Last Saturday, I went to the urban farm at MUSC and volunteered. It was such an amazing surprise to arrive and find a diverse, thriving garden unlike any I had ever seen on the Charleston peninsula. Many types of greens, tubers, veggies, herbs, and even succulents filled this green oasis. I entered the garden and saw that others had already arrived and had begun helping with various tasks. Everyone seemed to be very enthusiastic and happy to be spending their morning contributing to the prosperity of such a beautiful space filled with nature. To get involved, I talked to Carmen who helped give me instructions. Carmen works at the garden. She was very friendly and taught me how to do certain tasks and why they were important. First, she showed me a great way to prepare the soil for new plants. I began by taking a broadfork and pressing it completely into the soil. When I leaned back the broadfork would lift the soil upwards. This process helps to aerate the soil without causing damage to the beneficial life systems that take place within. At the MUSC Urban garden, plants are grown in large raised beds. Aerating with a broadfork is used to aerate the soil instead of an alternative such as vermiculite. Carmen taught me that this is because it would take a vast amount of vermiculite to stimulate aeration in sic a large a raised bed compared to using broadfork. I took turns with other volunteers completing this task and removing the weeds from the surrounding area with a garden hoe. Eventually, we had aerated four separate parallel rows that were 15 feet long. Once these were completed, we planted young bok choy sprouts one hand’s-width apart on the four rows. After we had planted the bok choy, I learned how to grow and plant sugar cane. I took a 3 ft. section of sugar cane, dug a horizontal trench six inches deep, placed the sugar cane within, and buried it. Now, in several months, there will be stalks of sweet sugar cane to enjoy! By the time I finished planting the sugarcane, the volunteer period was coming to an end. We were told that since we had helped, we were allowed to take some food from the garden. I collected sweet potato, kohlrabi, radishes, carrots, and many different types of greens/herbs. After I harvested these organic, fresh plants, I returned home excited to cook up a delicious lunch. To begin, I cooked the sweet potato, radish, carrots, and mustard greens together to create a root vegetable medley. Next, I crisped tempeh with garlic confit. Once it was finished, I added in some kale and broccoli greens. In the end, I created a very tasty meal using the veggies I had earned volunteering. It’s a very special experience to harvest plants straight out of the ground and convert them into a nutrition-packed vegetarian meal.
Overall, I had a very fulfilling, educational experience at the MUSC Urban Farm. I learned different techniques to sustainably produce organic food and discovered a wonderful place to volunteer outdoors with others. I definitely plan to return to this urban sanctuary to volunteer and grow my knowledge of sustainable agriculture.