The Dog Days of July: A Memoir of the Small Farm Unit

July has been a very busy month in Goldsboro; it almost feels like the hustle and bustle of D.C. Crazy shifting work schedules, diverse cultures of people, and lots of foot traffic but most of all a sense of community. We’ve had several visits on the farm ranging from children to educators from Cuttington University, the oldest university in Africa located in Liberia. Our guests from Cuttington U. seek to expand their agricultural science program. They visited the small farm unit at CEFS and Rutgers University where open dialogue was facilitated about research, the internship program, and the apprenticeship program.

Marisa explaining our lablab cover crop. Lablab is a tropical legume native to Africa

Marisa explaining our lablab cover crop. Lablab is a tropical legume native to Africa

We’ve had quite the harvest too; lots of squash, cucumbers, tomatoes, and peppers. Each week, Jordan and I work with Kayla, the horticulture technician/alumni apprentice/alum intern with collecting data for Dr. Sanjun Gu from NC A&T  University high tunnel calendar study. I enjoy working with the study because I like harvesting tomatoes, learning about identifying plant illnesses, and vertical trellising.Vertical growing seems pretty ideal especially for places where there isn’t much ground space.

When we’re not bustling on the farm, we each work on different community projects. I’ve worked with Shorlette, our community food systems outreach coordinator and the SWARMrs facilitating the Junior Master Gardener program at the Wayne County Library. Each week we covered different topics related to agriculture such as pest identification, classifying soil types, methods of planting and most recently how to make pizza from scratch using garden produce harvested from the small farm unit and the library garden.

Junior Master Gardeners harvesting oregano and thyme for the pizza sauce. All toppings are sourced locally.

Junior Master Gardeners harvesting oregano and thyme for the pizza sauce. All toppings are sourced locally.

Shorlette helping the kids redress their pizza.

Shorlette helping the kids redress their overloaded pizza. Too many toppings= too heavy to put in the oven.

Group Decision making with squash and zucchini toppings.

Group Decision making with squash and zucchini toppings.

Aside from working with youth at the library garden, I partnered with Goldsboro Parks and Recreation Herman Park Center to do food demonstrations with adults with varying abilities. D’Leeshia Lee, the recreational therapist there has inspired me to say varying abilities instead of disabilities because “disabilities” don’t recognize the strengths of an individual. I work with two groups on a rotating biweekly schedule and we do hands on cooking demos using easy recipes for seasonal produce that we grow on the farm. We’ve made blueberry parfaits, zesty Italian dressing from scratch for a tomato and cucumber salad and a summer squash pasta salad. I enjoy doing the food demos because I get to interact with other people to compare and contrast different ways of preparing foods. The participants are always eager to try out the recipe. They also learn how to plant and take care of the crops we grow.

"A Healthier YOU" participant planting sweet potato slips donated to use by our awesome  Food Corps member, Leslie Peck.

“A Healthier YOU” participant planting sweet potato slips donated to use by our awesome Food Corps member, Leslie Peck.

Each month the small farm unit embarks on a field trip where we explore careers in the food system. Most recently, we went to visit a former apprentice, Caroline Hamilton at the Octopus Garden in Ashville, the Mountain Horticultural Crops Research and Extension Center, and Sow True Seeds. Our first stop was the _ center where we loaded coach with plenty of feathermeal and potting soil. Feathermeal is a byproduct of grounded up chicken so it wasn’t the best fragrance to inhale as we ascended into the mountains. We visited the greenhouse at the mountain research station and learned about the different research projects on the farm. I was specifically interested in the way they trellised fruit trees using the “high density” method. This method allows for more convenient harvesting and the trees produce fruit in the third year.

High Density fruit trellising method

High Density fruit trellising method

I’d like to give a special shout out to our old man Coach for making all our excursions possible. And farewell to Zion, SWARM alumni/short term apprentice/rising freshman at Arizona State University studying environmental engineering. Best of luck buddy!

The Infamous Small Farm Unit Crew in Asheville.

The Infamous Small Farm Unit Crew  in Asheville. (left to right: Zion, Angela, Marisa, Myeasha, Jordan, and Kayla)

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