Daily life as a Food Security and Urban Farming Intern working in Cape Town’s community gardens
Education as part of the internship
Urban Harvest is South Africa’s oldest organic edible garden service. We build big, beautiful, organic fruit and vegetable gardens for private clients and businesses. And as a Food Security and Urban Farming intern, I work with our community gardens (built for schools, hospitals, etc.) to teach students about gardening, vegetables, and health. The two schools I spend the most time at are Mary Kihn School for Partially Hearing Children and Greenlands Primary school. Both are filled with their own unique sets of challenges, but all of my work centers around the kids and the vegetables.
Making an impact as an intern
My influence as an intern is greater than I would’ve ever expected! All of the teachers and most of the students know me by name. After my first day of carrying an armful of eggplants around (my backpack was full), many students now say that eggplants are their favorite vegetable. Although they have never tasted them… Eating nutritious and fresh lunches with vegetables seems to help students understand that meals don’t need to revolve around meat and carbs.
Mondays at Mary Kihn are my favorite; we sell our organic vegetables to the community of Observatory, Cape Town. All the proceeds go back to the school, and I get to spend time with the students. We talk about their lives and my life while weaving in new knowledge about harvesting and simple business skills.
The students, sometimes accompanied by their teacher depending on the level of their hearing ability, come into the garden with me. I can explain the proper way to pick spinach, eggplants, green peppers, cabbage… The list goes on and depends on the season!
After we harvest, we arrange our vegetables and herbs on our table. Then, we sell them in the afternoon. One student gets to be the treasurer for the day, keeping track of the amount of money we earn and handling the change box. We practice business techniques, like saying ‘thank you’ when someone purchases from us. We also encourage the use of reusable shopping bags.
On other days, we plant! Depending on the garden beds availability, I get to take students into the garden. I show them how to properly plant and water seedlings while explaining simple gardening and plant growth processes. I usually talk about topics like the importance of water, light, and photosynthesis, and healthy soil as ‘food’ for seeds.
Food security also means no food is wasted
I also research surplus vegetables and herbs we have in our gardens to reduce food waste. While we have a beautiful earthworm farm and composting system, I hate seeing perfect vegetables spoil before someone eats them. I’ve made sauerkraut with excess cabbage and lots of chili sauce from bucketfuls of cayenne papers. For now we enjoy them in the office, but eventually, we want to sell them at community markets.
I’m very interested in food security, and the practice of repurposing vegetables in ways that make them more accessible, especially past their peak stages. It contributes to future systems that can support the communities that these gardens serve. The market out of Mary Kihn also aspires to be a consistent source of quality produce for an affordable price in Observatory, as well as a source of education for the kids harvesting and selling.
Being a Food Security and Urban Farming Intern with Urban Harvest is genuinely so much fun. The gardens are amazing, the kids are curious to learn, and I gain more knowledge about produce and organic farming every day. And I get to take extra vegetables from the gardens home to eat! On a personal note, I love seeing the direct impact that I have in my role because the company is small. They say it only takes one seed to make a difference, and it brings me so much joy to feel like I get to be a seed here!