10 Years, 10 Stories: Jesse Hickman

In celebration of Local Matters' 10th anniversary, we are taking some time to reflect. Where have we come from? Who has nurtured our growth? Where are we now? What will the future hold? These are questions we have asked ten friends of Local Matters - ten people who have truly shaped the organization to be what it is today. Today's story comes from a conversation with Local Matters' Growing Matters Manager, Jesse Hickman.


“Pinch me, is this my job?” Jesse Hickman enthusiastically says, as he talks about his time at Local Matters inspiring children, leading workshops, and managing gardens. As Growing Matters Program Manager, he is responsible for over twenty learning gardens across Columbus.

It’s cool to be able to do something for a living that you are proud of and that is meaningful to others while making a difference.

One aspect of Local Matters’ work that Jesse is especially proud of is how it can change people’s relationship with fruit and vegetables. He saw this first hand when his son Jack was able to attend one of the first Food Matters programs. Ever since, Jack has been much more interested and invested in eating fruits and vegetables. Naturally, Jesse likes to see how Local Matters programming affects all children, but he shares that it is extremely special when one of them is your own.

For Jesse, one of the most rewarding parts of his job is when he can inspire people who previously doubt that they can make positive changes in their life. A skeptic of the notion of “green thumbs,” he knows that anyone can grow their own healthy, delicious food if they have the right motivation and determination. He enjoys bonding with the people he meets through Local Matters, and helping them know that they can make a transformation in their life through food.

In the learning gardens that Jesse manages, he also leads education around growing, harvesting, and preparing fruits, vegetables, and herbs. One of Jesse’s favorite memories in a Local Matters learning garden was overhearing a young boy harvesting vegetables and saying “I am going to cook my mom the best meal when I get home!” That connection between gardening and cooking healthy meals with family – that’s the ultimate goal for Jesse in his work.

Throughout his time at Local Matters, Jesse has learned that people just need the right amount of information and encouragement in order to make healthy life choices. Knowing this motivates him to try his hardest to connect with every person he meets through Local Matters, whether they are volunteering or participating in the programs.

I like to help people find a starting point.

For Jesse, this is more than just a job – it’s his way of life. He has soil and plants filling his house, and a family vegetable garden. Looking to the future, Jesse hopes to make the Local Matters learning gardens a more organic place for people to connect. After all, it’s connection and community that can inspire change.