After spending 20 years in Australia, Kass decided to return to her hometown in Eagan to start working as a Garden to Table AmeriCorps member with The Open Door in March 2021. Kass returned to Minnesota in 2020 and started volunteering with the Garden to Table program before joining the AmeriCorps program. In a typical day, Kass leads volunteer shifts at different gardens around Dakota County, fixes garden beds as needed, and supports gardeners who may need some extra assistance.
“When the Coronavirus was happening, I knew I had more to contribute to society in general,” Kass said. “I did it to keep myself busy and to contribute a bit more, and as the year passed, I discovered that there were AmeriCorps positions to commit to for this summer, so I was super pumped.”
While Kass was living in Australia, she owned her own business in which she provided vermicomposting services – turning fruit and vegetable waste into organic fertilizer – to people in her community.
“The thing that got the project started was that I was having a hard time finding a way to compost my own fruit and vegetable waste while living in an apartment,” Kass said. “So I thought how I would love to pay somebody to take that waste, process it, and give me back the resulting fertilizers.”
Six months after that idea, Kass had 220 clients who were using her services. This motivation to do productive work within her own community and her passion for the environment were both factors that have made Kass an excellent Garden to Table staff member for AmeriCorps.
According to Kass, The Open Door’s unique food pantry model and the organization’s dedication to providing healthy food were both “big sellers” in her decision to commit to working in the gardens as more than an occasional volunteer.
“I love the opportunity to contribute more to the world and have that be my job. As much as I know about soil, I had never really grown anything before, so this has been a really fun learning curve for me,” Kass said.
Kass said she has enjoyed all the relationships she has formed with clients, staff, and other AmeriCorps members, but her love of spending time in nature has been her favorite part of working for Garden to Table.
“I would encourage anybody to give it a go, even if it’s just for a short time. It’s a really good life experience coming into contact with so many different humans and so much nature,” Kass said.
Besides spending time in the gardens, Kass’ favorite thing to do is spend time on the beach. Even though Minnesota’s beaches are quite different from the Australia coast, you can usually find Kass out by a pool or a lake with her family.
Thank you for everything you have done this summer, Kass!