â€œEven if your garden only yields one tomato… I think the attempt to actually do something about your situation says a lot.â€
-WRVO Reporter/Producer Jasmyn Belcher
Thanks for checking out the NPR Station Showcase with PRX. Iâ€™m Aaron Henkin. Whatâ€™s the Station Showcase all about, you ask? Basically, we make it our mission here each week to shine a light on the excellent work being produced locally at the hundreds of public radio stations across the country. This week, our search takes us to WRVO in Syracuse, New York. Thatâ€™s where the talented Jasmyn Belcher has been working for the past year as a news reporter and producer. Jasmyn recently put together a story about a new initiative from the Food Bank of Central New York: itâ€™s a program that encourages needy families to cut down on grocery bills by growing their own food. As youâ€™ll hearâ€¦ even just one homegrown tomato plant in a bucket can make a difference.
First off, I wanted to give you my compliments on this piece… It’s got everything: Great opening sentence, really nice structure, wonderful scenes and interviews! Tell us a bit about your radio background and the sort of work you do for WRVO…
First off…thank you! As for my radio background, I was hired at WRVO last year as a News Reporter/Producer. Being that I still have day to day responsibilities, including interviews and spot news… getting out in the field, capturing sound and putting it all together is very exciting. Features are my favorite. Letting stories almost tell themselves with interesting sound is really fun for me. I’ve had some great opportunities that have helped shape my career so far. In college, I interned with a community radio station in London, England where I learned a lot on the production side. After that experience, I knew I belonged in public radio. I also received a scholarship from NPR to attend their 2008 regional fly-in, in Boston. NPR’s Robert Smith gave me the best advice, and it really got me thinking about how I want to produce feature reports. I have never learned so much, about so many things, in so little time! The very first feature I ever produced was on goat’s milk…it won a few awards this year and I think I’ve come a long way since then!
It seems like the ‘garden-in-a-bucket’ is a project that comes with maybe a small economic benefit, but a really big social dividend… there’s a real sense of independence and empowerment seems to go along with this idea. What do you think appeals most to people about it?
I think high fuel and energy costs have people thinking, and anything that may help ease the burden is intriguing. Whether it is an actual garden, a bucket garden, or anything else… I think the act of doing something yourself is encouraging. Even if we don’t have the means to change what is going on with our food source…we can at least feel like we are doing something about it.
How practical is it, do you think, for most of us to grow enough food to actually make a real dent in our grocery bills? Is it really realistic to put in that much time and energy for the return?
I think the program was more about the idea of taking control, especially for people who may not be able to afford fresh produce. The Food Bank is showing people they have options. Even if your garden only yields one tomato…I think the attempt to actually do something about your situation says a lot. The time and energy you put in…is a reflection of what is to come. I mean, if your grocery bills are too high, why not try growing food for free? Not to mention the other benefits, like knowing where your food comes from!
That was a truly inspired moment in your story when you gave that random stranger your garden-in-a-bucket! What was that exchange like for you and him?
After researching this program and getting all of the facts and other voices ..he was the last person I spoke with. It was really nice to have seen the entire process…from planting the buckets to dropping a plant off to a family. I think this is an inspired program, and I just tried to show that in my story. I’m glad it worked!
What’s next on the horizon for you? Have you got any other good stories in the works at the moment?
As of right now, it seems as though rising costs are taking a toll on just about everyone. I just finished a feature on high gas prices and touring musicians. I think it is sort of in the same vein as the food bank story…these musicians are being proactive and making choices in order to continue doing what they love. About a month ago, I did a story on a local drive-in movie theatre in Central New York. That has to be my favorite piece so far. It was really just a lot of fun. I love the nostalgia of the 1950′s…the music…the movies…everything. So I just jumped right into the story, thrilled to even have the opportunity. If people continue doing so many interesting things, I’ll try my best to get the word out!
You can hear more from Jasmyn Belcher and WRVO online at the Public Radio Exchange. Thatâ€™s where producers from around the world share their work. Log on, write your own reviews, and have a say in what ends up on the radio at www.prx.org