Notes from the Field

Volunteer Spotlight: Sara Riegler

In March 2016,  The New Garden Society welcomed Sara Riegler as a volunteer horticulture educator to share her extensive experience and knowledge in sustainable agriculture with our students. Learn more about what motivates Sara to give time to The New Garden Society.

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

I got involved with TNGS because I am passionate about agricultural work being used as a tool for both physical and mental healing and wellness, connecting a person to their own body and mind, as well as to their greater community. Working with plants has been such a force for good in my own life and I want to share this work with people who may not otherwise come across it. I am passionate also about the vocational training side of this work, and about providing people with adequate training in horticultural skills to give them the option of working in this field - in the case of the prison population, upon their release.

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

I spend an average of two days per month working with the participants at the Bridgewater State Hospital gardening program. They have quite a large garden, with a wide variety of vegetables, herbs, flowers, and some fruit, and I assist them in tending to it. The garden is lead by the participants, and I am there to answer their questions and guide them in their work if they are uncertain of what to do or how to do it.

What do you look forward to when you volunteer?

I really look forward to relating with the participants. I love to hear their perspective on the garden, the plants, and on life in general. Our life experiences have been so different up until this point, and I so appreciate the ways in which the plants give us common ground -- we can all experience how incredibly delicious a fresh-picked strawberry is! I love seeing how invested they are in the garden and the ways in which it brings them joy, connects them with their pasts, and allows them to be fully present, in the sunshine (or rain...or snow…).

What have you gained from your volunteer experience?

I have gained a new perspective on prison populations and the value of creating and cultivating healthy, life-giving spaces for inmates. I have loved getting to know the inmates and working together to create something beautiful within the prison.