By: Kate Bovarnick
It’s been six years since Terrance Walker started working at Common Ground. For most people that would be a landmark, but for the 20- year-old Walker, he’s barely fazed by the time that has passed. “I love Common Ground, I’ve always loved Common Ground. I volunteered here even when I wasn’t working,” gushed Walker.
Common Ground has always aimed to cultivate powerful leaders and successful college students, not to train a new generation of farmers. In that sense, Terrance is an exceptional alumnus — he’s definitely grown into a leader, and is thriving in college, but is one of just a handful of graduates who have decided that farming is his life’s work. He first started working for Common Ground when he became a student here. At 14 Walker was assigned to the farm crew through Green Jobs Corp, and instantly fell in love with sustainable agriculture. “I have always had a passion for food. But Common Ground really taught me about where food comes from, and the important role farmers play in the food cycle,” explained Walker. Over the years he has occupied several different roles through Green Jobs Corp, from working in the youth crew doing onsite maintenance, to planting and surveying urban street trees with Yale’s Urban Resource Initiative — but he was always drawn most to the work of growing food. Now in his second year at Naugatuck Valley Community College studying horticulture, Walker has applied his love of food and knowledge of farming to what he hopes will become his life long career.
As Walker continues to work towards a degree, he has found himself in a leadership role on the farm. This fall Walker began leading a group of students who help maintain our production gardens, the same job placement that helped him realize his passion for agriculture six years ago. “I never wanted to be a leader in school. I always worked really hard, but I didn’t want to have to lead other people,” said Walker. And yet he has stepped up to lead a crew of five students, along with aiding classes that use the garden as part of their curriculum, and having responsibility for harvesting and planting the food.
“It’s cool getting to work with the students, because I can relate to them and give them advice about being a student at Common Ground. Working with the students makes me want to be a leader and a role model,” Walker went on to explain. Amongst the students Walker is helping to lead is his own brother, sophomore Tyrone Walker, who this year won a school-wide POWER award for his hard work and dedication on the farm.
Walker’s commitment to Common Ground was proven once again this past fall when he donated to Common Ground’s Capital Campaign. “I think that expanding the school is ultimately a good thing. I love the size of school and community, and with the new building there’s a chance it may loose some of the closeness. But I think the more people that can experience this place the better,” said Walker.
Walker’s position at Common Ground ends with the season, and on November 24th he will go back to being an illustrious alumnus. But he said his experience of working at Common Ground will always be with him. “One of my favorite things about working here is interacting with the community on Open Farm Days. Hearing why people love Common Ground is so special, and now not only can I say I went to school here, I can say I worked here and helped make it what it is,” explained Walker. “I’ll definitely be back to volunteer,” Walker concluded as he picked up a bag of unwashed spinach and walked up the hill from the farm he knows so well.