The first stop on my list of sustainable places to visit was the Riverview Gardens in Appleton.
Embarking early (for summer) in the morning, I took an embarrassingly long time figuring out how and where to enter the gardens; newly renovated from what used to be Riverview Country Club’s golf course, the gardens span across over 70 acres of land and boast winding trails throughout. Once on the trail, I received directions to the main building from one of the ten or so friendly volunteers working along the way. Eventually, I found my way to what seemed to be the Central Station for garden workers and volunteers.
Three things struck me when I finally reached the main building. First, how busy it was; for a Tuesday morning, there was an impressive number of team members bustling about. Second, everyone had a visibly dedicated work ethic; volunteers who weren’t already working on a project enthusiastically sought out new work to do and those already assigned to a task were focused and concentrated. Third, the sheer amount of fresh produce surrounding me was equally impressive and overwhelming.
I found Oren Jakobson, Riverview Gardens’ manager, among radishes and Asian Greens.
“In the last 12 months we’ve had over a thousand people come out and volunteer to make all of this happen,” says Jakobson.
Riverview, a financially self-supporting outreach program based out of an organically managed farm and park-space, not only provides opportunities for community members to get involved, it offers people experiencing homelessness and poverty a chance to gain work experience and positive social engagement.
“We’re focusing on sustainable community development because it is an effective way of doing things and has solely positive impacts on the community,” says Jakobson, “From our perspective, there’s no other way to do it.”
Volunteers who come to work at the Gardens can do everything from digging and hauling brush to planting and pulling weeds. Stuart Bultman, Appleton North Junior and regular volunteer, does just that every Saturday.
“I love working with my hands, getting some nice outdoor time, and exercising a bit,” says Bultman, “But most of all, I love seeing things grow and change because of me.”
Like many other Riverview workers, Bultman volunteers his time because he believes it is making a difference to the environment.
“Growing up in New Hampshire…I grew to love the beauty of [woods and rivers] and wish to see them maintained and protected,” Bultman says, “Sustainability is, and always has been, a priority for me.”
Riverview holds volunteer orientation sessions most Saturdays at 2pm, along with some weekday afternoons. For more information on how to get involved, visit the Riverview Gardens Volunteer Page.