Friday, May 3, 2013

Marra Farm: Initial Reflections from an Intern

Some of Lettuce Link's interns and volunteers will be guest blogging for us over the next few months. Today, we welcome the words of Molly Bell, a UW student and Lettuce Link spring intern.

Nestled among the warehouses, machines, and houses in South Park is a hidden field of hope, a sign of resilience. Marra Farm hides like a secret weapon, rebelling against the issues created by our industrial food system.

Upon first arriving at Marra Farm, my first impression was amazement at the size of this hidden gem. How can four acres of land produce over 22,000 pounds of food, sustain, and run itself within the city boundaries?

My question was quickly answered as I grabbed a pair of gloves and a trowel alongside ten or so other volunteers. Whether people come to improve their own food security, gain gardening experience, or to have a team-building experience with their co-workers, Marra Farm is meticulously tended and cared for by these relentless volunteers. On a rainy Saturday morning, I was astonished by how much a dozen hard workers could accomplish.

Since the growing season has only just begun, most of the tasks around the farm are based on preparing the beds for planting and planting the little vegetable starts grown in the greenhouses.

Preparing beds is one of the most labor-intensive farm chores, in my opinion. It requires pulling out the plants that have over-wintered in the beds, removing weeds, tilling the soil, adding compost and sometimes even building a trellis.

One volunteer commented that it was weird to go to a farm that is so full of life, just to remove from the soil all the plants, even if they are weeds! However, the favoritism for vegetables instead of dandelions is what allows Marra Farm to have such abundant summer harvests.

Another amazing aspect of Lettuce Link and Marra Farm are the programs that educate local children about nutrition, cooking, and health. Hands-on learning is becoming recognized as an essential component of environmental and traditional education.

The children I help teach are second graders from Concord International Elementary School. The students are so fortunate that their school is located next door to Marra Farm. Although school gardens and farm-to-school programs are growing, most schools do not have a farm two blocks away!

I have been thrilled to see how good-spirited and intrigued the second graders are at the farm. For the first class, we had them plant their own small gardens.

There were some challenges, like the cold and rainy weather, and trying to keep the students on track when they are so excited to be outside. However, I found it refreshing to watch the students would stop whatever they were doing to peer down and look at a bug.

Their contagious excitement over the wonders of nature is a good reminder to us adults that we need to slow down and look around. I am excited to work with this group of young learners the rest of the spring. It will be fun to watch them learn and grow as they plant and maintain their personal gardens.

Marra Farm is a place filled with life and so much hope. As I spend more time there this spring, I’m excited to see the garden evolve and learn about how community farms and gardens help combat the the negative consequences produced by our current food system.

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