Growing Power Internship week #1

We survived our first week at Growing Power! While technically I am employed by Will Allen and his personal farm, I have yet to go there or do work for his farm. Until I have instruction from him, I’ll be working at Growing Power.

Hours so far have been from about 8am – 5pm which isn’t so bad, but it is 6 days a week which can be tiring. The first week as interns, we of course are doing the most menial and boring jobs, but we’ll work up from here. Everyday tasks include taking care of the animals. There are 2 chicken houses, which are too densely populated for my taste; goats (1 adult male for breeding, about 10 adult females for milking and a bunch of kids); 2 sheep; a turkey house with 1 tom and about 6 hens; and a duck house with a lot of ducks, 1 tom turkey for “protection” and a few chickens who are too low in the pecking order to be with the rest of the chickens. They all have to be fed, watered, and fresh bedding added on a daily basis.

I like the chickens the least, and generally I smell like chicken shit after feeding. But despite their density, they are fed well and make nice large eggs (when the hen doesn’t get to them first). Also, if an egg breaks and the bed doesn’t get cleaned out soon enough, maggots will get into the bedding and THAT smell is NASTY! Our conclusion is that in Greensboro, if we do chickens with Urban Harvest, there won’t be more than 10 or so, and we’ll have them in a movable tractor to avoid some of the aforementioned issues. And although we like goats, they’re not allowing within city limits. I’m not sure about the legality of keeping ducks, but I see no reason to keep them.

Growing Power also keeps bee hives, but I haven’t seen anyone taking care of them, though I know we do get honey. Justin and I would love to have Urban Harvest keep bees, but we would need a local expert to help us out.

Other daily tasks of an intern that we have done this week include watering, sifting compost, seeding sprout trays, and transplanting seedlings. I actually spend 5 hours one day watering! At Growing Power there are 14 greenhouses, some of them dedicated to plants, some to animals. Much of the food that they grow on site is in pots, so the greenhouses are rows upon rows of pots; hanging pots, pots hanging from hanging pots, pots on shelves, pots on pallets, and pots on the ground.  I worked on the insides of greenhouses watering up to 4 levels of plants in one house, while Justin watered plants outside of greenhouses. While pots allow for flexibility and layering, they’re also quite tedious. At Urban Harvest, we’d definitely install drip irrigation and sprinklers. For the layering, we could possibly build long skinny raised beds, but I think we’d really prefer to plant directly into the ground. At Growing Power they specialize in salad mixes, micro-greens and sprouts, but in North Carolina we have the climate for year-round production of a lot of crops, and I think that we may prefer to continue with our current method of interplanting, rotating and using cold-frames instead.

Sifting is another big task, and its done every day. Growing Power has wooden boxes upon boxes of vermicompost and sprout compost. So at the end of the composting process (we learned the last part first), the compost needs to be sifted to sort out any big sticks or roots or anything not yet fully decomposed. So there is a big spinning mesh drum for that task. The task of sifting involves about 2 actions, shoveling and hauling. Shovel from the compost bin into the wheel-barrow, from the wheel-barrow into the sifter. Then, when enough has accumulated, shovel the sifted stuff back a wheel-barrow and dump it into the bin where it will be used for starting seed trays, and then dumping the “waste” back into a bin to break down some more. Shovel, shovel, shovel!

So as you can see, we’ve been working hard and absorbing a lot of information. Some of the processes and methods that Growing Power uses we can also utilize. Some of it we can use as lessons for what we would do differently. So far, it has been a positive experience. We’ll talk again next week.


One response to this post.

  1. Posted by Ming on June 10, 2009 at 2:00 pm

    thanks for all your hardwork! I love the tomatoes!


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