Hello! I’m a brand new Sarvodaya Farm Intern and very excited to start working with this amazing group of people. I started home gardening in 2008 in my backyard with a couple raised beds and an A frame chicken tractor that my husband built which housed our 3 chickens. Sadly we had to relocate for a job change to Arcadia in 2011 and I found myself in a townhouse with no backyard or place to grow edibles. And no animals allowed! But opportunity presented itself in the form of my children’s co-op preschool in Sierra Madre where they are lucky enough to have a quarter acre of their land devoted to a school garden. The garden only functions when parents of the school show an interest in volunteering their time there so I’ve taken it on as my pet project. Last year I redesigned the raised beds and got a crew of parents to help take out the old broken down ones, dig holes, move huge rocks and rebuild in a keyhole design with one side also doubling as a retaining wall (entire garden is on a slope). I also help develop activities for the children on their weekly visits to the garden and the students are able to cook and eat what they harvest from the garden for snack. So I am eager to take all the knowledge I gain from this internship and use it to improve the school garden especially in regards to water harvesting/conservation. Looking ahead five years, I hope that my family will be in a position to buy a house with some land and my dream is to have a hobby farm with livestock and a large veggie garden.
It felt great working at the farm this week. The first thing that struck me about it was that although it is in a very urban environment, once you are down in those rows of plants, listening to the hum of bees, working silently harvesting or pruning, you feel as though you’re a hundred miles from a strip mall. The first day I discovered yard-long beans and learned about the use of Mexican Spinach aka Chaya trees, that we planted from cuttings and will grow to provide filtered sunlight to plants that can’t handle the hot summer sun but that then die back in the winter. The moringa trees already growing in the rows serve the same function as well as being edible. Rishi taught Katie and I how to harvest eggplant and how to prune and stake the wild growth on the “frog egg” variety. On Wednesday there was a large group of interns/volunteers that all worked together to pack the CSA boxes. I was able to harvest water spinach, the last of the okra, and plant chard and lettuce seed. I also learned how to identify wild growing mallow which is a weed but a helpful one for feeding the chickens. An interesting concept on the farm is that nothing is pulled out of the ground. If a plant is to be removed, it is cut down at the stem but the roots are left in the ground to breakdown. The rest of the plant is cut down for compost on site. No part of the soil on the farm is every exposed, even pathways. Everything is covered in layers of wood chips and manure. When planting the seeds, I could see just how rich the soil is on the farm. Teaming with life. Black and soft. I’m very excited for all the new information I will learn during this internship and look forward to my next week at the farm.