From Permaculture Gardens to Chicken Tractors and Beehives
Do you use your summer to relax and go on holiday, or do you prefer to make a difference? Brij chose the last option. He studies Environmental Sciences with a minor in Earth Sciences at the University of Michigan. The Food Security and Urban Farming internship in Cape Town was a great way for him to integrate with the community. At the same time, he got gardening experience and was involved in education. Now, with his Urban Harvest Summer Internship coming to an end, he reflects on his experience in South Africa.
It is the end of my internship. Time for me to draw conclusions about the lessons and skills I have drawn from my internship, to add to my professional repertoire. Fortunately, I learned a lot from my time here in Cape Town. Both from my internship, and just living here.
Living abroad and getting out of my Comfort Zone
From the moment I landed in Cape Town, I was taken aback by how different things are here from back home. Living by myself in a country I’d never been to was an experience of itself. Adjusting to this was a gradual process. It took a few weeks to really settle in. I have learned that I can be dropped anywhere and find my way on my own. Coming here by myself had several challenges at first and throughout my time here. It forced me to operate on my own and explore uncharted territory solo.
Regardless of how independent I thought I was beforehand, I now can confirm a genuine level of independence I didn’t have before. In several situations, I have been forced out of my comfort zone. That is bound to happen in a place you don’t know much about. It has made me more apt to roll with the punches. I am more flexible and can adapt to an array of situations I’m not familiar with. I enjoyed being able to explore a beautiful new city across the world from where I live. It is a lovely opportunity that I wish everyone could experience.
Working on diverse Projects during my Urban Farming Summer Internship
When I first started my internship, I was interested to see what my place at my Urban Harvest summer internship would be for the next 12 weeks. I’m delighted to say I made great relations with the workers. I was able to work on an array of projects I previously had little experience in, so I have learned a lot.
One project was to build a chicken tractor from scratch. We had nothing but a few Google searches and a few pots of coffee. Chicken tractors are like portable chicken coops. They are used to naturally till and fertilize pasture using natural energy rather than fossil fuel-derived energy. I didn’t know what it was until the idea was brought up by my supervisor. However, I like being creative and building things, so I took it on and it turned out to be a fun project that turned out great.
I have been learning about various permaculture techniques employed by the organization. I installed and maintained food gardens around Cape Town. With the organization having installed over 300 different gardens around the city, there are always new and novel garden setups that fit the urban environment. From this, I learned a variety of ways to make dense urban areas more productive. The vertical gardens are always interesting to install/plant and can be found throughout the city.
Improvising and implementing my own Ideas
I also ran several classes on agricultural practices at a local school for the deaf and hearing-impaired. This was an amazing experience, the kids are so energetic and smart! I had to be creative in the ways of teaching since I don’t know ASL (= American Sign Language). It was a great learning curve but improved the way I disseminate information to others.
I have also created projects from my own ideas and followed them through to implementation by thorough extensive research and self-education. Think about installing beehives at the local school where our office gardens are located and leading a school-wide assembly on informing the kids about bees and their merits. This is something that I am personally interested in so sharing it with people around here has been a delight.
Lessons and skills for everyday life
I have learned a great deal from a variety of different aspects of my internship: working in the gardens, building them, teaching agricultural classes, completing personal projects, and even just living here in Cape Town. I have learned a lot more than I can write about in a blog post. It has been a lovely time spending my summer here in Cape Town and I will miss it dearly when I am back sitting in my lecture halls scribbling notes furiously or tweaked out on coffee in the Ref Room trying to finish an essay before the deadline. However, when I am back I know that I will be able to apply the lessons and skills that I have learned here to my everyday life.
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