A Day with Vera, Food Security and Urban Farming Intern

A Day with Vera, Food Security and Urban Farming Intern

Written by: Vera Lee, student International Affairs at North Eastern University, United States

Photo credits: Vera Lee

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 an Food Security and Urban Farming Intern, I work with our community gardens – gardens built for schools, hospitals, etc – to teach students about gardening, vegetables, and health.

The two schools that 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 at the end of the day, all of my work centers around the kids and the vegetables.

Making an impact as an intern

My influence as an intern is way greater than I would’ve ever expected. All of the teachers and most of the students in both schools know me by name. And after my first day of carrying an armful of eggplants around (because my backpack was full), a large group of students say that eggplants are their favorite vegetable, even though they’ve never tasted them. I find that simply eating nutritious and fresh lunches that highlight vegetables inspires surrounding students to understand that meals do not 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 students, talking to them about their lives and my life, while weaving in new knowledge about harvesting and simple business skills.

Food Security and urban farming intern Food Security Intern

A handful of students, sometimes accompanied by their teacher depending on their level of hearing ability, come into the garden with me, and I explain the proper way to pick spinach, eggplants, green peppers, cabbage, beetroot, broccoli… the list goes on and depends on the season!

After we harvest, we arrange our vegetables and herbs on our table, and we sell for an hour in the afternoon. One student gets to be the treasurer of the day, responsible for keeping track of the amount of money we earn and handling the change box. We practice wise business techniques like always saying thank you when someone makes a purchase from us, and we encourage the use of reusable shopping bags.

Read more about the Food Security and Urban Farming Internship in Cape Town with Urban Harvest!

On other days, we plant! Depending on the availability of the garden beds, I get to take classes into the garden and get my hands dirty by showing kids 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

When I’m not working with students, I research surplus vegetables and herbs we have in our gardens to find ways to reduce food waste. While we have a beautiful earthworm farm and composting system, I hate seeing perfectly ripe vegetables spoil before someone gets to eat them. I’ve made sauerkraut with excess cabbage and lots of chili sauce from bucketfuls of cayenne peppers that we are enjoying in the office for now, but eventually looking to sell in community markets.

Urban Farming internship_nursery Urban Farming internship

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 everyday. 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!

Keen to join Urban Harvest and have a passion for writing? Find out more about their Communications Internship!