The Southern Virginia Botanical Gardens 2020 interns were Allyson Toler, Sydney Toler, J.T. Francis, Jaxton Hart, Bracen Hart, Aiden McGriff-Baldwin, Ethan Terry, Kaitlynn Love and Dylan Love.

The interns helped to keep the gardens in shape, worked on the nature trail and helped to raise vegetables in the Healthy Harvest Community Garden for those in need in the community.

The Healthy Harvest Community Garden’s purpose is to provide nutritious food for local residents.

Sentara Halifax Regional Hospital recognized the need for healthy food to prevent medical conditions and was the driving force in developing the community garden — thanks to Faith O’Neil, Deborah McKnight and Stewart Nelson.

This was the third year of the grant and the workforce development internships were based on a model created by Jonathan Chandler in his work as an agriculture teacher at Halifax County High School.

Students have gotten jobs as a result of their training and experience working out at The Southern Virginia Botanical Gardens.

This project was supported by the Virginia State Office of Rural Health of the Virginia Department of Health.

Meet the interns

  • Ethan Terry is a 10th grade student at Halifax County High School who has enjoyed learning how to mulch, plant vegetables and harvest vegetables. He enjoys being outside and being active. His least favorite activity was pulling weeds.
  • Allyson Toler is an eighth grade student at Halifax Christian School. One of her favorite things to do at the gardens is harvesting and seeing what has grown out of all of the hard work. Her least favorite thing is pulling weeds.
  • Aiden McGriff-Baldwin is an 11th grader at Halifax County High School and he enjoyed learning about planting and maintaining a garden. He liked harvesting and seeing the progress of all of the labor. Weeding was the least favorite part due to how often it had to be done.
  • Jaxton Hart is a senior at Halifax County High School and he has enjoyed interacting with his new friends in a safe and socially distanced environment. He is proud of the positive impact that their hard work has had on the community.
  • Sydney Toler is a 10th grader at Halifax Christian School and she thinks that working at the gardens was a great learning experience. The most challenging part was battling the heat.
  • Bracen Hart, a 10th grade student at Halifax County High School, said “I have really enjoyed my time at the garden because, with the coronavirus running rampant, I haven’t had many things to do with my time. Volunteering at the garden helps me stay productive and fulfilled in this trying time. I have also been able to meet a lot of new people. Working together with them to make the garden thrive has been a blast!”
  • Kaitlynn Love is a senior at Halifax County High School. Her favorite part of gardening is growing watermelons. Her least favorite part is mulching.
  • J.T. Francis is a senior at Halifax County High School. He enjoys working outside and he enjoys using the weed eater.
  • Dylan Love is a ninth grade student at Halifax County High School. His favorite thing to do is cutting the grass. He also enjoyed building the greenhouse.

Students who volunteered hours were Shavar Wilson and Jordan Layne.

Other help

Organizers say it takes many people working together to make this happen. The group extends thanks to Bill Abbott, Darnell Abbott, Agnes Gregory, Carol Nelson, Maria Traynham, Bonita Nelson, Bill McCaleb, David Compton, Bill Short, Cheryl Watts, Jon Chandler, Dan Shaw, Mary Russell, Malinda Crawley, Ellen Duque, Mary Helen Stafford, Terri Panaro, Judy Anderson-Clark, Brenda McDannald, Bianca McGriff, Megan Harris, Don Reese, Ellen Slagle, Bridgett Turner, Maggie Westervelt, Freda Williams and Mitch Conner for their support.

The group also appreciates Jeremy Satterfield and Microsoft for the ChangeX grant to build a greenhouse to extend the growing season. This grant will help the group use vertical gardening for less water usage and more plants per square foot.