Small business owner, Beautification Commissioner, regular community volunteer — and Neighborhood Planting Captain! — Tranyce Parmer is an inspiring example of a native Nashvillian who continues to give back to her neighborhood. She shares her story with us here.
Q: Let’s start with a little background. Where are you from and how long have you been in Oakwood Park?
A: I’m originally from East Nashville, and I’ve been in the Oakwood neighborhood since 1994 – so, all my life. My mom moved in to this neighborhood a month before I was born.
Q: What do you love about the Oakwood Park neighborhood?
A: It’s moved through different phases for me. When I was younger, I liked the proximity to all of my friends I was going to school with. Now that I’m an adult and I’ve become an active member of the community, I’ve found the beauty of this neighborhood coming together when there’s a hardship. If an elder passes away or if there’s an illness within a household, everyone really takes the time out to step up and be active in folks’ lives. Also doing things like making sure people have food, or are never alone if they don’t want to be – sitting on the front porch with them if they are going through a loss.
There’s a connection here and sometimes you miss that on a day-to-day basis, with everyone doing their own thing. But that’s one consistent thing that comes up in Oakwood: when a hardship strikes, people come together.
Tranyce (back right corner, with arms out) and neighbors at a tree-recruiting event in her neighborhood. Check out the view of downtown Nashville in the upper left!
Q: Why did you decide to become a Neighborhood Planting Captain?
A: After a conversation I had with you [Meg, Root Nashville campaign team member], I really felt that it was what I needed to do. I had been praying pretty heavily, just hoping that community efforts would not be in vain. And the expansion too – that was another reason why I wanted to become a captain. Sometimes you can live in a linear way and just keep doing what you’re doing. But after that conversation we had, everything aligned with what I wanted to do for my community. So I was like, “Yes, I am ready to talk to people about trees and get more trees in the neighborhood!” It felt like it was a perfect fit.
Q: As you were out and about, talking to neighbors in your role as a Neighborhood Planting Captain, what was your experience like?
A: I learned something about the residents and about myself. For some people, they just don’t know what they don’t know until they are exposed to it, and then they might have an interest. I’m guilty of sometimes just assuming that people don’t have an interest in something because I don’t immediately see it or understand it. But I learned through this process that sometimes it’s nice to exert your energy with someone who you think is skeptical because they might just lean in.
I also discovered that even though I’ve lived here my whole life, I didn’t know all my neighbors as well as I thought I did. I met lots of new people in the process. And I realized I have the power of persuasion! That was exciting. I guess that’s the equivalent of when teachers say their students are having a lightbulb moment. I experienced that with some of my neighbors. And again, that’s something that I wanted to do in the first place with this role as a Neighborhood Planting Captain was connect with more of my neighbors. Even for those who were pretty set on the trees that they already have in their yard, and that’s okay!, I was still able to talk to them about the importance and benefits of trees.
Q: What do you love about trees and planting?
A: I love the root systems of everything! And trees are pretty impressive in that way. I was excited about working with Root Nashville and the campaign because I wanted to learn more about trees. I started off knowing a lot about plants, but trees are so varied in treatment and in planting styles and their capabilities, it was a lot different than what I was used to with gardening and vegetables.
I also love anything that is native and tied to the environment here, so when I learned that all the trees that we would offer were native, I already felt a strong connection to them.
Personally, as a hiker, when I’m out on a hot day, the tree canopy provides shade. And being a part of this campaign, I was looking at it like, “What can I do on Earth is going to lend myself to being useful to the trees?” – as weird as that may sound! Anything that I can do to create a home and a space for trees is exciting. At this point in my life, I’m really invested in our tree canopy and I think about them a lot.
I think trees have something to them that is left to be discovered by every generation. I think that’s what has derived from the meaning of the saying that you plant a tree for someone else to sit under its shade eventually. I think that’s cool.
Q: You are also serving as a Beautification Commissioner. What is this role like for you?
A: Yes, I just recently became an official Beautification Commissioner. It’s allowing me to learn things that I might have missed otherwise about being a part of the Nashville community. It’s exciting now because Commissioners have some grant money available to put a project together – there is a lot of decision-making! The old me might have run away from it. But I am out here and I am no longer faking it until I make it! But of course I am still learning, and now I’m not afraid to ask for help or ask questions when I need to. What I’m learning is that this is already what I was doing, with the service mentality. That’s where I’m most comfortable. I’m always asking myself, “What is it that I will continue to do when no one else shows up?” It differs from other roles where I serve because it’s a lot of piecing together different resources to make it all make sense.
