Picking out ripening cherry tomatoes. Selecting apples ready for the harvest. Plucking and smushing invasive bugs. Pulling out weeds. Feasting on fresh cantaloupe, snipped right from the vine. These are cherished Wednesday afternoon experience, from my first semester at KCU-COM. Away from my medical studies, working in the Community Garden rejuvenated me. Planting and nurturing crops is an incredibly attentive, long-term process. I respect more than ever the hard work of the farmer.
The harvest from KCU Garden Club includes apples, pears, kale, squash, tomatoes, collard greens, cantaloupes, zucchini, and more. The produce we’ve worked for months to cultivate is then provided to underserved families. Each week in the fall semester, from July through October, the harvest is delivered to the local non-profit Della Lamb. As the weather clears in mid-spring, you’ll find us tearing apart cardboard boxes. Splaying cardboard panels out on the garden beds and pinning them with metal staples and hay prevents weeds from overcrowding still-vulnerable seeds and sprouts.
Throughout the summer, the garden is maintained a small crew of stalwarts. If a week without care goes by, natural disarray is quick to take over the garden beds again. One returns to see snap peas drying out in high heat. The leaves of hazelnut trees, eaten away by ravenous Japanese beetles. Or, ravaged by vine borers: the stems of yellow squash plants.
On the best days, we have company. For We Care Day, middle school students from the Upper Room joined KCU-COM’s incoming first-year students, for a host of different activities. Hula-hoops, soccer balls, buckets of chalk, and garden gloves were used in turn. The group favorite was creating homemade pico de gallo. As middle schoolers chopped tomatoes, onions, and bell peppers, an excess of jalapeños was mischievously dropped into one mix.
All this is a tradition I’m eager to see continue: the work, the service, the chance to give back. Most of all the reminder, as a medical student, that there are many forces beyond medicine that can unite to maintain the health of a community. In some neighborhoods, such unity is always greatly needed.
KCU Garden Club Secretary