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Taming the Beast


The BCS Tiller is a large and extremely efficient multifunctional agricultural implement. Known affectionately around the UGArden as ‘The Beast’, it is capable of tilling, mowing, plowing, and other functions making it an invaluable device for use in farm plots and large gardens, and we are fortunate to have access to it for use in our middle school gardens. About the only thing it doesn’t do, a professor once told me, is your dishes, referring to its functionality. All you have to do is learn the controls and how to start it, and the work you are putting into the land immediately becomes more efficient while at the same time helping, not harming the precious soil.


Having said that, it is, initially anyway, a daunting machine. It doesn’t always start easily and has a very powerful engine. And it is loud, which accentuates that power. A critical feature of the BCS is the safety lever built into one of the handles, so if ever it feels out of control, all its user needs to do is ‘let go’ and the BCS immediately stops.

Recently our Kitchen Garden Corps campers had the opportunity to learn and try the BCS when we tilled up part of the CMS garden in preparation for planting a summer cover crop. Having gone over all safety precautions and with the support and assistance of an adult at all times, the students listened and then taking this large machine into their own hands, helped to till up the garden. I observed them, watching how they handled the tiller as it churned up the soil hurling dust into the air, and their subsequent reactions. Most had a sense of victory. “I OWN this!” one shouted afterward. Success, indeed.

As adolescents, our KGC students will be facing many ‘beasts’ on their journey toward adulthood. Peer relationships and the enormous pressure that often accompanies. Their changing bodies with shifting moods and hormonal swings, and their dawning self-awareness and sense of independence as they venture into the wide, wide world can all feel monstrous and at times overwhelming. It is also well-documented that teens need to take risks in order to learn and grow. And just as the BCS tiller is ultimately very beneficial, a young person will vanquish what appears to be ‘beasts’ or they simply disappear as confidence and maturity blossoms.

Although we can’t provide our campers with an emergency brake to make the monsters of life stop forever or immediately, we can provide them with initial experiences such as using the tiller, preparing a meal for a crowd, and caring for the lives of animals. They learn that to make the world a better one, there are risks involved and powers larger than we are that we must contend with. With our support, positivity, encouragement, and mentorship as a safety net to guide and empower them, students can make sustainable decisions and good choices as they navigate their way through the beasts in their lives, while at the same time having the time of their lives.