Freedom by Design in the U.Va. Community Garden

We’re excited to announce a huge project for this winter in partnership with Freedom By Design! Freedom by Design at U.Va. is a chapter of a national organization that brings architecture students and community groups together to create design-build projects that improve wheelchair accessibility, and we’re working with them to add a wheelchair ramp and an accessible bed in the garden.

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The group, out of the University of Virginia School of Architecture, is currently in the process of designing a number of components for the garden, including a ramp from the sidewalk to the garden, a patio, a wheelchair-accessible raised bed with built-in swivel bench, and some updates to the master plan of the 4 (2)photo 2 (4)photo 5 (2)

The U.Va. Community Garden, Freedom By Design, and the Alpha Phi Omega service fraternity will work together in November to build out these beautiful designs as well as reconstruct our 2009-era wooden garden beds! Keep an eye out for build day announcements if you’d like to trade your green thumb for a hammer and nail and get involved!

Love + U.Va. Community Garden Leadership Team

Black eyed peas – and what to do with ’em!

On Wednesday, we rushed to harvest the beautiful zebra-striped black eyed peas before the rain recommenced. Planted as a cover crop by our summer interns, black eyed peas (also called cowpeas and southern peas) became a staple of the Southeast after being brought from Africa by slaves, according to Ira Wallace of the Southern Exposure Seed Exchange in her book Vegetable Gardening in the Southeast. Despite their name, black eyed peas are actually beans. Not only do black eyed peas reinvigorate the soil with nutrients by fixing nitrogen from the air, but when allowed to dry on the vine they can be plucked and stored for a year or more! In the South, black eyed peas are often eaten on New Year’s Day for good luck.

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So, what to do with them now? Some of us were a little worried about the preceding days’ rain and resulting humidity – Did the beans get too wet already? Is it simply too damp in the air to dry them now? The answer is, nope – beans are resilient and drying them is easy! Just shuck the beans from their pods, (compost the pods – feel free to bring them to the garden), and lay the beans out on a tray overnight. Once they’re dry to the touch they’ll be ready to store in an airtight container for months on end!

When you’re ready to eat your beans, plan ahead for best results. The day before you want to cook them, soak them in enough water to cover them for eight hours or overnight – right on the counter is fine. In book-nourishing-traditions-fronther book Nourishing Traditions, Sally Fallon of the Weston A. Price Foundation recommends soaking legumes such as black eyed peas in water plus two tablespoons of pastured whey. Drawing upon the ancient knowledge and practices of traditional societies across the globe, Fallon explains that soaking legumes in water and the acid found in whey neutralizes phytic acid and enzyme inhibitors so the nutrients in beans become readily digestible and easily assimilated.

Now, for cooking! Bring equal parts beans and water to a boil in a pot. After it begins to boil, reduce the heat to a simmer and let it go for 40 to 60 minutes, or until the beans are tender – just test it by picking out a few with a spoon and tasting (after letting them cool off for a moment!).

Want to jazz up your basic black eyed peas? Check out this recipe for Black Eyed Pea Cakes with Collard Greens and Sweet Potatoes by Nourished Kitchen, or this recipe for Black Eyed Peas and Kale Soup by Nutrition Stripped – and take advantage of the lovely dinosaur kale trees in the garden!

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Aloha from the U.Va. Community Garden, brought to you by dinosaur kale.

Cultivating crops and cross-garden friendships (+ more chickens)

Last week, the U.Va. Community Garden got to meet some new friends and see some new scenery. We’re a member of Cultivate Cville, a group of urban farmers and gardeners across Charlottesville that meets once a month to tour each other’s sites and start a conversation. On Sunday, we got to host a tour of the U.Va. Community Garden and visit Piedmont Virginia Community College for a tour of their beautiful community garden.


We loved seeing how another grower makes good use of a small space. The PVCC Community Garden rescued recycled window frames and cinderblocks to build their beds, and we admired their buffers of native plant species – including the seemingly exotic passion fruit, which we promptly split open and nibbled! Many of us also had fun playing with Wild Hen, the Rhode Island Red, and we all enjoyed a wonderful array of afternoon snacks. Thanks for your hospitality and enthusiasm, David and the PVCC Community Garden!

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Welcoming students back…with pie and chickens

As the plants grow tall with life in the final days of summer sun, the U.Va. Community Garden has welcomed the return of student life to Grounds! We hosted around thirty volunteers new and old on our first Sunday workday, including undergraduate students, graduate students, faculty, and family. We had a blast showing everyone around with garden tours; watering, weeding, and helping people participate in the tasks of the garden; harvesting kale, tomatoes, cucumbers, basil, and sun jewel melons; sharing snacks and goodies grown by our neighboring farmers; and – the best part – getting to know each other!photo 3 (1)

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And on our Wednesday workday, we had some special guests – CHICKENS! Kate brought her three baby bearded silkies – Stella, Wanda, and Angus (the runt). They were the stars of the show.

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As a reminder, our workdays for the semester are held from Wednesdays 1-2 and Sundays 3-5 – come and join the fun!

