Ben Menard has worked as the Youth Garden Project’s farm manager since January. The garden sits on 1.5 acres with over 70 garden rows, and in 2021 harvested over 7,000 pounds of produce—Menard’s job is to essentially take care of the plants and organize any volunteers.
The Moab Sun chatted with Menard about what his day-to-day looks like and his goals as farm manager.
Moab Sun: How is the job going so far?
Menard: It’s going great, I really like it. We had a successful plant sale, which was pretty crazy—I had a couple of weeks at the beginning of working here where I was looking around for things to do, and then all of a sudden I was in the thick of it. Plus there was that pressure of like, the entire next year and everyone else’s gardens in town relying on the plant sale going well. But it was great, fun, and a good challenge.
Moab Sun: What does your day-to-day look like as the farm manager?
Menard: It changes a bit every day, and seasonally of course. I come in, water all the plants, and uncover them from their frost and deer covers. Then I go about whatever needs to be done, which is usually planting, seeding, transplanting, and fertilizing. I work with volunteers a lot—almost every day we have at least one volunteer, which picks up a lot in the summer.
Moab Sun: What were you doing before working at YGP, and how did that lead you to Moab?
Menard: I lived in Corvallis, Oregon, for the past couple of years, working at a medical lab running COVID tests. It just wasn’t what I wanted to be doing, you know, sitting inside a windowless lab doing a very repetitive, monotonous thing all day. I saved up money and quit that job about a year ago, then ended up traveling: I basically did a full circuit of the country for about eight months.
I started looking for new jobs, and I saw the garden project posting. I thought, ‘that sounds really good.’ My grandparents had lived in Moab in the 90s and said it was their favorite place they’ve ever lived—so I was like, alright, that sounds like a cool spot to explore, and get out of the rain for a while.
Moab Sun: What do you like about being a farm manager?
Menard: I really like the variety of the work and getting to be outside every day, but we’ll see if I still like that when it’s 120 degrees out. I like being able to interact with a bunch of different people in the community: everyone from really small children to older volunteers and everyone in between, and all the other nonprofits in town. I just like the challenge of it, and I feel like I get to learn something new every day. It’s very satisfying.
Moab Sun: What are your goals for this year?
Menard: I want to have a successful year of growing and keep improving how things are done in the garden. I want to learn as much as I can so I have a better season next year, and really forge connections with the outside community. As a new person, I didn’t have those connections, but YGP does—I want to maintain that trust and those relationships.