Bee Queen and Volunteer Extraordinaire are names that you may have heard people use in regards to Linda Bodfish. Linda started volunteering with The Nashville Food Project in 2012 and has been an integral part of TNFP's garden program over the years.
She says it all started six years ago when she had moved to Nashville. Working 70 hours a week was not conducive to building friendships and relationships in a new town so Linda started volunteering in the gardens. She had no garden knowledge aside from planting a few bushes and trees in her yard. Suddenly she became immersed into the community that is The Nashville Food Project. Working alongside Former Garden Director, Christina Bentrup, Linda developed a passion for gardening and growing food and learned many skills along the way. Linda is the beekeeper of the hives in the TNFP gardens. She helped bring bees into the gardens several years ago when she learned of the impact of bees in garden ecosystems and the decline in pollinator bee populations. She attended a training with Christina and they started two bee hives. Today there are five beehives and Linda has four at home. From these hives we collect honey and a healthy bounty of veggies.
Linda does much more than keep the bees happy. She works with the little busy bees at Fall Hamilton Elementary School’s Friday Enrichment class called Sharpen the Saw. During this time she teaches first through fourth graders about nutrition, healthy eating, and gardening. When I asked Linda if she had a background in nutrition or agriculture she laughed. She explained that her background was in business and marketing. “I implement the stuff learned in the garden and kitchen to come up with the curriculum...I’m often educating myself as I’m coming up with the curriculum.”
Linda’s experience volunteering at The Nashville Food Project goes through the full cycle. She serves a meal monthly at Vine Hill Towers, an affordable housing community in Wedgewood-Houston. “I’m at the beginning of the food and the end of the food and then take it to little people and show them how important the food cycle is.” Now the students have a small garden that they grow vegetables in. Watching veggies start from a seed to a transplant and growing into food they can eat is life changing for our youngest community members. It helps connect the dots between the lessons they learn and the food they see on the table. It also shows children how interdependent people are with each other and the natural resources around us.
I asked Linda what aspect of volunteering had the biggest impact on her and she replied “Getting to meet new people. I love talking to people!” She explained that volunteering has given her a chance to build relationships. Time spent in the garden gives people an opportunity to dig deeper and learn about each other. Linda explained that by volunteering she met Christina who introduced her to beekeeping, then Julia who lived 4 streets away. She’s watched interns graduate and become professionals and start families. She’s even had two volunteers meet in her garden project and later get married.
Linda brings her passion for the garden, food and people and uses it in order to bring community members together, share knowledge about the food cycle, and inspire the newest generation of community members to understand the world they live in. We are so thankful for Linda and hope that you get a chance to volunteer with her, too.