Upham's Corner Online

The Food Project and what we Learned from Muller Mirville

Posted: Saturday, November 6, 2010
Nancy J Conrad

This is second in a series on The Food Project.  Read the first article:  "The Food Project - a Private Tour"
The Food Project
Muller Mirville works for The Food Project.  We got to know him in the first of this series.

 Muller’s words reflect his personal experiences with The Food Project and fall into three different areas:

  • The work he performs for The Food Project
  • Facts about organic urban growing
  • What he especially likes doing for The Food Project

"Do you like working here?" 

He said: "Yes, there are many activities and I get to meet a lot of new kids.  Nothing is boring and all of the activities spark conversation."
During the school year third-graders come to the Urban Learning Farm.  They learn how to spread wood chips and they get to do farm work for an entire day.  They also try new food and attend a workshop on how to eat healthy foods.

They use square foot gardening to teach young children about growing vegetables.  The Food Project


 
When you first look at a square-foot garden set up, you may experience a sense of confusion.  It looks like it belongs in a doll house. 

I questioned Muller about this.  He explained that square-foot gardening is a common technique to keep gardening experiments under control. 

Another example of the square-foot garden is at the Upham's Corner Health Center in the rear.

One of the crops that kids plant is potatoes.  They plant potatoes in the spring and harvest the potatoes in the fall.  This works well for the time kids are in/out of school.
Muller emphasizes to the kids that some of the foods they think are healthy really are not.  He uses as an example the McDonald's strawberry milkshake. 
  • He says to the kids: "You think it has strawberries in it, don't you?"

  • Then he tells the story of the McDonald's shake that hasn't yet gone bad after three years of sitting on the counter -- their counter -- at The Food Project.

  • He says: "So it can't have strawberries in it, right?" 
He says the kids are always surprised.

The Community

In the community The Food Project workers build raised beds and provide customers (residents) growing guides on how to tend their gardens. 

They teach new gardeners about the importance of using raised beds because of the presence of lead in the soil.  

The Food Project works closely with Earth Works which plants orchards everywhere.


Soil Management

The compost pile is made from rotten veggies or veggies that are inappropriate for sale. 

  • The veggies are piled into compost bins, watered, left alone. 
  • When it's time -- when the veggies start to rot and get darker -- they turn it.
Cover crops are important for restoring nutrients to the soil. 
  • At the end of the growing season the workers lay seeds to generate the cover crop; it grows and stays there all winter.
  • In the spring workers use pitchforks to turn the cover crop back into the soil.

One of the techniques used to sustain and restore nutrients in the soil is crop rotation.
 

Unusual Foods

 The food Project grows lots of herbs -- mint, basil, cilantro -- to name a few.
The Food Project

The Food Project
"What are these doing here?"  I asked Muller.  I was looking at beautiful, orange -- pink flowers in the garden.  Muller replied:  "Those are edible flowers – nasturtiums.  They're sweet with a pungent aftertaste."  He picked one and handed it to me. 

The Food Project
The Food Project

What a small yet delightful morsel in my mouth - sweet with a little kick.

"What is this?"  I asked Muller.  I really thought he was going to say "dill."  No, it was a scallion that had gone to flower.  How beautiful.

"Muller, thanks for the tour."


And that's only some of the vast knowledge that Muller has acquired in the two years he has worked for The Food Project.



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