June 13, 2008

Volunteering at Fairchild

whitman tropical fruit pavilion fairchild tropical botanic gardenWhitman Tropical Fruit Pavilion at Fairchild

Today I signed up for volunteering at Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden, one of my favorite places in Miami.

The garden isn’t just a beautiful place, but also a non-profit that operates as an international center for the scientific study and conservation of tropical plants. During the cooler months, Fairchild offers an art season; this year featured outdoor sculptures by Botero, Lichtenstein and Chihuly.

I will start next week volunteering at the tropical fruit pavilion but first I’ll have the chance to take an all-day basic botany class. Mid-July, I’ll be working at the Mango Festival.

Helping with the fruit section of the park will be challenging because it’s so hot in the summer months. A lot of it will be routine work: weeding, raking leaves, pruning, fertilizing and so on. But some of it will involve grafting and propagating, as well as interacting with guests and talking about tropical fruits and plants. I hope to learn a lot about fruits like durian, jackfruit, malay apple, mangosteen, carambola, guava, pineapple and many more.

I don’t mind the grunt work because I’m doing a lot of writing right now so the hands-on activity is a wonderful way to get in touch with nature and do something non-cerebral. For me, gardening is always meditative and peaceful. I also love the fact that I can give back to the community and contribute to a non-profit while doing something that’s personally rewarding.

One of the great things about living here is that you can garden year-round. We don’t have drastic seasonal changes like up north, but we do have many subtle changes, blooming periods and microclimates that you come to appreciate the more involved you get in horticulture.

The garden’s volunteering community seems to be like one big family, so I look forward to getting to know everyone. Last year, 550 volunteers contributed a total of 65,000 hours!

I also expressed interest in working at the nursery facility and with children’s education programs in the future.

There’s a lifetime of rewarding experiences to look forward to!

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