You GO Delario!: Delario Cato of Asheville Green Opportunities

Delario Cato, Winter Green apprentice, waters collard seedlings in the new innovative hoop-house. 

By Cathy Holt

“Delario really has a green thumb,” says Joan Engelhardt of Winter Green. She is supervising former Pisgah View Apartments resident Delario Cato during his apprenticeship with the new nonprofit which teaches people how to raise vegetables year-round.

Last September, Delario joined Asheville GO (Green Opportunities Corps), in which youth from low-income communities receive training in five areas: sustainable agriculture, natural building, ecological landscaping and restoration, energy efficient retrofitting, and solar technology. They perform service work for local “green” organizations for a weekly stipend and then move into paid apprenticeships with local businesses. In December he began apprenticing 16 hours per week with Winter Green, which involves building plastic covered greenhouses and growing vegetables at the Community High School in Swannanoa, the PVA Peace Garden, and soon at the Randolph Learning Center.

“I’ve learned so much from Asheville GO,” Delario reflected. “I
liked all five of the internships, and I’m thinking about how to
combine them. They were all hands-on and they were fun! Maybe someday
Asheville GO could build a house with all the features: green building,
rainwater catchment, greenhouse, hoop-house, even a cob oven. Now I
know how to order and assemble hoop-houses.”

“My grandfather was a farmer, he had chickens and pigs, so when
I went to see my grandparents they were always in the garden. But I
hadn’t ever grown anything with my own hands. It’s been a real
experience for me. We planted collards in the greenhouse at Community
High School on December 4, and five days later they were up,” he
“The whole purpose of this Winter Green project is to teach people how
to grow their own organic vegetables, in the community, for the
community. At William Randolph School, we’re going to teach the kids
how to assemble the hoop-houses, grow their own vegetables and use them
in the cafeteria.”

This young man’s knowledge and enthusiasm are impressive. “I might
start my own business, show people how to build and maintain a
hoop-house, grow the plants, and install their own rainwater catchment
system — running gutters around the hoop-house to drain into a barrel,
so you can water the plants right there.”

Pointing to a hot water tank, he said, “Here at the Peace Garden, we’re
going to create a heated greenhouse space in the hoop-house by running
hot water in pipes underneath the beds to heat them up. There’s a lot
to it. You have to look at the weather, let up the sides when it’s a
warm day. You have to look out for bugs, like whiteflies and aphids,
and use soap spray, because we’re growing organic vegetables. We don’t
use chemicals.”

Delario, aged 27, has faced multiple challenges in his young life; he
now has a fiancée and two children he has helped raise for the past
seven years, and he takes his responsibilities seriously. In addition
to the apprenticeship, he is studying at Haywood Community College to
complete his high school diploma, taking computer classes at AB Tech,
and picking up a few side jobs.

“I grew up fast,” he remarked. His stepmother, who raised him, died
when he was just 16 and he has worked ever since-first in fast food
restaurants, then in manufacturing plants such as Kimberly Clark,
Castleberry, and General Electric. He had just been laid off a cleaning
job at Homewood Suites and was unemployed for a month and a half, when
he met DeWayne Barton and Dan Leroy, who recruited him for Asheville

To all the young people in public housing, Delario suggests, “If you
like working with your hands, if you want a good, green collar job to
advance yourself, Asheville GO is a great way to get in. DeWayne and
Dan and Torin are like older brothers, they are motivators and mentors.
They still work with us every week. They stay on you to help you with
anything you need in order to succeed. Everything they say is positive.
Asheville GO feels like family to me.”

Asheville Go will be recruiting soon for their next group of interns. To contact them please call (828) 318-9916.

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