Trip to the MUSC Garden
The Charleston peninsula is a vulnerable place threatened by rising sea levels and a whole host of social justice issues at play such as homelessness and gentrification. Despite these challenges, the Charleston community has responded in unique ways to instability and unsustainable practices. Urban agriculture programs have provided a unique opportunity in response to similar issues, and are on the rise, as well as a growing appreciation for local farms and sustainable agriculture. While city life can be quite luxurious, especially in a top destination town, people are desperate to get dirty. Urban gardens have provided answers to vulnerable communities, food deserts, and have enabled collaboration to transcend socioeconomic boundaries.
Because urban garden programs are relatively new and just gaining momentum in the area, one challenge is the lack of synergies and shared knowledge on growing practices. As the garden coordinator of the Political Science Urban Garden program, I thought it necessary to engage with other groups around town. One such example of an expanding and thriving urban garden program is the MUSC urban farm, located in the heart of the medical university’s campus. Adjacent to the dental school, the urban farm inhabits a half-acre plot of land, and serves as an education hub for a variety of groups related to MUSC. A fellow intern and I decided to walk over to meet with the farm educator, Jane Madden. She was very eager to give us a tour of their beautiful urban plot, and gave detailed explanations on the programs involved, farming practices, seasonal advice, and seed information. It was refreshing to exchange local and ecological knowledge on gardening practices, such as methods to resolve garden dilemmas like the infamous squash vine borer!
While there are major strides being taken for farm to school initiatives, there is still much room for improvement here in the Lowcountry. Creating synergies among urban garden programs, as well as grower groups provide opportunities for like-minded individuals to exchange experience and knowledge, and to strengthen the programs. In order to create sustainable relationships with each other and the land, collaborative efforts must be made. The lack of interaction and connection is merely a symptom of our current systemic structures, but working towards a sustainable future requires creating new patterns of communication and interaction among society and groups. Our trip to the MUSC urban farm provided much insight on quality urban garden program structures, and most importantly, how to engage in efficient collaboration. Special thanks goes to Jane Madden, and to the efforts made at MUSC for providing such holistic experiences to the Charleston community, as well as all those who are involved in sustainable agriculture!