Jim Beard has a teaching philosophy that seeks to grow people.
Beard is the lead horticulturist instructor at Fox Valley Technical College in Appleton. He tells students that “when you come in the program you learn how to grow plants but I will grow you. At the end of your time here you are going to know how to make a living and a life.”
It’s a philosophy he shares in and outside the classroom. Whether it’s teaching about landscape design and hydroponics or leading a landscaping project or playground build, Beard is showing people how they can grow as a person. “Everyone wants to make a living but don’t always know how to make a life,” he said.
His philosophy was the inspiration behind a book he co-wrote with Chris Jossart, an FVTC colleague, called “Growing People: How green landscapes and garden spaces can change lives.”
The book features individual stories about lives changed through introducing people to simple ways of exploring organic growing systems and landscape structures. It sprinkles in ways to grow organically and with methods such as straw bales, barrels and raised beds. “It becomes a healthy way to grow vegetables and some feel good stories in the front,” said Beard.
Also included are many local projects including Appleton Medical Center’s raised beds and straw bale gardens and the Riverside Reflection Garden along the Crystal River at ThedaCare Medical Center-Waupaca.
Beard said growing sustainable gardens is important, and the book serves as an easy blueprint for anyone to customize one to their liking. But what is more important are things that feed the soul, like community service projects.
The Riverside Reflection Garden project is one example. Beard was contacted to help design the garden. But it isn’t the garden beds, pergolas and the gravel system that filters street run-off before it goes into the Crystal River that make the garden, said Beard. It is the people, over 80 of them, who put their time and love into the project, from the students from Fox Valley Tech to city officials and physicians and nurses and other medical staff. “I can remember a time when I didn’t have any money,” he said. “I remember thinking the most important thing for me was my time. So the most important thing to me is to give my time.”
If people lived the same way, “the results and responses can be amazing,” added Beard. “I think it should not be about the money. It’s too easy. Everybody can find an hour or two hours or three hours if they really want to give it to somebody.”