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Reflecting on the Senior Fellowship: Impact, Ownership, and Garden Metaphors

By Anna Tracht, Phase II Fellow

This week marks the start of my 5th month at the Highland Center, in Monterey, VA, as their Food Programs Coordinator; it feels like the right time to pause and reflect on the work I’ve been doing through my Senior Fellowship at the Center. From day one, I’ve been entrusted with more responsibility than I’ve ever had in a job. In return, I’ve become truly invested in my programs and projects.

Much of the past four months has been spent organizing a Culinary and Hospitality Internship, designed to give students in those fields a sense of what they can look like on a rural scale. I’ve poured hours into shaping this program, recruiting applicants, and contacting potential partners for the interns to work with. I’ve gained incredible insight into what it takes to launch a program, and the amount of time it takes to create something solid, strong, and lasting (with much inspiration being drawn from AMI).

One of the challenges of the AMI Senior Fellowship is its brevity - a year goes by incredibly quickly, and while the internship program will run for the first time this summer, I can only imagine what it will become in two, five, or ten years. There is a bittersweetness to creating a new program or beginning a project that you know you will pass on to others to care for. I’ve been having a similar feeling about the garden at my cabin as I fill new beds with perennials, small cuttings that were given to me by a friend and will take years to mature. I’m so excited to be creating something new for the couple who own my cabin, but at the same time, I’m sad I won’t be here to grow along with it.

So, as I move forward into my remaining time with the Highland Center, I’m trying to find a balance - between fully investing myself in this community and my work, and trying to ensure that the programs I help to create will be sustainable without me. And I truly am already excited to come back and see what the Highland Center, the programs I work on, and my garden all become.

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