The Art of Cultivation

By Ashley Hillman

Community Impact Director

The tomatoes in my garden are FINALLY starting to ripen! Why does it always seem to take so much longer than expected from the time you put the small starts into the ground to the day the juicy, bright red fruit bursts in your mouth?!

Last night while picking tomatoes in the garden, I realized that many of the plants I set into the ground produced fruit quite different from what I expected them to produce. There were various shapes, sizes, colors, and yes, even a plant that has some sort of fungus or disease. But you plant the seeds and starts nonetheless. Then, you wait (not always patiently), while watering, weeding, readjusting, stabilizing, etc. in anticipation for the harvest.

I had a “lightbulb moment” last night in the garden, thinking about the collective impact work we are immersed in at UWSL. I tend to be a type A (immediate results type of person), so WAITING for tangible results is often a difficult thing for me. Whether it’s waiting for tomatoes to grow or waiting for outcomes and success in community-based work–all of it takes time; and, the end result may not always be the expected result.  It may be necessary to change course midway with various strategies or cultivation techniques, but as long as I’m working toward an end goal, I can rest assured when I close my eyes at the end of the day.

And yes, there will undoubtedly be external forces to throw obstacles in the way, but you push on! You celebrate the small successes along the way whether it’s a small tomato that ripens before the rest or some really outstanding 3rd grade reading scores as a result of a reading intervention. And maybe those tomatoes are a deep purple/red color instead of the bright red you expected, or maybe while focusing energy on kindergarten readiness, the rate of childhood diabetes in the community decreases! Regardless, I put on my gloves and tend the garden, in exciting anticipation for the end result.

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