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!