I have officially been an intern for two weeks at Howdy Farm now, and I could not ask for a better experience. The weather has been stunning with many brilliantly sunny days with a slight breeze. The farm looks amazing bathed in the winter sunlight. Not only has the weather been great, but so have my learning experiences at the farm. Over the past two weeks, I have learned so much about growing produce from planting tiny fennel seeds to harvesting bouquet-looking romaine.
The interns and I began our internship by learning how it all starts: planting the seeds. I filled up hundreds of little black planters with rich soil and began planting. I sewed a great variety of seeds of all shapes and sizes such as spicy basil, fennel, kale, and many flower varieties. Many of the fine small seeds require light to germinate, so they only needed a gentle push into the surface of the soil, while larger seeds, such as fennel, were covered with about 1/8th of an inch of soil for the best growing conditions. Next we prepared more soil by adding perlite, a porous white volcanic glass, to the soil to aid in proper drainage. We had to pour the pearlite very carefully, because it produces a white cloud of particulate that irritates the lungs. In this prepared soil we pressed pieces of fragrant turmeric and ginger root in to the soil and covered it. The turmeric and ginger will take about a year before any growth will be seen. When all the seeds were neatly planted, we carried the pallets to the greenhouse.
We stepped out of the crisp, cold air and into the warm, humid green house. All around me there were plants and seedlings of many different varieties. I stroked my hand over a lush green bed of arugula microgreens and saw little seedlings of fruit trees from pomegranate to avocado and fig. We placed the freshly planted seeds in the green house where they will comfortably stay until they are ready to move to the soil outdoors.
After the planting was complete, we focused on harvesting. Under the bright sun, I took my sheers and cut beautiful heads of prize head lettuce with deep purple tips and bright green bottoms as well as brilliant green heads of romaine lettuce that can only be compared to a bouquet of flowers. The heads of lettuce were taken to the wash room to undergo a thorough cleaning before they could be donated or sold. It took quite a long time and a lot of water to wash the soil hiding in the leaves of the lettuce, which is why Howdy Farm is interested in building a new sink that can utilize water from the rain collectors. The beautiful heads overflowed in the large coolers we then drove to the Brazos Valley Food Bank.
As a nutrition major, I was ecstatic that so much produce from Howdy Farm is donated to the food bank as fresh produce, especially of the excellent quality of Howdy Farm, can be hard to come by. I love that Howdy Farm is helping to enhance the health of the community by donating fresh, healthy food to those in the greatest need.
The past two weeks have been truly amazing, and every day I leave Howdy Farm thinking how lucky I am to have this experience as an intern. Not only is this experience teaching me about how to grow produce, but it is also showing me an appreciation for the colorful beauty that comes from the soil. The knowledge I gain at Howdy Farm teaches me something that every dietitian should have: a focus on the amazing fruits and vegetables that should be the core of our diet.