Meet John and Joli, Food Security and Urban Farming Interns working in Cape Town’s Community Gardens
I am Anna, Communications and Marketing intern at Roots, joining John and Joli for a day at Urban Harvest. This organization installs, maintains and supports organic food gardens in the city. They teach and educate people to grow own, fresh and healthy food at home. I am joining these organic farming interns for a day to learn more about the organization they work for and to hear about their weekly schedule, daily tasks, and experiences. Joli and John are both American and study at Northeastern University in Boston. Joli studies Children’s Psychology and you can see that she really loves kids in every single way. John majors in history and he prefers experiential learning which is why he chose Urban Harvest for his practical experience abroad. Read their exciting story here.
Meet the team of Urban Harvest
At 9 in the morning, I arrived at Mary Kihn Primary School and I was really excited to see how other interns work and get involved. I never heard of Urban Harvest before I came to Cape Town and started my internship with Roots Interns. I was wondering what an edible garden service is. The first people I met were the current Organic Farming interns Joli and John. I saw big smiling faces full of eager to work and get hands dirty.
Joli took me for a tour around the place and she showed me the vegetable garden. I recognized this amazing view of Devil’s Peak. She also showed me the Urban Harvest’s office and introduced me to the small team. I met Ben, the owner, and the director of the company. I also got to meet Michelle. She is the supervisor of the interns and has a huge knowledge of urban farming. The office culture is generally very relaxed, super casual and personal. They work closely together always willing to help with anything. Joli told me that she is very happy here because everybody makes an effort to get to know you. And I also met the maintenance team existing of two guys that go out every day to check the gardens, water the plants, etc. We had another volunteer that day. 12-year-old Simon needed some community hours for his upcoming bar mitzvah and the presentation upfront.
The purpose of Urban Harvest and kids education
Joli talked about the purpose of Urban Harvest. They believe that by helping South Africans to grow their own food, they are supporting a healthier, happier and more sustainable way of life for everyone. These practices always happen in the most fun way by combining professionalism, experimental education, and knowledge. Urban Harvest attracts sponsors, donations, and fundings to generate food, incomes, and skills for the surrounding communities. The organization is purposely located next to Mary Kihn Primary School to support kids with hearing disabilities by eco-education. They discuss the emotional, physical and social benefits of organic food gardening. Another partner is Greenlands Primary School which also centers around the kids and the vegetables. This is Joli’s favorite part of the internship because she loves to have kids around her.
Simon and John are joining us now because the first planting class starts in 5 minutes. I was really impressed by how organized, professional and confident Joli and John, the Organic Farming interns of Urban Harvest, teach those courses without any previous urban farming experience. One can clearly see that they already learned so much and Michelle is a great trainer. There were 8 partially deaf children and their translating teacher. John showed the kids how to properly plant and water seedling while explaining simple gardening and plant growth processes. Joli talked about the importance of water, light and healthy soil, etc. All the children seemed very enthusiastic and interested.
There was another planting class at 11 AM. The organic farming interns, me and the kids picked beetroot, salad, and spinach and brought it to the school’s kitchen to weigh. The interns get to spend time with the students in the kitchen, talking to them about their lives, what is going on. The ladies from the school kitchen cook meals with their own vegetables and the rest go out to the community in Observatory, Cape Town.
Research at Urban Harvest
John enjoyed the research part that this internship entails. When he is not working with kids, he looks up how to grow a worm farm to turn food waste into organic fertilizer. He checks the instruction on the packages of the seedlings and eventually does some extra research. John loves to take care of the earthworm farm and helps to advance the composting system. That day he guided Simon and took pictures with him that he needed for his bar mitzvah presentation. John also delivered nice content and some ideas Simon could talk about in front of the community.
Make an impact as Organic Farming interns
I realized that the Organic Farming interns Joli and John really make an impact and change the lives of those kids. The children seemed balanced, happy, I saw smiling faces and really active kids. The interns are a great asset to Mary Kihn Primary School and the teachers there. In the afternoon, a teacher came up to us and asked us for help. Her younger pupils really don’t understand that Cape Town has water restrictions and they don’t know how to save water or how important water is here. She asked John and Joli if they might have ideas or practical exercises to teach the kids in this sense.
For the rest of the day, we took care of the worms, watered the garden, planted mangos, basil, zucchini, beetroot and more. We shifted potting soil and compost because when growing seeds there needs to be room to sprout. This is not possible when the compost and potting soil has too many big components. I didn’t know that before and I’ve never done anything like this in my life.
It was such a great day and a pleasure for me to join Urban Harvest and the Organic Farming interns for one day. The influence of Joli and John on the kids, community and the environment is way greater than I expected. It is impressive to see the close relationship they’ve been building up with the children. They are supporting the teachers and the team of Urban Harvest immensely while growing to role models. The kids have somebody to look up to and a contact point or place to go to any time. Especially those kids need positivity and strong support in their lives because they go through so much. They have seen horrible things already in their young years that we can’t even imagine. I am grateful for an organization like Urban Harvest and impressive interns such as Joli and John.