2011 PFIG Recipient Judith Yang

Career Administrator

Judith Yang
School of Architecture
Urban and Environmental Planning Major
2012 Graduation Year

Internship: Morven Kitchen Project

Notes on the first week

The sun beats down on my neck. Gnats swarm in my face, seizing every opportunity to test and pester me. There is a stillness in the air, occasionally broken by the call of a rooster or the squawking of geese. This is the environment in which I work every morning. This is Morven.

This summer I am interning with the Morven Kitchen Garden Project – a one acre plot of land that serves as a living laboratory for students, such as myself, to study and practice sustainable agriculture. I will be using land to study food production cycles and sustainable food systems. In addition, I will be researching what role Morven will play in agricultural education and how the space can be used as a source of education and empowerment.

Before I began my internship, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. All I knew for sure was I would be both helping to maintain the garden and pursuing my own project of implementing educational programming at the farm. However, being fairly new to farming, I didn’t know what maintaining a small-scale farm would entail.

On the first day, I worked seven hours from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., performing various tasks, including thinning the carrot, radish and beet seedlings to prevent overcrowding, watering and weeding. By the end of the day, my mentor, Michelle, and I quickly realized that we would burn out if we continued to work seven-hour days in the brutal heat. As a result, we decided to work earlier, beginning at 6 a.m., to escape the intensity of the heat and sun. Working directly with the land has proven to be unpredictable, and thus my daily responsibilities have varied according to the changes in the environment and resulting demands of the plants. Some of the tasks that I have been primarily responsible for during the first week include preparing the beds by hand tilling, planting seeds, weeding, mulching the rows to retain the moisture within the soil and smother weeds and watering the seedlings.

As time progresses, the garden will constantly grow and change, providing me with new tasks and responsibilities to anticipate. In the coming weeks, Michelle, Rowan, my fellow apprentice, and I hope to finish planting the first half of the garden with tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, beans, squash, zucchini, cucumbers, melons and various flowers. In addition, I will be meeting with the director of the Buford Schoolyard Garden to discuss the ways in which Morven can support and partner with the middle school.

I am very excited to see the farm grow and develop into both a sustainable food source and source of education and empowerment. I will keep everyone updated of its progress!

Midway

Greetings from the farm! It has now been almost two months since I’ve started my internship, and it saddens me that it will be coming to an end soon.

Compared to the space that I was describing one month ago in my first entry, the farm is much more alive and vibrant. As some of you may remember, during the first half of my internship, Michelle, Rowan and I had only been focusing on the first quadrant and just beginning to work on the second. Well, now the second quadrant has been finished. We have also been making changes to the first quadrant and starting the third one. The sum of all these changes adds up to green beans, okra, zucchini, summer squash, pattipan squash, cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, cantaloupes, watermelons, kale, swiss chard, onions, beets, carrots and radishes.

One thing that I have observed during my time here is that things grow in the blink of an eye. One moment a zucchini fruit is just a blossom, and then another it’s ready to be harvested. That being said, things also die rather quickly. One morning a summer squash plant will be as healthy as the others, and that evening it will become the victim of vine borers. From these experiences I’ve been slowly learning not to take these incidents too close to heart because nature is unpredictable and constantly changing at a rate that can sometimes be difficult to keep up with. 

I am still working with the City Schoolyard Gardens to research the ways in which Morven can serve as a resource for the various schoolyard gardens throughout Charlottesville. My research is progressing, and I am now specifically looking into how Morven can partner with Madison House to be used as a grounds to train and prepare UVa students to work in schoolyard gardens, such as those of Buford Middle School or Clark Elementary School.

Although there are only two more weeks left of my internship, I know that my time with Morven will not end here. I am in the process of developing my internship into an independent study for the school year.

I can guarantee that there will be many changes at Morven between the time I finish writing this and when I write my final entry, so be prepared for an impressive update in the coming two weeks!

Final Reflections

The second half of my internship felt much more active than the first, mainly because the garden was bursting with more life. The summer crops, including the bell peppers, jalapenos, tomatoes, eggplants, zucchini, summer squash, cucumbers, okra, watermelons and melons, were flourishing, and the scorching temperatures and pests required us to pay extra attention to the health of the produce. Although my tasks varied from day to day, there were certain jobs that we had to religiously complete everyday. For example, I began every morning spraying myself with a healthy dose of OFF! (as far away as possible from our plants, of course) followed by a run-through of the squash and zucchini rows, killing any squash bugs and eggs in sight.

Although my internship officially ended at the beginning of August, I will continue to work at Morven and with Charlottesville City Schools during the school year through an independent study. Towards the end of my internship, I met multiple times with the directors of the Buford City Schoolyard Garden Program to discuss the possibilities of establishing a new program that would offer UVa students the opportunity to volunteer consistently at schoolyard gardens throughout Charlottesville. I feel that my summer at Morven has opened many doors for me, including this independent study. It has also opened my eyes to both the close relationship that a farmer develops with the land and the difficulties that one must endure in order to both cultivate and conserve it. Through my internship, I have gained a greater appreciation for the work that our farmers do to provide fresh and healthy food for the populations.

Looking back on this summer, I am surprised by how quickly it has passed. Time truly does fly by when you’re having fun. I feel confident in saying that my internship with the Morven Kitchen Garden Project has been the most meaningful and rewarding experience I have ever had. It provided me with the opportunity to delve deeper into a field that I am extremely passionate about and the background and experience to pursue a career in this area.