Vermont. The other was John Hayden, a multilingual lacrosse aficionado who runs The Farm Between in Jeffersonville. Even though this term was short and we may not have made a huge lasting impact on the state of the bee population, we still accomplished some great things. Namely, we showed our community partners, members of other SLT groups, and everyone who came to the final exhibition that this generation is interested in and cares about what is going on with our farming systems and our environment as a whole. We also created a lasting display of our knowledge that will be housed at The Farm Between so everyone who goes there will be able to take away the same knowledge we did as a result of this project.

This term had very few low points for me. I am largely an independent worker, so getting into a group setting was unfamiliar but a welcome and necessary change. Also, as someone who likes to know everything there is to know about the topic at hand, this was cool because I got to take charge of finding out new things about the topic that could actually be useful for the group, and in real life. I appreciated the depth of knowledge that our community partners brought to us and I know that I will keep it in mind as I move through my life and connect it to other ideas in the future. One highlight I can remember, although spread through a few different days, was the pure joy I felt while working outside with plants. Even though I try to get outside as much as I can, it usually isn’t with my classmates during school hours, and that felt special and new. Another significant experience I think we can all attest to, was one particular quote from Jon Turner. On the first day we went to his farm, he showed us his beehive that had just been upset by a bear. He ended up making an impromptu, passion fueled speech including the line “…so find your niche and protect it, and do what you can to save the world.” That spoke deeply to many members of our group.

I appreciated the group that we had, as I felt connected to many of the members, and it allowed me to get to know the others more and differently. Working with someone in a classroom is very different than working with them in the field and it was interesting to see how peoples skills and weaknesses translated. I think I personally was a valuable addition to this group. My skills in general are much more well-suited to working in a hands on environment, preferably outdoors. This project catered to both of those interests. Although I can be overly strong willed at times, I was able to bring a positive and consistently hardworking spirit to the group. I was invested in this project, and I am not one to shy away from hard hands on work. I tried triangulating at Wild Roots, practiced planting trees, and tackled designing a full side of the final beehive by myself. I also researched many different aspects of the presentation not only my own, so I had information to share.

I think I learned so much during this project because the work we were doing was directly related to an important cause that I care about. All of the research was necessary, whereas in some other projects a large portion is arbitrary. Also, there were obvious connections throughout the project. We got to think about pollinators in many different contexts and from many different perspectives so it made the entire pool of knowledge that we gained much more comprehensive, diverse, and of course, interesting. If I were to change one thing, I would work on making sure that there was a more definitive and well distributed schedule for the weeks. Also, I would have appreciated a little more say in the project that we actually ended up doing. Once we voted on doing a bee project, it felt like that was the end of the choice that we got. I realise that there are only so many partners we could work with, and that it might take a long time to come to a consensus, but I think a short discussion regarding the scale of the project we were hoping to take on, or the type of interactions we were hoping to have with community partners could have been useful. I am aware that some people expected we would be spending a lot more time actually working with bees and even though I am happy with how our project turned out, I feel as though maybe more communication was in order.


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