Q: Where did your love of nature begin, and how did you get started in gardening?
A: As a child, I used to write a lot outside — even in school settings on the playground in recess. I would venture off somewhere and spend time writing. Growing up in the Oakwood neighborhood, I would lay out there on the driveway until it got so dark that I couldn’t see my hand in front of me. Something about the grounding properties of place have made me feel connected in a different way. So as I got older and learned more about trees and the many roles they play and how they just know what to do to survive, it’s just beautiful.
To be honest, I started gardening in a rush and out of an emergency, really. There were some health issues that occurred in my family, and as we all know, eating organically can be expensive and there are limitations to having access to organic products. The easiest route for me then was to just try my hand at growing from seed. I started with what I had, which was just a small bay window. It was just herbs at first, and then some lettuce, and then veggies that were on our grocery list consistently. The whole idea for a business didn’t come until much later. I’ve been doing this for over six years, and it was really just last year that I decided to start a business.
I don’t do it for the money, I genuinely want people to learn that if you have an interest in growing, you can start wherever you are. You don’t have to have the land or lots of space.
Q: Tell us more about Let’s Talk Gardening and what you do with this business.
A: At first Let’s Talking Gardening was just an Instagram page (@lets_talk_gardening). I would post about my journey and things I’ve learned, and things like a picture of me and my mom planting pepper transplants. I would show people resources I was turning to, like the UT extension program. It started with a lot of education and sharing resources, and then it became, “What would it look like if I went and talked to other local farmers and gardeners and see how they’re doing it?” From there it became an IGTV [Instagram TV] series and I would take my audience on tours of local gardens and talk with the people there. Followers would add their questions and I would ask them.
Once the pandemic hit, I started doing everything virtually and more people started reaching out, asking their questions. I did a virtual six-week class for beginners where I guaranteed people that they would be growing something by the end of the class. It was my way of teaching and then that expanded to consulting with people, virtually, and then when the pandemic transitioned to where we are now, I went to some in-person work. I had an opportunity to teach at the Amqui Station Farmer’s Market and host in-person consultation.
The business has grown a lot, but really I just wanted to grow and create space of viability. At the time, like I said, it had started as an emergency thing that we had to change diets completely and change what was being consumed in the house.
Q: What would you say to inspire others to become Neighborhood Planting Captains?
A: Persuasion isn’t always just speech, it’s an action. If you can find a way to commit to something and your reason behind it, the rest will fall in place. So others will have to determine their own personal “why”. For me, I’m a numbers person, but I step away from that in nature and to me, that’s really the beauty of nature in the first place and being outside. Doing something like this, doing it for the trees!, you can isolate yourself from whatever society is and you can really focus in on your purpose. The perfect captain is someone who can have a community spirit. And I use the word “perfect” loosely, ha! But if part of your “why” is having a community spirit, I think that’s a quality that would be really great for a captain.
With that community spirit, that can get you through on some of the tougher days when it doesn’t seem like you’re connecting to folks like you hoped. Or, on the days when everything is easy and falling into place, it’s still fulfilling either way because you are connecting to your “why”.
And one other thing I have to mention is that in this experience, it’s meant a lot for me to be connected to others doing work connected to the Earth. I’m a hiker, and often I’m out alone, and the mission is to always put one foot in front of the other. I can get to a point to where I don’t even have any thoughts, I’m just taking things one step at a time. But that can be a little isolating, until you get around people like yourself who say, “Yes, that happens to me too. And I freaking love trees and I devote my life to bringing others into being an advocate for trees!” and that’s been a beautiful part of this experience and could almost bring me to tears. We’ve had personal conversations, just sitting out at Oakwood Park, where I felt comfortable asking questions and seeing how well I was progressing. Leaning in to that with people who you have some commonality with is the beauty of Root Nashville and this campaign. We need as many people as we can to be tree huggers and to be connected to each other!
Q: Anything else you’d want to add?
A: Love trees and love yourself!
Say hi to Tranyce at Neighbor 2 Neighbor’s Good Neighbor Day event in Madison at Cedar Hill Park next Saturday, September 24th at 10am, at the Beautification Commissioner table.