Volunteering at the MUSC Urban Garden

Last Saturday, I went to the urban farm at MUSC and volunteered. It was such an amazing surprise to arrive and find a diverse, thriving garden unlike any I had ever seen on the Charleston peninsula. Many types of greens, tubers, veggies, herbs, and even succulents filled this green oasis. I entered the garden and saw that others had already arrived and had begun helping with various tasks. Everyone seemed to be very enthusiastic and happy to be spending their morning contributing to the prosperity of such a beautiful space filled with nature. To get involved, I talked to Carmen who helped give me instructions. Carmen works at the garden. She was very friendly and taught me how to do certain tasks and why they were important. First, she showed me a great way to prepare the soil for new plants. I began by taking a broadfork and pressing it completely into the soil. When I leaned back the broadfork would lift the soil upwards. This process helps to aerate the soil without causing damage to the beneficial life systems that take place within. At the MUSC Urban garden, plants are grown in large raised beds. Aerating with a broadfork is used to aerate the soil instead of an alternative such as vermiculite. Carmen taught me that this is because it would take a vast amount of vermiculite to stimulate aeration in sic a large a raised bed compared to using broadfork. I took turns with other volunteers completing this task and removing the weeds from the surrounding area with a garden hoe. Eventually, we had aerated four separate parallel rows that were 15 feet long. Once these were completed, we planted young bok choy sprouts one hand’s-width apart on the four rows. After we had planted the bok choy, I learned how to grow and plant sugar cane. I took a 3 ft. section of sugar cane, dug a horizontal trench six inches deep, placed the sugar cane within, and buried it. Now, in several months, there will be stalks of sweet sugar cane to enjoy! By the time I finished planting the sugarcane, the volunteer period was coming to an end. We were told that since we had helped, we were allowed to take some food from the garden. I collected sweet potato, kohlrabi, radishes, carrots, and many different types of greens/herbs. After I harvested these organic, fresh plants, I returned home excited to cook up a delicious lunch. To begin, I cooked the sweet potato, radish, carrots, and mustard greens together to create a root vegetable medley. Next, I crisped tempeh with garlic confit. Once it was finished, I added in some kale and broccoli greens. In the end, I created a very tasty meal using the veggies I had earned volunteering. It’s a very special experience to harvest plants straight out of the ground and convert them into a nutrition-packed vegetarian meal.

Overall, I had a very fulfilling, educational experience at the MUSC Urban Farm. I learned different techniques to sustainably produce organic food and discovered a wonderful place to volunteer outdoors with others. I definitely plan to return to this urban sanctuary to volunteer and grow my knowledge of sustainable agriculture.

8 thoughts on “Volunteering at the MUSC Urban Garden

  1. Your experience at the MUSC Urban Garden sounds like a great time. I don’t have very much experience with gardening however, Carmen seems like a great teacher. I definitely want to help with the garden after reading this post. It must’ve been awesome to be able to take home a collection of freshly grown herbs and vegetables. It seemed very well deserved after all the labor everyone put in that day. After reading the description about the lunch you made I noted how delicious it sounded! It is inspiring that you were able to cultivate a lunch that is environmentally sustainable and gourmet. I am glad you were able to take away so much from your experience with sustainable agriculture. I too found my activity with sustainable agriculture empowering.

  2. This sounds awesome! I wish could have made it out to that event. I am always looking for ways to expand my knowledge on gardening and specifically urban gardening in our case. I think this is a great thing for MUSC, what better place to have garden where health is the most important thing. I wish it was possible for them to incorporate these veggies grown on site into the patients meal.
    “May food be thy medicine”

  3. I think its really cool that more people are learning how to plant their own food! It is crucial for people to understand the importance of nutrition. Society focuses so much on curing illnesses and medicine that they don’t worry enough about prevention. Nutrition is vital to our health and it can be a preventative for many health issues. Learning to grow our own food will lesser out biological footprint and help make us more sustainable as a society.

  4. This sounds like a really neat learning event! I wish I had had the chance to make this one. It is really cool that you learned how to plant and grow sugar cane and take home fresh ingredients.

  5. I remember in elementary school we had a school garden and I feel like its so cool to be taught about these things young because as you get older your knowledge just grows. I’m very impressed by your cooking skills and hope to one day be eating in a similar way. The urban garden sounds amazing and makes me want to grow a huge garden of my own!

  6. I did not even know about the MUSC Urban garden until this semester and I think it is such a great way to involve the community in sustainable agriculture. I think it is important for our society to learn to grow our own foods because it would be more sustainable and have more nutrition value.

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