By Josh Corlew, HON Urban Agriculture Program Manager -
It was an amazing first summer at the Hands On Nashville Urban Farm! We harvested 600+ pounds of vegetables and had more than 2,000 volunteers pitch in to transform these five empty lots of flood plain into food producing space where much learning,discovery, and outdoor fun has taken place.
The Farm during peak summer harvest.
Thank you to everyone who has given their time, energy, support, and enthusiasm to make this a successful first year for the Farm! Your volunteerism makes it possible for us to grow healthy food that is donated to nonprofits that serve families in need.
But summer is over, and fall is in the air (and the ground as well). The summer crops of squash, cucumbers, beans, corn, and watermelon are gone. The tomatoes and peppers are nearing the end of their productivity. Our newly leafed out trees are beginning their hibernation process.
Fall, however, brings its own excitement. The change of the weather is invigorating, both to our volunteers who are eager to get warmed up by getting to work, as well as some of our fall crops. We have lots of herbs and flowers that are loving the cooler weather, and our kale has been pruned back and is really enjoying the reprieve from pesky bugs that this time of year brings.
Spinach seedlings pop their heads out of the soil.
We’ve also recently planted quite a bit of spinach and lettuce in some of the garden rows where squash, corn, and beans used to thrive. Now they’re just starting to pop up and leaf out. If all goes well, we’ll be in for a lot of spinach through the winter. We’ve also begun work on the new garden plot, preparing it for a very productive spring by starting some cover crops (these will fill the soil with beneficial nutrients). Next spring we plan on doubling the amount of growing space that we had this year.
Kids from Head Middle Magnet and West End Middle spent part of their fall intercession time at the Farm on Monday.
Fall also means school is back in session. This week we’ve had some great groups of Metro Nashville Public Schools students who volunteered at the Farm as part of their fall intercession and our Hands On Fall Break volunteer opportunities with the HON VolunTEEN Program. In addition to helping turn compost and harvest vegetables, the kids learned how compost works (it gets up to 160 degrees!), why drinks full of sugar aren’t good for our bodies, and how to choose healthier alternatives. A seventh grader named Ricky said he wished he could come to the Farm every day… maybe we have a future farmer in our midst!
VolunTEEN volunteers harvested all these sweet potatoes today!!
We got this awesome thank-you card from the West End Middle students!
If you’ve been by the Farm in a few weeks, you probably noticed our amazing new swings. We were very fortunate to have employees from Molex volunteered last month to make the swings and create some new compost bins. Their enthusiastic volunteerism will help make the farm more productive and enjoyable. The swings are made from beautiful cedar wood, and next spring we’ll have food vines growing up the trellised sides, adding to the food grown at the Farm. We have great hopes for those swings being covered in grapes, muscadines, kiwis, blackberries, raspberries, and all manner of other tasty treats.
Also, we were honored to be featured in Nashville Public Television’s Volunteer Gardener show, which aired this week. Check it out below!
I hope you’ll come down and enjoy the space sometime soon, and if you’d like to volunteer with us this fall, check out our volunteer opportunities here!
Josh Corlew is Hands On Nashville’s Urban Agriculture Program Manager. He oversees the organization’s efforts to engage volunteers in service opportunities that empower them to gain gardening skills, learn about healthy eating choices, and help address our city’s food access issues. An AmeriCorps alumnus, Josh also has a secret past life as a Trekkie (he’s a big fan of the TV series Star Trek, for the uninitiated among us), and he has been known to participate in death-defying canoe trips.