Here at Maggie’s our days usually start around 6:30 in the morning and conclude with the end of chores around 5:30 just before the evening begins. At this time of the year, the days are long and they are pretty much mapped out weeks in advance largely because we are at the peak of seeding in the greenhouse and transplanting out in the fields. The last six Tuesdays, however, have been a little different. Though we still got up at our regular time and did our normal morning chores, we dedicated the afternoons to our own independent projects.
As part of the Learn to Farm Program, we have had a total of six Tuesday afternoons set aside to focus on our own projects. We submitted our proposals back in late March and began our projects at the end of April. My fellow classmates have worked on a wide range of endeavors that have included everything from growing mushrooms to creating music around the farm. Tuesday mornings have been filled with a new kind of enthusiasm as we all talk about our plans for the afternoon over morning chores and breakfast.
Having sole ownership over Tuesday afternoons has been one of my favorite parts of the program here at Maggie’s. I have thoroughly enjoyed not only working on my own idea and taking the steps for its further development, but also seeing and hearing about the projects that my fellow classmates have chosen to further pursue. Tuesday afternoons have provided new insights into my classmates’s personal passions as well as their processes for making them all come to live.
At the beginning of the year, Robyn began the process of organizing the seeds that she had brought with her from Arizona. The colors of all the different kinds of beans and corn are mesmerizing. Even before Robyn arrived at the farm, she had a vision of sharing her bean and corn seeds with the Learn to Farm Program. As part of her independent project, Robyn organized and labeled her corn and bean seeds, and has also started the process of direct seeding them into the ground here at kitchen garden at Maggie’s.
Erica has worked non-stop on mushroom inoculation using wood chips, straw and coffee grounds as growing mediums. The kitchen at times has had the appearance of an amazing laboratory experiment as Erica sterilized straw in giant pots for her oyster mushroom mycelium. Blue buckets with drilled holes also started appearing on our porch and common areas. The east side of our home at Maggie’s is now home to brand new wood chips inoculated with wine cap mushrooms and as well as a beautiful re-designed landscape. Words cannot express the joy that Erica shared with all of us as her first mushrooms appeared in one of her blue buckets filled with straw.
Urban farming comes with different challenges than rural farming and Chanelle has been working on addressing some of these as part of her independent project. For one, finding the space to plant in a city is definitely a never ending puzzle of all sorts which is also usually followed by having to deal with contaminated soils. To address concerns of space and heavy metals (mainly lead) in the soils, Chanelle built a raised bed and is using the square foot gardening method to maximize food production.
Though we officially concluded our independent project program time by sharing with the community, many of our projects are in a lot of ways a beautiful work in progress.