Hilary Neff


Current place of residence

Nashville, TN


What is your current occupation/work?

I am Wholesome Wave's Tennessee Field Coordinator for the AARP Fre$h Savings Program. This program allows SNAP participants to purchase double the produce at farmers markets in Tennessee and Mississippi. I travel to participating markets across Tennessee and help each market set up this grant program in a way that best fits their market and their community. Thanks to my experience starting school gardens and managing a farmers market in Southeast Kentucky, along with interning with Maurice, I had been well-prepared by previous jobs to fill this role.


When and where did you work with Maurice?

2012-2013 Maurice mentored me and Rachel Manning starting at Oberlin, but via Skype since our project was in Southeast Kentucky (Harlan County).


For how long did you work with Maurice?

1-2 years, but he is a continuing mentor


What kind of work did you do when you worked with Maurice?

Maurice provided much need advice and mentorship via Skype when Rachel and I began our community/school garden in Southeast Kentucky. Maurice helped us from the very early stages (to understand what sort of budget would be necessary) to the nuts and bolts of engaging a community (how to get local leaders involved in the project).


What kind of growth/transformation happened for you (and/or for the people you served) because of your work with Maurice?

Maurice helped us grow from hopeful, idealist college students to well-informed, thoughtful, and community-driven young people. When we would get overwhelmed or weren't sure how to move the project forward, Maurice was always sure to put the soil and the people first, and he helped us look at the bigger picture. This was extremely helpful, especially since we were so new to this type of work. Maurice and Julia even hosted us in their home and taught us about local projects happening around Raleigh, NC. We learned so much from his expertise and vision.


How has working with Maurice benefitted you and/or uplifted you?

Maurice has always been unafraid to challenge the young people around him while also inspiring them to work harder and think critically. He and his family are wonderful and I am always excited to learn about all the great work he is doing.


What would you say to someone who is interested in working with Maurice in the future?

It will absolutely benefit you and your community. Do it!


Memories and Stories

I remember on one particular Skype call, Rachel and I were pretty down about the project, because we weren't quite finding the community leaders we needed to carry on the work we started. Maurice gave us a fantastic pep talk. He told us that pioneers like Susan B. Anthony knew that real community change could not be given up on. He told us that the answers were there and we needed to find them. That this sort of work is essential and important and that we could do it.


A Few Words…

He very much walks the walk. He's in the garden, building soil, working with people from every background, and he's giving every living thing equal value and attention. His approach is incredibly holistic. Don't forget all those nutrient-building worms!!


Anything else?

Thanks for your time, Maurice. And thanks to Julia for all her great work as well. I feel very, very lucky to know you all.