Gardens aren’t made, they’re grown…

Article Author:
Ariel Allen , CAC AmeriCorps Staff and Alum 2014- 2015

Frank Callo joined CAC AmeriCorps in 2006 as a father, a gardening advocate and recent grad.  Four years later his son, Matt Callo, would literally follow in his dirt-stained footsteps. I sat down with father and son and asked about their experience with CAC AmeriCorps and Beardsley Farm.

After his first year working with the now dissolved CAC AmeriCorps Earth Flag team, Frank Callo served his second term at Beardsley Farm. In 2005, Matt came to Knoxville to live with his dad at 15 and starting spending time after school working side by side at the farm.  Once Matt graduated college, persuaded by the transformative work done by his father, his interest in agriculture and the opportunity to meet lots of beautiful girls, according to Frank, he joined the CAC AmeriCorps Beardsley Farm team in 2012.

During the Callo’s nearly decade long relationship with Beardsley Farm, a lot has changed. Frank’s term-he designed, raised funds, and built a water catchment system that collected over 6,000 gallons of rainwater from the barn roof. Both enthused by water, Matt designed and built contoured garden beds, using the natural landscape of the terrain to create more efficient use of the water collected by his father’s catchment system.

F & M water catchment resized
Frank and Matt with the water catchment system Frank designed.

Through accomplishment big and small, CAC AmeriCorps proved to be a meaningful and rewarding experience for each of them. Providing access and education about healthy food over the generations truly left a mark both on those they served and themselves. I talked with them extensively about the importance of a multi-generational approach to learning- both decidedly agreed this was key in transforming concepts of healthy lifestyles into practice. The most “soulfully satisfying experience” for both was watching young students, excited about food growing right before the eyes, and using that momentum to help shape the way they viewed food and community health.   AmeriCorps brought them a network of like-minded people in the community that expanded their voice as well as their knowledge, and fueled their passion for a still growing movement in Knoxville towards more sustainable agriculture. It helped them find a home in Beardsley Farm- a home both of them are hesitant to leave.

The once small barn now is joined by a greenhouse, a butterfly garden, and a soon to be finished education center that will host interactive cooking classes, nutrition classes, and house the Beardsley Farm staff.  The farm continues to grow over 100 varieties of fruits and vegetables in six acres of Malcolm Martin Park with the help of over 1,000 annual volunteers.  All of these things wouldn’t be possible without the vision and completion of small daily accomplishments contributed over thousands of hours by AmeriCorps members like Frank and Matt.

With poignant and humbling parting words from Frank, I leave you with this: “Learn to become exceedingly pleased with very small accomplishments because these are the ones you are most likely to make most of the time. If you could touch one kid, if you could improve one garden bed… you’ve done a lot.”

To learn more about Beardsley Farm, visit their website, Facebook page, or stop by the farm today where you’ll see Matt hard at work until the end of this month.

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This blog post is a collection of personal reflections and expressions. All opinions represented are those of the author and do not represent the official opinion or views of the Knoxville – Knox County Community Action Committee, CAC AmeriCorps or any other party referenced.