As I mentioned in the brief post yesterday, a large group of students met in the garden last night to harvest some of the vegetables that have been maturing since late April. As I walked to the garden at 7:05pm, thinking I would be the very first to arrive, I was stunned to find a huge group of eager students waiting for me.
Throughout the summer, I have often made the same walk to the garden to find very few people ready to help. Of course, there is the regular cast of characters that have remained dedicated to the garden since day one. These HGI-affiliated few have had the pleasure of seeing the garden growing from the day we planted our seeds – and they deserve many thanks for all their help.
Thus, when I walked into the garden yesterday to find not one, not four, but twelve people ready to help, I was floored. Here were roughly eight new faces, people who I had seen around but with whom I had never spoken. How exciting! It truly seemed as if the word was getting out about the joys of gardening…or maybe just about the copious amounts of produce we were about to harvest. Either way, I was delighted to have so many volunteers.
Right off the bat, we divided into two action teams. One of the HGI regulars took the first group off to begin harvesting the green beans. The six of them quickly learned to lift the delicate leaves of the short plants to reveal a wealth of dangling treasures beneath. With the other six, I waged war on the weeds – our most dastardly foe. Invasive plant after invasive plant fell before our indefatigable attack and, before we knew it, the rows were as clear as they had ever been.
After the preliminary tasks were complete, the first group dove into the pepper picking process. With eyes newly adjusted to differentiate between the vegetables and the leaves, they ripped through four rows of peppers, amassing a pepper pile worthy of a farm stand. Meanwhile, my group forayed into the herb patch where we plucked the heads off of the basil to encourage more plant growth and to concentrate the herb’s essential oils.
Yet, perhaps the most moving moment of the evening was when the entire group came together to harvest three rows of potatoes. Kneeling on either side of the rows and digging vigorously into the loose soil, the volunteers extracted golden and ruddy tubers with glee. A competition soon arose to see who could harvest the most, and the potatoes veritably leapt from the ground. Smiles abounded at the simple joys of the harvest.
In the end, we twelve found ourselves standing around the largest pile of green beans, peppers, and potatoes we had ever seen. Soon, shirts were filled with produce and small talk arose as people were amazed by the quantity of vegetables we had harvested. For me, however, the purest joy lay in a different type of cultivation: the fostering of agricultural interests in other students. Put simply, twelve previously unacquainted students gardened together and learned about real food – to me, that is the best thing the garden has yet produced.