6/14/2011: Elbows Deep in Farms at Home and Abroad

By: Mark Clarke

A frustrating day. As this first entry is coming almost halfway through my project in the CCCG, I will try to fill in some details from the previous weeks. The Carolina Campus Community Garden is an organization devoted to building community between students, faculty, staff, and the community in Chapel Hill. It is also dedicated to providing low-wage workers at UNC fresh, organic produce, at no cost. This summer I am working to bring at-risk youth to the garden to learn about growing food and feeding community. Noble aspirations, to be sure; the reality however, has been more difficult than I anticipated, and not in the ways that I anticipated. I have been working with an organization called Volunteers for Youth, a group that helps kids with court mandated service hours find places to complete those hours. I had no trouble in getting the garden certified as a viable place for the kids, mostly middle and high school students, to volunteer. The staff at VFY was very friendly and encouraging with regards to the goals of my project. They were also very optimistic as to the logistical aspect of getting kids to the garden; our central location and Wed/Sun workdays made it an ideal spot for volunteers to work. As it turned out however, I have had very few kids coming to the workdays and only one who has come consistently. I had worried about all sorts of possible snags and difficulties that the project would face, everything from unruly kids to the logistics of workday thunderstorms, but I hadn’t thought that it would be so difficult to get kids to the garden at all.

Every week I imagine that things will begin to pick up, but they really haven’t yet. Claire (the garden director) and I have been working on several other organizations besides Volunteers for Youth to get at risk youth into the garden but, as of yet, nothing has come through. My hope is that as our contact list grows, more people will begin to trickle in. The only flaw in this is that I only have three more weeks before my family leaves for Europe. That is always the difficulty of such things I suppose but that doesn’t make it less frustrating.

I don’t mean to paint a negative picture of what’s going on in the community garden right now. There are lots of wonderful things happening and I really enjoy being here and being a part of the community. The garden is just starting to come into its summer production. This week we had a small harvest of cucumbers, some late red cabbage, and our first tomato of the season! All the bamboo trellises we built to hold up the beans, tomatoes, and cucumbers, make the space seem almost exotic. The flowers are also just beginning to bloom; cosmos and cleome are the first and there are several other varieties spaced throughout the garden. It really is a beautiful space and I’m reminded of that fact every time I set foot in it.

To see the images originally published with this post, visit http://evecarsonscholars.wordpress.com/mark/.