Kyle Canady, Office for Sustainability Student Employee
When I chose to volunteer at Morven Kitchen Garden, UVA’s student run garden on Morven Farm, I thought that our group would be planting seeds or watering fruits and vegetables but instead, we laid the groundwork to make the fall season successful. We arrived at Morven Kitchen Garden early in the morning to the sight of a loader moving a large pile of compost. The moved pile sat next to a rowed field of farmland yet to be fully prepped for the growing season. There were shovels leaning against wheelbarrows and a bucket full of gloves. The eight of us donned the gloves and spent the entirety of the two hours shoveling and spreading compost and collecting stones to weigh down protective cloths. The work was exhausting and I could only imagine what it would have been like for the three student interns and farm manager had it only been them. Despite the difficulty of the work, there was a great sense of gratification in what we had done. As the volunteers walked towards the car the interns continued to develop the necessary systems for harvest in the fall.
An unfortunate result of the extra work required to produce organic food is the extra cost. While Morven Kitchen Garden is not USDA Certified Organic it does observe organic practices and is a local source of produce for Charlottesville consumers; two things that aid in maintenance of a sustainable environment. Morven Kitchen Garden also offers a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program in which members of the community can sign up for a share of the produce produced, which would not only provide nutrient rich food but would also be a method of developing an environmentally sustainable diet. Programs such as these offer methods to reduce the cost to the consumer of organic products as well as ensure to them the freshest possible foods.
With the United States withdrawing from the Paris agreement it is increasingly important for institutions such as the University to continue their efforts to reduce emissions. While institutions are capable of making great change, individuals and small groups doing what they can to be a part of sustainable activities is equally important. A major aspect of how we as individuals can make changes that can have big results is through our food choices. As unfortunate as it is the majority of food manufacturers and people choose to be a part of food practices that are unsustainable. While it is true that eating sustainably does require a bit of work, the benefits to the environment are excellent. The potential health benefits of organic food are also strong due to the lack of synthetic herbicide and pesticide use. In this day and age it is rare to gather food that has been locally produced and even rarer to actually be involved with the process before it arrives in the kitchen.
Morven Kitchen Garden is currently undergoing the process of becoming GAP (Good Agricultural Practices) Certified which would allow UVA to purchase crops from them, the farm being only about 12 miles away would decrease the environmental costs of transport. While this is a major impact of the Gardens, another aspect is the incitation of care about where the food comes from and what happens to create the foods that we love. With the completion of this certification process students who choose to participate at Morven Kitchen Garden would have the opportunity to see the entire process of their food’s development; from planting the seeds to seeing it on the plate in a dining hall. After not only seeing but physically doing what is necessary to create quality organic foods, I understand the cost differential and the value that comes from farm fresh organic foods. Morven Kitchen Garden is an experience every person should have and they are always open to volunteers.
For more information on Morven Kitchen Garden and how to volunteer go to: https://morvenkitchengarden.wordpress.com