2012 PFIG Recipient Libby Lyon
School of Architecture
Urban & Environmental Planning Major
2014 Graduation Year
Internship: Morven Kitchen Garden
Notes on the first week
What an eye-opening first week it has been at the Morven Kitchen Garden. After 5 consecutive days of waking up at 5AM and working hard until 9:30 or 10, I'm beginning to truly appreciate what it means to take care of a farm and grow good food. I'm so happy to be working with Rowan this summer, especially because we get to carpool to Morven every morning together. We exchange yawns, talk about what we might do that day, and fawn over the adorable baby turkeys at the Morven property on the drive to the garden. We are both so lucky to be working with Michelle, who does an incredible job managing the kitchen garden. She guides us through the tasks of each day, and has taught me a ton already!
Just this week alone, we (amongst other things): planted bush beans, carrots, beets, cucumbers, squash, various herbs, and sweet potatoes; harvested broccoli, onions, garlic, mixed greens, beets, turnips, potatoes, kale, and swiss chard; weeded and mulched between rows and around plants; and had a successful first CSA day (our CSA – Community Supported Agriculture – runs every Thursday and brings fresh vegetables and eggs to the faculty and students in the UVa community).
Intermittently we stop our work to snack on various vegetables, get a big sip of water, and take in how beautiful the Morven Kitchen Garden is – especially early in the morning. I am feeling really lucky to be living simply this summer: working outside every day with two fun friends, waking up with the sun, learning so much about all aspects of food, and feeding the UVa and Charlottesville communities. This is going to be a great couple of months. I hope to learn as much as I can about vegetable seasons, bugs and diseases that negatively affect plant production, managing a CSA program and beginning a farm stand, and finding new ways to cook the fresh veggies I go home with each day.
In addition to working on the farm, I am working with Michelle and Rowan on how to best use Morven as an educational space to train UVa volunteers and teachers to use schoolyard gardens in the Charlottesville area. You will be hearing more on that as the summer goes on!
Until next time,
P.S. To see what we do on a daily basis, check out the Morven Kitchen Garden blog! I update on Wednesdays and Rowan updates on Fridays.
I can’t believe it has been two months since I began my work on the farm OR that we have officially reached the midway point through our growing season, marked by our annual Gazpacho in the Garden event. We spent the week before the event sprucing up the garden (weeding, mulching, fertilizing), and the day before making four huge pots of gazpacho. We had about 60 people come to the garden and play games, take garden tours, chat and eat great food. It was a lot of fun showing off all of the hard work we’ve put in, and even more fun preparing food and opening the space for people to enjoy.
Despite a nasty, hungry, tomato-loving groundhog, our garden is looking beautiful. We have so many fun things: cucumbers, eggplants, green peppers, cherry tomatoes, green beans, carrots, beets, swiss chard, kale, assorted herbs, prolific squash and zucchini, as well as soon-to-arrive melons, okra, corn, sweet potatoes and pumpkins. I have learned so much through growing all of these things. One thing I’ve found particularly interesting are the various companion planting methods we have included in our growing system. For example, in Three Sisters planting (squash, corn and beans), the three crops work together to thrive: the corn provides a stake for the beans to climb up, the squash vines spread along the ground, locking moisture in and preventing the growth of weeds, and the beans give nitrogen back to the soil. We’ve also planted tomatoes with basil ("what tastes good together grows good together") and eggplants with radishes (the radishes attract insects that would otherwise munch on the eggplants).
In terms of my work with schoolyard gardens, I have been concentrating on developing garden-based curriculum that comply with second and fourth grade Virginia Standards of Learning. Using some of what I have learned in the garden, I am currently developing a second grade humanities lesson and fourth grade science lessons to be used in the schoolyard gardens at various elementary schools in Charlottesville.
The most important thing I have taken away from my summer so far is that I am beginning to truly understand what it takes to grow great quantities of food. I learn more about my mental and physical capacities every day at Morven, and have developed the utmost respect for farmers who make their livelihoods from this kind of work.
Hello once again from MKG! It has been about a month since the end of my time at Morven. The lessons I've learned from my apprenticeship this summer will be valuable for the rest of my life and especially in my career goals moving forward.
Things began to slow down towards the end of the summer, but we still got a lot completed. As students took August off for summer session, we focused on selling produce to Boar's Head. We also began to solve the groundhog problem- they eventually moved on from our tomatoes to our melons, where they had a melon feast. We then got the ball rolling in terms of finding ways to reach out to more U.Va. students to come work at Morven, whether through coming to garden or to conduct research in various fields.
Through the apprenticeship, I have realized my interests lie more in garden-based education than farming in and of itself. Farming is tough work that requires real passion. While I thought I knew this before my apprenticeship, I have a whole new appreciation for this kind of work. This appreciation is what continues to fuel my desire to teach kids, beginning in elementary school, where their food comes from and how it is grown so that they too can learn to understand what goes into the food they eat.
With what I've learned at Morven about growing food and managing a garden space, I have finished the first lesson plan for Charlottesville City elementary schools. Last week at Burnley-Moran Elementary School, about 60 kids went out to the garden and learned about different garden resources (covering a Virginia Standard of Learning). They then applied what they learned and constructed three raised beds for their garden.
I'm excited to do more of this type of work, and will always be able to apply what I learned at the MKG this summer.