Love + U.Va Community Garden Leadership Team

In memoriam of summer 2k15

The Charlottesville Sustainable Agriculture Internship was a strong learning experience for me in many dimensions: planning and executing gardening tasks, dealing with crop success and failure, and spending a ton of time in the kitchen figuring ways to complete the cycle from soil to mouth. I was inspired by many of the community food projects I read about in Denckla Cobb’s book Reclaiming Our Food, the farming techniques and philosophies of Joel Salatin, and the intricate cooking and preservation techniques I gleaned from Sandor Katz, Michael Pollan, and many of my co-workers at Bellair Farm. I became aware of some community and local food projects in our area too – there’s tons to explore. From the communes Acorn and Twin Oaks, to the local and artisinal shops like Timbercreek Market, Feast, Market Street Market and J.M. Stock, to the relatively unknown farmer’s markets of the IRC and Meade Park. There’s a lot going on, and Charlottesville is a good place to get plugged in if you are an agri-foodie, which I have totally become.

I believe in the healing power of local, homegrown foods. The organic produce is simply better for your body. There are no chemicals and there are more nutrients. And I believe the work is good for your mind and perhaps even the soul. I believe that too much of the work we do as American’s today is “heteronomous”, meaning the tasks are forced on us by others (our boss), we often only play a small, specialized part, and we never incorporate the finished product into our personal lives. The other type of labor is quite the opposite, “autonomous”, which I like to rootify as “self named”, i.e. you name your own work. This describes the work people do from start to finish because they want to, and they can incorporate the finished product into their lives to their benefit. This includes many creative hobbies, cooking, and of course gardening. I believe in doing more of this kind of labor and less of the heteronomous kind.

Now for some of the specific happenings in the garden. We had four community meals on Saturday nights, which were a great way to put our produce to use and spend quality time together at a group of gardeners. I made several great, new relationships this summer and strengthened others because of bonding done over gardening and cooking and eating. We welcomed the parents of U.Va. orientees for tours of the garden while their children were busy getting ready for school. We had delicious success with cantaloupes, sun jewel melons, strawberries, purple beans, potatoes, tomatoes and failures with squash, Brussels sprouts, cilantro and others. We made a huge batch of compost tea!

I had all of my gardening firsts this summer. Planting, harvesting, cooking, pruning, transplanting – many of them I fully explored for the first time. Come to thing of it, I haven’t really completed the cycle. We still have fall crops to tend too…

Here’s to a great summer for community, education, and health!

-Connor Campbell

Garden interns in the news!

As the summer comes to a close, we’d like to share an article by UVA Today featuring the U.Va. Community Garden and some other great student-run food-growing operations around the area. Our interns, Connor and Maggie, managed the Community Garden and worked at Bellair Farm as part of the inaugural Charlottesville Sustainable Agriculture Internship. Look for a recap of the summer in the coming days. Thanks, Connor and Maggie!


In fact, as the new semester get’s started, we’d like to celebrate with a Welcome Party! Swing by the garden at the corner of McCormick and Alderman Roads across from O’Hill Dining Hall between 3 and 5 p.m. this Sunday, August 30th!

Students, faculty, staff, families, and community members are all welcome to come anytime between 3 and 5, but we’ll start out with a short meeting/tour of the garden so we can appreciate the hard work done this summer by our interns! We’ll then get our hands dirty and tend to the tomatoes, cucumbers, watermelons, sun jewel melons, basil, arugula, and more! We’ll get to know each other over food, including local veggies and snacks from our farmer friends around the area.
See you in the garden!

The Foxfire Books

For this post, I’ve read a good portion of Joel Salatin’s book Folks this Ain’t Normal. What sticks with me most is the incredibly rich history that alternative agriculture literature has. Joel mentions many other books on the subject, and it is humbling for me to become aware of the extensive canon on this subject that I am interested in and that I believe is a key to improving the human condition in the 21st century. Here’s some exposition about the Foxfire books.

The Foxfire books began in 1966 as an English class project at a high school in norther Georgia. The project culminated in a magazine about rural Appalachian culture, focusing on folk skills and traditions. It is part how-to, part oral history, and part folklore.

By 1972 the project had bloomed and produced a full-fledged book – the first of the Foxfire Book series. The back-to-the-land movement of people desire simple lives tied to the land and traditional skills used the foxfire books as instructional manuals on how to make a living from the land in rural Appalachia.

The first Foxfire Book is available at Alderman Library, and it sits next to my laptop as I write. The title and subtitle follow.

“The Foxfire Book: hog dressing; log cabin building; mountain crafts and foods; planting by the signs; snake lore, hunting tales, faith healing; moonshining; and other affairs of plain living“

I believe to be healthy, one must find a balance between the land-, craft-, and faith-based folk lifestyle of the Foxfire subjects and the modern, scientific, skeptical, technological lifestyle that is thrust upon us millennials all day, every day. This book series would be a great place to start combating that thrust and help get us to a healthier balance.