If I have learned one thing this summer, it is this:
“A flower falls, even though we love it; and a weed grows, even though we do not love it.”
– Dōgen Zenji
I have experienced the kind nature of a garden, its buds, flowers, and amazing caretakers, and while I have journeyed through its weeds, what is a garden without its thorns? I have come to appreciate the sweat that goes into a garden’s care and long hours that go into its flourshing. As a rising sophomore Davidson College, I was able to spend my summer as a Sustainability Scholar getting my hands dirty on the farm. Prior to this experience, my only farming experience was at home in a backyard garden, but, thanks to the guidance of my wonderful supervisors, I took on quickly to the daily grind at Friendship Gardens.
Echinacea flowers in our pollinator bed at Friendship Gardens. Summer 2018
Waking up at 5:00 most mornings to catch the bus from Davidson, I would arrive at the farm at 8am to begin my caring duties: watering, planting, and of course, weeding. I learned how to grow watermelon, peanuts, parsley, oregano, sweet potatoes, garlic, and sesame seeds. I learned about cover crop and worm castings, composting and herb dehydration. Do you know what a “lasagna plot” is? Unfortunately, it does not involve growing freshly made lasagna, but it is a method of layering mulch and cardboard on a plot of land prior to sowing seeds. Doing so prevents the growth of weeds; even better! I quickly realized that my time at Friendship Gardens would not only allow me to grow closer to and care more for my natural environment, but also learn about the tips and tricks of gardening, skills I will definitely take back to my backyard garden at home.
While I enjoyed learning and working on the farm, I also enjoyed the days when I could follow our harvested produce off of the grounds and into the hands of Friendship Gardens’ two partner organizations: Friendship Trays and The Bulb. Friendship Trays, a Meals on Wheels organization in Charlotte, is able to take great advantage of our fresh produce by incorporating it into their recipes. The Bulb, a mobile farmers market, works to provide fresh produce to those in food insecure areas in Mecklenburg County. My weekly trips to “The Trays” and to markets with The Bulb, further brightened my summer dedicated to learning about and helping remediate food insecurity. While this “weed” of food insecurity grows in Mecklenburg County, we are able to reap the benefits of the “flowers” at Friendship Gardens, Friendship Trays, and The Bulb as to fight food insecurity with friendship and fresh produce.
When I return to Charlotte in the upcoming semester, I look forward to returning to Friendship Gardens as to continue this meaningful work. I suggest you do so as well! If you are interested in volunteering with Friendship Gardens, visit their volunteer page here: http://friendship-gardens.org/volunteer/. And check out the amazing work being done at Friendship Trays http://friendshiptrays.org/ The Bulb https://www.thebulbgallery.org/. Let us work together to make Mecklenburg County a food secure community!