Oranjezicht City Farm has teamed up with the St Cyprian’s environmental club in running a trial environmental education program
As an organisation, we want to grow. Not just herbs, vegetables or fruit, but people too. We want to inspire, and be inspired, to learn, share, co-create and facilitate.
Farming in the city is about much more than just growing food. It’s about growing interconnectivity and knowledge, sharing a passion for the art of fostering life, reconnecting with our food systems, and learning through experience.
Much has been said on the value of experiential education, for as a species, we learn the fastest in moments of novelty and change. Take the ‘overview effect’ as an example- The first time astronaughts saw earth from space it lead to a complete change in perspective, a paradigm shift some described as spiritual and others as a fascinating psychological response to being in a new environment, seeing something never seen and fully appreciated before. That is that earth is just a massive rock, floating in space, coated in a thin layer of breathable air. Our brains our hardwired to learn quickly, under pressure, in new and ever-changing environments. We just aren’t programmed to learn in the same room, with the same people, under the same conditions, day in and day out, year after year.
Back on the rock, in the spirit of learning by doing, Oranjezicht City Farm has teamed up with the St Cyprian’s environmental club in running a trial environmental education program with the hopes of fostering and disseminating respect and knowledge of the core components for our survival- food and water.
The club, comprised of fifty St Cyprian’s girls from grade 8 to 12 eagerly joined me in a series of lessons ranging from planting and germinating seeds to closing waste streams via compost and bokashi techniques.
The amazing thing about the club is that the students volunteer to be a part of it, they aren’t press ganged, they aren’t forced to join. As a ‘teacher’ I couldn’t be luckier, having a group of interested, eager young people to work and learn with.
I first met with the group 5 weeks ago, and together with Mario, we got the ball rolling with a practical lesson on the gentle art of planting seeds. We scattered organic onion, Swiss chard, beans and kale seeds amoungst the girls and asked them to help us plant them into seed trays in preparation of a time in the future where we could move them over to the painstakingly prepared farm soil at OZCF.
The lesson was over almost before it began, with a whirl of activity and hundreds of seeds being sown into our seed trays in under an hour.
Two weeks later and I was back with the girls, this time thinking about what a ‘closed system’ is, why it is important, and how we could perhaps attempt to recreate one at the farm. We worked on an activity comparing a typical modern agricultural system to that of an ecosystem and the girls realised that while our food system works in a straight line, from seed, plus fertiliser, sun and water, to vegetables, our tables and a landfill, ecosystems work in circles, everything providing for and interacting with everything else in the system. Waste not, want not.
We then spoke about various ways of closing our own food system, and putting our valuable waste to good use, via a variety of techniques from composting, to bokashi and bio-digestion that make use of earth;s magical microgranisms in rendering our organic waste into valuable soil amendments.
I dished out buckets, bokashi bran and instructions on how to collect their kitchen waste to the girls and told them to head home, spread the message and close their own home’s waste streams, and off they went.
“This is so exciting” I heard one exclaim to a friend as they headed for the door.
One week later, and the girls filed into the rapidly changing landscape of the Oranjezicht City Farm, beds now firmly taking shape, Johannes and the team hard at work on the irrigation system.
We gathered by the compost heap and I explained that we’d be continuing our work closing the waste stream. Without much ado, we got stuck in, building a compost heap of our own, combining dried brown plant materials with fresh cut grass straight of the St Cyprian’s sports fields. The girls worked and played hard, tossing grass and leaves into an ever-growing pile, while I watched with glee, orchestrating from the sidelines and occasionally dipping my own hands into the mix.
Meanwhile back in the classroom, the young seedlings were poking their heads cautiously above the soil in preparation for their imminent move, and buckets of bokashi were beginning their two week fermentation process before being integrated into our farm soil in time next term.
Time, as it does, flew, and it’s already the end of the first term for the girls, so as they head off to enjoy their holidays and feed their bokashi buckets, I’ll keep an eye on the seedlings, until early next term when we can move forward in our ever-tightening circle, closing loops, converting waste and planting the seeds of knowledge, growth and respect for the earth.