By Ashley Blair Smith

Meet Maura Lydon! Maura is one of the interns here at Roanoke Community Garden Association (RCGA) and is currently a student at Hollins University majoring in environmental studies and minoring in creative writing.

Maura is no stranger to growing and tending to plants as her mother has always been an avid gardener. However, it was not until she started college that Maura realized just how much she loved learning about growing plants, so RCGA naturally seemed like the right place for her to do an internship.

“I first saw the Roanoke Community Garden Association on Facebook, and then I spent a day helping them set up the Mountain View garden my freshman year,” Maura said. “I always knew I wanted to do an internship in Roanoke City as part of my major requirements, so I went ahead and just sent the Garden a Facebook message last Fall.”

As an environmental studies student, Maura has learned a lot about sustainable agriculture through her studies. Working at RCGA, she has also learned a lot about the non-profit side of things.

“I’m planning on going into sustainable/urban agriculture after graduation, and my work with RCGA has really opened my eyes to the non-profit side of getting healthy food to people,” Maura said. “It’s a lot more paperwork and a lot less gardening, and I’m really glad I have this experience to build on.”

Sustainable farming has become a lost art and Maura believes that it is of the utmost importance for people to get back to working with the land.

“I think that we (humans) have to re-learn how to live as part of the land, not separate from it, because the days are coming soon when those skills will be more important than ever,” Maura said. “More than that I believe there is a great connection that comes from working with the land to produce food, and I think that people would really benefit from regaining that connection.”

As an intern, Maura is well-rounded and said that she has done a little bit of everything around the office.

“I drafted a sketch of our plan for Morningside Park in SE Roanoke, and I spent an afternoon weeding around the sign at Mountain View,” Maura said. “I’ve searched for grants online, asked for donations of materials from some local companies, and created a custom stamp to help us organize our registration materials. A lot of what I do is create flyers and keep our events page updated, both on Facebook and throughout the local Roanoke event sites such as the Roanoke Times and Playroanoke.”

Maura’s favorite part about working with RCGA is the atmosphere around the office and working with her co-workers.

“[W]e listen to music, make jokes, and get stuff done,” Maura said.

For Maura, working with RCGA and the Roanoke community has not been about what she can gain but what she can give.

“My main hope is that I leave the community, both RCGA and the people it serves, better off than it was when I arrived,” Maura said. “Like I said earlier, I’m really glad I’ve had this experience and I think it will really help me in my professional work as I move out of college into the ‘real world,’ but volunteering for RCGA hasn’t been about getting something useful out of the organization. It’s been about leaving something useful behind.”

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