Me’Quelle Keeling proudly shows the dirt on his hands while creating beds and planting as a volunteer at our Westport Commons Farm.
When Me’Quelle Keeling reached out to volunteer with Cultivate KC, raking leaves in the dead of winter wasn’t quite what he had in mind.
Still, he came out regularly to the Westport Commons Farm, trudging over snow and ice to break up the mounds of leaves and mulch piled over the field.
But now that spring has arrived, he can start to see the fruits – or rather, the vegetables – of his labor as he works alongside farm manager Dan Krull and other members of our volunteer team.
“I think the most interesting thing has been seeing how we’re actually making the soil, or making the beds, from just mulch and leaves and that it’s the basis of how everything is growing,” Keeling, 24, said. “And the fact that it’s working is just ridiculous. It’s a whole different thing because it’s so adjacent from traditional agriculture. I think it’s really cool.”’
The Olathe resident entered college at Kansas State University thinking he’d study business. The idea of being an entrepreneur intrigued him, but, he said, the material was “so boring.” He connected with a teacher from high school now teaching at the university who suggested Keeling look into business studies in the school of Agriculture.
After enrolling in just a few courses, his interest went from piqued to passionate.
“I feel like a nerd because everything was interesting,” he said. “The curriculum was amazing. Everything played a role in society and elevating society so that you felt you are contributing to the community and there’s so much to it.”
The various facets from horticulture to agronomy, alone, were interesting, he said. But he also appreciated how farming benefited not only the individual but also the community. He saw not just the benefits of his knowledge, but its necessity.
“You’re always going to need agriculture. Everybody’s always going to need food.”
By volunteering at Cultivate KC, he said, he has been able to keep his passion for agriculture alive while continuing his education. While the work over the winter was not glamorous, and maybe at times a bit grueling, the payoff has been seeing the soil he’s helped build growing food he helped plant.
The work has taught him patience, he says. “That’s something I’ve learned from that I can apply to life in all my endeavors.”
While Keeling continues to explore his professional future, he will continue farming regardless. While working with Cultivate KC, he can do so while he figures out his next steps.
“When I graduated, I really wanted to do something that could benefit me career-wise, but also help out the community. And I found the best of both with Cultivate.”