Harvesting Change

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Spotlight on National Young Women of Distinction Nominee, Blayre Messner

“Give a man a fish, you feed him for a day, teach a man to fish, you feed him for a lifetime.” That’s was the philosophy behind Gold Award Recipient, Blayre Messner’s project: “Hometown Harvest: Growing Together.” Working with her community, she created a community garden that provides fresh produce to those in need. The project also earned her one of three GSKSMO nominations for National Young Women of Distinction (NYWOD).

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Blayre Messner joined Girl Scouts as a Daisy in Albany, MO. Growing up on a farm, she was surrounded by livestock and learned to grow her own food. The Messner family is instilled the love of service in her from the start. “Our family Christmas tradition is to go serve at the hospital on Christmas morning and pack meals for those in need. We do it on Thanksgiving too. Growing up and serving others is what I learned to love and Girl Scouts is the best way to promote that,” Blayre said. Her older sister, Courtney is a Lifetime Girl Scout and her mother is also a Girl Scout Alumna.

Her community has a population of 1,700, so the small town didn’t see many Girl Scouts. While Troop 8724 started with 22, by high school, Blayre was on her own. But that didn’t stop her! She earned her Bronze award by packing backpacks for a program called “Backpack Buddies” and her Silver Award by setting up a day camp for 1st – 5th graders. For her Gold Award, she knew she wanted to get the community involved and saw a lack of fresh produce being available to low income families and the elderly population. “Poverty is a major issue [in my community]. Different organizations provide food stamps or money to purchase food, but what they end up buying is fast, cheap, ready-to-eat meals and I saw that there was a lack of produce in the diet of those in poverty,” Blayre said.

Blayre got to work and established a community garden. While she tilled, seeded, weeded and fertilized the garden to start, she wanted to make sure she was building skills that would last rather than just providing food for one year. “I wasn’t just going to grow it for them and give it to them, because then they’re not learning! So in order to get produce at the end, they had to come in and work,” Blayre said. The community worked together and taught the “lost art of gardening” as Blayre calls it, to a new generation. People also exchanged extra hours of work for those who physically couldn’t work but needed produce (like the elderly population).

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After the harvest, they hosted a community dinner where everyone brought a dish made with food they had learned to grow. The Messner family provided chicken breasts and cous-cous, but otherwise, everything they made was from the garden. It fed over 75 people, a lot for this small town! In all, Blayre’s project provided a 5-10week supply of produce to 40 families, 23 individuals and 2 businesses! JUST IN THE FIRST YEAR! Talk about harvesting change!

Blayre has already encouraged her little sister, Kayce, to build on the “Hometown Harvest” project by building raised gardening beds for her Silver Award project. In the fall, Blayre will head to Columbia, MO to study agricultural business at the University of Missouri with hopes of going into agricultural pharmaceutical sales. With her project going strong again this year, they look forward to a second community dinner in the fall and will add a fall crop rotation this year! Way to go, Girl Scout!

We are proud of Blayre for her achievements and dedication to service. We wish her the very best as Girl Scouts of the USA selects 10 ladies from all the nominees to earn the National Young Women of Distinction honor! Good luck to Blayre, Teresa Shockley and Alyssa Klinzing, the three nominees from GSKSMO!

If you know of an incredible Gold Award story, share in the comments below!

 

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