Notes from the Field

Volunteer Spotlight: Hadas Yanay

Volunteer extraordinaire, Hadas Yanay

Volunteer extraordinaire, Hadas Yanay

As a small organization, The New Garden Society relies on the generosity of volunteers’ time and assistance to operate our programs. Learn more about what motivates one of our invaluable volunteers, Hadas Yanay, to give time to The New Garden Society.

Why do you give your time to volunteer with The New Garden Society? How did you get involved?

The more I learn about and observe the failure of the U.S. criminal justice system to reintegrate incarcerated individuals back into society, the more I am moved to act and to participate in grassroots initiatives aimed at giving inmates the opportunity of a second chance, to become a healthy and contributing member of society. As a beginner farmer interested in combining my interests in agriculture, food access, and social justice work, I attended TNGS’ workshop on Prison Gardens: Strategies for Therapy and Job Training, at the 2015 winter NOFA conference. Listening to co-founders Renee Portonova and Erika Rumbley speak of their bold mission, the challenges faced in implementing a prison garden program, and their resilience to overcome each new obstacle, I was immediately moved to help advance their cause.

What do you do as a volunteer with The New Garden Society?

If you’re reading this blog piece, you may have already seen my posts on Facebook or Twitter, as a I help with TNGS’ social media outreach. If you’re interested in learning more about what we do each week in the prisons, check out our weekly prison field updates on Facebook.  I also volunteer twice/month as a garden instructor in the correctional facilities.  This week, we talked about the process and importance of seed saving and harvested any remaining vegetables before the first frost.  Learning about the benefits of rehabilitative programming, specifically in the field of horticulture or agriculture is another way I volunteer by conducting a literature review, to help support grant proposals.

What do you look forward to each time you volunteer? What are some of the highlights?

As much as I can learn from researching the benefits of horticulture therapy and rehabilitative programming on prison inmates, it does not compare to the experience of working directly with the participants in the garden, and sharing in their thirst for knowledge and more experience.  I look forward to participants supporting each other in the garden, complimenting each other's tasks, hearing their observations which reflect their attention and ownership over the garden.  And it is always encouraging to hear the participants' gratitude: “thanks for taking the time,” one inmate said to me on Wednesday.

What have you gained from your volunteer experience?

Since my first time entering and leaving the prison, my understanding of freedom has shifted. Now, as I run an errand, walk to the cafe to buy a coffee, if I so desire, I am struck with a feeling, reminding me of what it means to be isolated or limited to one space.  It is not so much a feeling of sympathy or even empathy for those not able to move about freely, but more of a reminder of what is really granted when one is free to move about in his or her daily life.

How do you spend your time when your not volunteering with The New Garden Society?

When I am not volunteering for TNGS, I work as a farmer for Green City Growers, an urban farming companies that designs, installs, and maintains urban farms.  My work ranges from managing a rooftop farm on top of a supermarket or restaurant to teaching adult or youth garden class, discussing everything from composting and soil science, pest management, to seed saving.  If I'm not working, you might find me experimenting in the kitchen to preserve my harvest, planning a new hike, or singing in my very first band—we just started, so you won't be hearing us anytime soon.

Interested in volunteering with us?  Fill out our short volunteer application to let us know!