Volunteers prepare for fall plantings
With a committed group of student leaders, established collaborations, and dedicated workday volunteers in tow, we are bursting into 2015 full of energy. However, it’s not too late to review the incredible success of 2014. I would like to specifically honor the hard work of Sam Taggart, Cassidy Pillow, Sarah Osterman, Nathan Rose, Allie Arnold, Audrey Baker, Riley Hazard, and Vanessa Owens. Additionally, I’d like to thank the Morven Programs team and all the employees at the Morven Estate, specifically Andy Wylan and his crew.
Since late last spring tremendous progress has been made. We had incredible success with Gazpacho in the Garden, with an estimated 75 attendees and $600 raised in donations. This past fall we united engineering, biology, commerce, architecture, writing, and nursing students as part of the MKG leadership team. We’ve had over 35 student workdays, 5 months of CSA production, and vegetable sales yielding $3,500.
One of the summer CSA harvests
Those successes took an immense amount of hard work. Spring production was dampened by late snowfall, and the summer swelled with the obstacles of growing for a CSA. The various wild predators, logistical difficulties, and usual climate challenges were frustrating and tiring.
That being said, the two summer interns, Cassidy Pillow and Sarah Osterman, excelled in their roles managing the farm, each filling a unique niche in the array of farm tasks. Through the challenges, the summer CSA was proclaimed a success by all of our members. Shares overflowed with squash, beans, cucumbers, and tomatoes.
Flower bouquets full of goldenrod, wild daisies, zinnias, and purple basil were particularly popular in the fall CSA.
Because of our success in the summer, for the first time in MKG history we decided to extend the CSA into the fall. The fall CSA provided a new set of unique challenges considering all our academic obligations, and hinged directly on our ability to incorporate new and dedicated volunteers in more skilled roles. We farmed for the CSA through November, with huge harvests of flowers, kale, sweet potatoes, cherry tomatoes, and more.
Another innovation of the fall included the structured leadership team built during the semester. The student leaders now control all aspects of the farm ranging from the CSA management to the business plan to the planning of an orchard. Six specialized groups gave over 15 dedicated students the chance to take ownership in the management of the farm. This new structure is proving to be the biggest success of 2014.
Morven has always been an amazing venue for student leadership, and now, instead of that leadership potential being concentrated on one individual manager, it directly involves everyone who has stepped up to fill the available roles. It’s also the key in allowing us to develop the projects that will give us the chance to realize our goal of being a fully operating market farm at UVa.
A group of students represents the Morven Kitchen Garden at the Virginia Film Festival’s reception of the documentary Fed Up.
These projects include the establishment of a hoop house and the creation of an orchard. The student teams working on these projects in the fall are now far into planning, and the hoop house team has been awarded a $3,000 GIFT grant to begin construction this spring. Additional projects slated for the coming months include the construction of a garden shed, the further expansion of the CSA, and the design and ordering of MKG t-shirts, bags, and hats.
Manager Emily Salle leads a summer garden tour during a retreat organized by the UVa Office of Sustainability.
In addition to increased leadership involvement this semester, we have also seen workday volunteer numbers increase as more students get involved and as more UVa and Charlottesville organizations choose to partner with us for volunteer days.
This semester we have partnered with Green Dining, the UVa Outdoors Club, and Woodard Properties. Additionally, we sold produce to the Boar’s Head Inn and a UVa CSA group called Greens to Grounds during the summer and fall. More and more frequently the Morven Kitchen Garden is connecting students across organizations, departments, and to the surrounding community. We look forward to continuing to grow partnerships old and new in 2015.