For our April member event, a group of self-designated, urban farm aficionados gathered outside the Sustainability Village at Johnson C. Smith for a tour of the university’s greenhouses and urban farm. We were met by Dr. Phillip Otienoburu, Professor of Biology and Entomology and the mastermind behind this urban green space.
Dr. O, as he is affectionately referred to by his students and friends, began the tour with a brief history and overview of the urban farm. He ushered guests past the blank canvas of the rich, dark soil in a dozen or so raised beds awaiting their planting. One of them had runaway fall brassicas in fresh bloom, their yellow flowers were a sweet surprise against the dark soil.
Then came the greenhouses, three in total. The first greenhouse is the plant nursery, dozens and dozens of flats of sweet baby vegetable transplants, growing stronger every day and preparing for the big move outside.
The third greenhouse contains an extensive hydroponic system where Dr. O and his students work to cultivate gorgeous heads of pristine green and red lettuces. Hydroponics is exactly like aquaponics except it doesn’t utilize fish for nutrients, instead nutrients are added manually (or automatically, in Dr. O’s case – spiffy!) Lettuce grown in this system is sold by the students at local farmers markets to support the Sustainability Village. The front of the third greenhouse shows an example of in-ground greenhouse growing and some of the most beautiful cabbages I’ve ever seen!
We finished the evening with a video filmed, produced and narrated by Dr. O showing examples of urban agricultural for all across the world, from the US to Kenya to Sweden. We also munched on treats from a local restaurant who was kind enough to cater the hungry crowd.
As an urban farmer myself, I was thrilled to have the opportunity to tour the impressive Urban Farm and Sustainability Village at Johnson C. Smith University. Through the grapevines, I had heard magnificent rumblings of the innovation and technology in place at the Sustainability Village. It was a wonderful opportunity to have such an enriching and insightful experience.