In checking out what's been going on over at Parrish Manor lately, I also had a chance to talk with three young people who Inter-Faith Food Shuttle has employed to work in the community garden with Lara Khalil, our Wake County Community Gardens Coordinator and Urban Ag Program Manager. Seth, age 13, Kiara, age 20, Seth, and Mario, age 14, all pictured above, have been out there working in the soil three days a week since this summer.
Kiara says her favorite part of working in the garden is “…getting to see the hard work you put into it shown by growing. That’s my favorite part, just watching it grow.” She had grown vegetables in containers before, but had never really worked in a garden. Now she said she has learned about leaf mulching, what compost is, and what kind of things you can compost! “Like table scraps!” Mario added. Mario likes planting, digging, and getting rid of old roots in the garden.
The youth have also been working to put up a fence around the garden, weeding, watering, composting the old plants, and getting the garden ready for fall.
They also learned more about the benefits of using leaf mulch on garden beds to slow the growth of weeds, retain moisture, protect the beds, and put organic matter back into the soil over time.
I was impressed by the knowledge they have gained from working in the garden already. Seth had even done some research on kohlrabi before planting it – I had only heard of the vegetable a few months ago, and, I confess, have yet to try it. But the kids in the Cooking Matters class seemed very willing to try new things, so perhaps I’ll take a note from them and pick some up at the Farmers Market this week!
Another benefit of working in the garden for these young people is getting to bring the fresh food they’ve grown back home to their families. Kiara says she brings jalapeno peppers to her uncle, and her grandfather is always asking for peppers, too. She says her grandmother, who lives in Parrish Manor as well, is sick of peppers, but she’ll never be sick of sweet potatoes! Kiara and her grandmother have that love for sweet potatoes in common. The sweet tubers are her favorite thing that’s come out of the garden so far. She says, “sweet potatoes are unique tasting.”
Of the garden, Kiara says, “Whatever is grown there is welcome for everyone to take – it is a community garden.”
With no grocery stores nearby, the garden provides a bounty of fresh food to residents to eat – but it’s also a place where they can learn how to grow their own food, connect to the Earth, learn about where their food comes from, get some physical activity, and develop gardening and leadership skills. Not only do they know where the fresh veggies on their kitchen table came from – they can take pride in having had a hand in growing them and providing for themselves.
Check back soon to learn about a gardening class for teens that students from NC State have partnered with us to run at Parrish Manor - compost and worms, oh my!