Last weekend, my mom and I swung by the Tucson Village Farm’s Greenfest!, sponsored by Bookman’s. We pulled into the parking lot off Campbell just south of River on a hot Saturday, and were regaled by booths featuring green businesses, ways to decrease our carbon footprint, support local agriculture, and more! We bought some delicious lavender lemonade, perused the gardens, admired the baby chicks and rabbits (those don’t usually live at the farm, but they were so darn cute I think they should!), and bought some local honey. We didn’t linger for too long in the heat, but it was long enough to inspire me to want to post about this wonderful urban farm we have within our own Sonoran city limits!
Although there have been U of A agriculture extensions in the same area for many years, the Tucson Village Farm itself is quite young. To find out more about TVF and its mission, I sat down with Amy, who is a current AmeriCorps volunteer for TVF. Here’s what she had to say about TVF’s sweet activities, her favorite things about working on a farm and how you can support Tucson Village Farm! (I figure it’s more interesting and in-depth than just linking you to their website, right? (-: )
So when was TVF born and what are the goals it hopes to achieve?
TVF, a program of the Pima County Cooperative Extension and the University of Arizona, broke ground on MLK Day in 2010, and has transformed since then from a patch of dirt to a working urban farm. With TVF, program directors Leza Carter and Elizabeth Sparks have created an educational space for kids to reconnect to a healthy food system and learn to make healthy food choices while getting their hands dirty and actually helping grow food for other kids who visit the farm in the future.
What kind of programming do they offer?
Our main program is our Growing Forward K-5th grade field trip curriculum. Twice a week, we take kids through a series of stations that follows the USDA MyPlate nutritional curriculum and adds to it food growing, worm composting, and now even an ethnobotanical lesson. At the stations, they learn everything from the difference between whole and refined grains to organic composting, and they get to dig for worms in our big worm bin (always a big hit!). We also take them into the garden where they go on a fruit and veggie scavenger hunt and where we put them to work either planting, digging a bed, or harvesting. We also have a games station, and our newest addition is an archaeological investigation where they learn about native foods by searching for seeds at our simulation excavation site. We also have a curriculum for middle-high school kids called Digging Deeper, which goes into these concepts in more depth. Outside of our field trips, we sometimes host workshops on the weekends (for, example, we had a backyard chickens workshop in January), and family events like Greenfest a couple of weeks ago and our Harvest Festival in the fall.
What’s a typical day like on the farm?
I don’t think there is such a thing! We are always doing new things, which give us all opportunities to learn new skills, like constructing a storage fence, for example. For our latest project, we have begun building a raised bed in our garden that is wheelchair accessible. Most of our daily chores are done by the Americorps members who serve at the farm and by our volunteer groups that come in once a week or so. We till and amend beds, plant starts and seeds, and fight an endless battle against the critters that feast on our bountiful produce, which means covering beds and uncovering them. It feels like we’re always weeding too.
How can community members support Tucson Village Farm?
Come to our U-Pick Market on Tuesdays from 3-5. We have produce for sale (the type depends on the season), as well as local organic honey, hydroponic tomatoes and lettuce. You have the option of harvesting the produce yourself, and it’s a great time to bring your kids to the farm. To a kid, pulling a carrot of the ground is magical, especially our carrots which have been documented to be over 15 inches long at times! The proceeds from U-Pick are currently going to our Summer Farm Camp scholarship fund. People can also tell their kids’ teachers about us and suggest a field trip to the farm! Check out our website or “Like” us on Facebook to keep up with everything that’s going on! Donations are always welcome and can be made through our website.
What’s your favorite thing about working there?
I love being outside and always moving. But ask me again in a couple months when the sun has fried me to a crisp. Right up with that aspect is the people I work with. I’m surrounded by creative, positive, and downright amazing people. Seriously, who gets to have this much fun at work?
Do you have a favorite crop to work on?
Not really. They’re all fairly similar as far as care goes: plant, water, weed, etc. More than a favorite crop, I’d say my favorite type of work involves construction projects. For me, developing skills with power tools has been empowering, and creating something out of a pile of materials and a sketch is incredibly satisfying!
You’ve probably learned a lot about organic veggies from working on the farm! What’s the most interesting–or surprising–thing you’ve learned?
Corn pollination is pretty mind-blowing. For a full cob of corn to develop, at least 500 silks from one ear must be individually pollinated, and this is not done by bees or any other pollinators, but by wind. Amazing!
Last but not least! I bet you do a lot of tasty organic cooking. Can you share with us any favorite recipes you’ve made using ingredients from the farm?
One of our big hits is Glorious Greens, which involves sauteing chopped up kale, collards and swiss chard in veggie broth for a few minutes and adding fresh garlic and lemon juice. People who claim to be completely averse to eating green things have come back for second helpings when we have demoed this recipe at outreach events!