It has been almost a month since my last post. The garden is going bonkers. For the most part, I’ve been interacting with crops that demand the harvesting of all of their yield all at once. Such as sweet red onions, leeks, garlic scapes and garlic. The garden has progressed in to the hottest part of the summer, the time of the season when growth and production are most prolific. I am now able to harvest summer squash, zucchini, cucumber, eggplant, basil, mint, rosemary and several varieties of pepper on a daily basis. Tomato, okra, beans (bush and pole), and watermelon should start mass producing soon which will render the garden completely capable of supplying a balanced and filling meal for many people.
There have been some troubling developments as well. Nearly all of the strawberry plants that I transplanted contracted a mysterious disease and died. Several of the zucchini plants have contracted mildew, and a few cucumber plants are suffering from bacteria wilt. With the exception of the strawberries, these maladies haven’t infected entire crops, and I’ve read that mildew and wilt can be solved by watering earlier in the morning.
With the exception of driving an occasional plant support and adding new ladder layers for climbing plants to reach for, my work in the garden is still limited to watering (twice daily), and weeding. To fulfill the aspect of my internship that requires an academic project, I have been working to create a basic gardening handbook for future CPGC Haverford Garden interns, tentatively titled the Haverford Garden Almanac, which will hopefully decrease the slope of the learning curve that comes with cultivating a garden for the first time.
I’ve done some thinking about how the community could be encouraged to interact with, or at least care for the garden. Community supported agriculture is made possible by likeminded people who come together to pursue a common goal, and out of their efforts, a garden, a farm or a farmers market is generated, making their vision more accessible to a larger community. Historically, the garden’s produce has been intended to reach only those who work in the garden. I wasn’t aware of this precedent when I started the internship, and throughout the summer I have been harvesting produce for the entire community, instead of reserving it for only those who help. Consequently, I haven’t received much help, and frankly I’m not sure if it’s needed. The HGI internship is loosely structured, but on a basic level, the summer intern is being paid to maintain a garden intended to benefit the community.
Throughout the summer I have been writing e-mails to summer residents on campus, providing notice of when certain crops have been harvested and are ready for consumption. Some of my friends working in labs this summer complain about feeling unproductive, contributing to a sense that their work is fairly meaningless. When I invite them to come work in the garden, they tell me they would rather not do my job for me. They have a point, gardening or farming is a job that requires specialized knowledge, just like any trade. So why demand that anyone who benefits from the fruits of my labor contribute to the production process? Electricians don’t ask us to route wiring so that we may use the lights in our house, they do it for us in exchange for compensation for applying their specialized knowledge.
Gardening is different from other trades though, in that there is a certain aesthetic to producing your own food, and a political glorification that accompanies independence from commercial farming. So that even if produce doesn’t generate profit, it may still generate personal satisfaction. I believe this is why some are willing to exert themselves in efforts that are ultimately less efficient than going to the store and returning home with a huge amount of produce, because gardening can be satisfying.
Community-supported agriculture serves a function similar to that of the current garden. Small local farmers generate produce, using ethical methods of cultivation, made more feasible by the scale of their operation. Produce generated is transported to appointed locations where subscribers to the farm pick up their share. This method of agriculture is currently predominantly accessible only to the people who can afford it. This is unfortunate but not unfixable, if more farmers were incentivized to practice this method of agriculture then conceivably, healthier, more ethically produced food would become more affordable. A key difference between the current garden and a CSA farm is size. Our pick-up stand is a straw-bale, and if the food produced were evenly distributed to the HCA population, we would be discussing how to create fractions of peppers and onions. My point is that while the garden does serve the community, there is much more serving to be done.
The garden serves as somewhat of a rallying point for supporters of local agriculture and environmentalism generally. When the raised beds were first established, Andrew Bostick generated interest among the summer community by holding events and hosting volunteer days, which are enormously productive in the short run. During the year the garden is maintained by the heads of the Haverford Garden Initiative, Siena Mann and Peter Kissin, who have done a great job getting people involved in garden work through similar methods. During the summer maintaining the garden falls to the garden intern selected by the Center for Peace and Global Citizenship. I think having an overseer who looks out for the wellbeing of the garden is necessary, but if the job of that overseer also includes generating community support, I don’t believe that a single person can generate enough interest or commitment to the garden space through singular events that have a tangible beginning and end, such as volunteer days. I would be interested to see how campus environmentalists would interact with the garden if it were transformed in to private plots instead of one large public plot. The current garden space could be split in to approximately 25 plots. The intention would be to give garden members the opportunity to develop gardening knowledge in a way that is not afforded by contained volunteer events. Ideally, this would foster multiple personal investments in the garden that would effectively form a community of individual supporters. This idea is born of some informal examples, namely Jake Hazen’s (2014) garlic plot which I harvested nearly two weeks ago, who has now agreed to contribute to the work in progress gardener’s handbook.
I have a peeve for things that seemingly don’t have a purpose. Intro to Fitness, nihilism and dog sweaters really get my blood boiling, but it is somewhat defeating to feel like the garden doesn’t serve a real purpose here at Haverford. We are so lucky to have plenary, an opportunity to direct the institution. If a community of supporters of local agriculture existed here I imagine things would develop quickly. Maybe we could even convince Facilities Management to take over the operation of a farm, in the meadow by Lower Featherbed.
That’s all for now. Thanks for reading so far.