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Urban Agriculture

I’d like to use this blog post as a time to reflect upon my time spent out at the farm both during class time and during volunteer hours. Activities on the farm have included soil mixing, bed prepping, planting and socializing. On my first solo trip to the farm I was greeted by happy faces, warm weather and a team of volunteers eagerly awaiting to assist in any way possible. It made me think of my work at Kaiser Elementary School when we ask for student volunteers to help serve food. Regardless of the trivial nature of the task my students are all so exited for the opportunity to help out. We were given instructions to start mixing soil to prep a bed for planting. Fortunately for us, someone earlier in the day had already taken out the weeds. All we had left to do was double fork the soil for optimum aeration, as John told us, and then move to the compost piles to get the soil ready.

Once we were mixing soil our group seemed to be a groove. I was then sent over to get more of the Gilltract made compost to add to our mixture. I was slightly unsure of myself and asked a volunteer the procedure for getting the compost. I was told that it needed to be screened before adding it to the mixture. I grabbed a screen, flopped it over the wheelbarrow and started shaking a pile of compost through the tightly wound steel screen, watching the fine decomposing mixture slip through, leaving behind egg shells and sticks. The result was a fine, dark warm mixture left in the wheelbarrow. I thought it looked really healthy, however I found the process to be not only tedious, but somewhat destructive. I found that in my screening I was killing dozens of worms, or at least maiming them. I thought, there must a better way to do this, however I persisted. When I finally returned with a wheelbarrow of sifted compost the mixing team wondered what had taken me so long. I explained what happened: the difficulties of screening the compost, the massacre of innocent earthworms and the overall lack of efficiency that I faced standing over the compost pile. John returned and I voiced my concern. He then responded that they actually hadn’t been screening the compost for some time due to the exact concerns that I had faced: it was not efficient and they were killing earthworms that are vital for up keeping nutrient rich soil in an organic sustainable way.

This moment to me was my biggest learning experience of the semester. I learn best in hands-on activities. I learn the most when I fail at something and have to try again. In this case, I made the mistake of unnecessarily screening the compost and in the process taught myself why this method was potentially damaging and inefficient. In the end no great harm was done, aside from a few poor earthworms paying the price for my inexperience. For that I apologize: sorry worms!

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