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Nathan Ballantine is a part food gardener, part educator, part community food organizer. From creating raised vegetable gardens, planting fruit trees, installing herb gardens, and developing edible landscapes, to supporting community and school gardens, offering food gardening workshops, and volunteering and fundraising for local food security initiatives, he is an urban agricultural social entrepreneur.
My major Integrative Studies and I designed and carried out my individualized major was “Community Organizing and Leadership” I spent three years electric crew and two years on the Landscaping Crew with a focus on the Eco Dorm Garden
Sevice: Youth Mentoring. Summer camps. Volunteered with a church in town with middle school aged students. Grace Covenant Presbyterian church and a fair amount of volunteer work @ Montreat (served as a small group leader). Also for the Food Pantry in Swannanoa which overseen by the Swannanoa Valley Christian Ministries. At Grace I facilitated a small group of 25 to 30 kids, engaging them with their faith I a meaningful way. I facilitated an open space to ask tough questions about their lives and what things meant. I also volunteered with Boarder Links.
When I graduated I worked the summer at Glacier National Park driving a 1936 convertible tour bus and giving tours about the mountains and the history. Then I traveled back South to the boarder where I had studied with Boarder Links when I was a student at Warren Wilson and stayed with my old host family and volunteered for a month in Tuscon and Southern Arizona. Helped people who were destitute in the desert. We did a lot of “water runs” and first aid runs for folks who are migratory for economic reasons. There is 60 to 80 miles and they run out of water and 100s of people. This is through Human Boarders and they had a relationship with Homeland Security.
In Nogales I worked at a soup kitchen run by some nuns. 1,000 of people are being deported with nothing. Feeding people as best they could. Feeding center for deportees and kids whose parents wrok in the factories in the Free Trade Zone in Nogales.
Then I moved back to Tallahassee, which is where I am from. Having studied organizing and social movements, I wanted to be able to contribute in a significant way. I spent a year dong projects and volunteer opportunities while scraping together to make it work. I got really rooted in my neighborhood. A neighborhood teacher could not stop in time and hit and killed a child and this caused a lot of pain. I organized a candle light walk in remembrance of this boy from the boy’s house to the teacher’s house. I volunteered for a month with a church and taught Sunday School class for the 8th graders. I hosted a garden workshop at my house for the neighbors. About 30 folks came to that. I got my old high school teachers to let IMMOKALEE workers speak at my former high school. I spent a month in Philly and a month in NYC doing volunteer work.
Then I needed some money so I started a social enterprise that I call Tallahassee Food Garden. This has provided a platform to for me to earn a living, doing something I love.
I would not be doing what I’m doing now, if I hadn’t gone to Warren Wilson College. Warren Wilson provided a space to learn on my own and through the structure of classes, the work program and service.
When I worked on the Landscaping Crew we created an edible landscape and by my second year I was the crew leader. It was conferred on me that event if I didn’t know it all, I knew enough to get by and keep going and keep learning. Without that experience I wouldn’t have thought about starting my own organization and doing gardening as a food venture. WWC helped me to have the confidence to think I could try something like this on my own. Whether through the environmental field, help focus, community… interest and passion. I am able to connect the different folks in a movement and Warren Wilson was huge in enabling me to do what I am doing.