The past week was full of planting out more crops for fall/winter harvest, weeding, and prepping for our plant sale. I also had the awesome opportunity to lead a tour for a local moms club and their kids. There were about ten kids, ranging in age from infants to five years, and their mothers. Getting children interested in how food grows is exponentially important, and not many children know where there food comes from or what it looks like before it is shelved in the grocery store. In the tour, I showed them different smells, tastes, and the basics of what food looks like when it's in the ground.
Lemongrass was a great plant to show the kids! A couple of helpers came up and rubbed the lemongrass in their hands to activate its smell. Then they passed it around and all smelled the lemon scent coming from something that was not a lemon. The moms loved it too!
Personally, lemongrass is one of my favorite plants on the farm. It can grow year-round and is resilient and hardy. Aside from giving a unique and fresh flavor to stir fry cooking and baked goods, when we cut it back in winter, we use the clippings between our rows of crops as nutritive mulch for the walkways. Even when dried and dead, it gives off a pleasant smell that makes weeding all the more enjoyable.
Next, we headed to our "P" garden, which consists of several fruit trees that all start with the letter "P". It was a fun activity to have the kids guess the fruits the trees grow, including peach, pear, plum, persimmon, and pomegranate. I cut open a pomegranate for them to guess what it was, and one girl yelled 'popcorn!'. She wasn't far off, as the seeds look like red popcorn kernels, and any guess is better than none, especially one that humorous.
As an activity, the kids planted green beans. They were super enthusiastic about getting their hands dirty and planting as many as possible. I hope the activity showed them how simple, easy, and fun it is to plant seeds, and how you can grow food from something the size of your nail. Pictured below are the kids planting the seeds with *totally proper spacing and depth*, super dirty, toddler-style.
Aside from the tour, another exciting thing that happened was planting the front bed with chamomile and holy basil. Once these plants get big enough, I will be dehydrating them to incorporate in the tea I am making for the farm. Chamomile is known to be a relaxer, anti-inflammatory, help with sleep, and holy basil is known to benefit the respiratory system. I'm excited to see how these ingredients dry down, and how their flavors work with the hibiscus to create a healthy and flavorful tea.
After a hot summer of cover-cropping and rest, Howdy Farm is back to growing the most wholesome veg in the BCS. Nepeta is here too, still meowing, still running away from everyone.
Some background about myself: I am a junior Renewable Natural Resources major and Horticulture minor, and have my sights set on working internationally with agriculture and community development. I have been involved with Howdy Farm organization (SASA) for a little over two years now, and decided to go deeper into the life of the farm by completing this internship. One aspect of the farm that never ceases to amaze me is the pace at which the plants grow. Being out there every day has shown me the significant changes the plants go through in their day-to-day lives. For example, Roselle (Hibiscus) produces new flowers every day, which means they need to be picked and dehydrated every other day or so. Another example are our climbing vines that are currently taking off. We have Chinese yard-long beans, cucumbers, and luffa plants. It is easy to see the immense progress these plants make by climbing upward and creating a beautiful green food-wall. Both of these plants are included in my focus during this internship. I will be making tea out of the harvested hibiscus and other plants like chamomile and holy basil. The objective of my internship is to localize food sources and increase revenue for Howdy Farm. I intend to connect Howdy Farm and Om Grown, who sell teas in their studio. If enough is produced to sell to them in the bulk amount they desire, then we will do this, but chances are we do not have the capacity to provide this. On the other hand, we can make a tea made entirely from Howdy Farm ingredients and market this at Om Grown as well as the farmer's market. The luffa plant is another idea for increasing revenue for the farm. Not only does it provide aesthetic value at the farm with its bright flowers and persistent vines, but the luffa can serve as, well, a luffa. When this gourd dries out, its fibrous skeleton is left and can be used in the shower just as a conventional store-bought luffa is, or even to wash dishes with. These could be sold at the farmers market and would provide extra revenue and variety in our products, and would be a more sustainable alternative to the plastic mesh luffas and sponges people would otherwise be buying.
Apart from my individual project, being out at the farm every day has been immensely therapeutic and fun. There is always something new going on, something to learn, and a good conversation to be had over pulling purslane out of our rows. Something I was exposed to this week is how expensive it is just to provide food for our crops. We got a truckload full of compost for our soon-to-be-planted rows, and that alone cost $300, but I look forward to learning how to integrate new options for our market to help offset these costs.
About the Author:
Howdy! My name is Kelly, I am a Junior Renewable Natural Resources major and Horticulture minor. My passions include food, sustainability, education, and working hands-on in agriculture. I believe the more educated and engaged we are with our food systems, the better decisions we will make for our bodies, communities, and the environment.