WORT stopped by the Allen Centennial Garden‘s Harvest Folk Festival on Saturday, October 8th and spoke to several organizers of the event. The transcript below is edited for clarity.
REBA LUIKEN: Today we have the Harvest Festival going on here at Allen Centennial, and it’s really a celebration of our kitchen garden. We received a donation from the Wymann family and the Wisconsin Potato and Vegetable Growers Association to create a new kitchen garden. We’re going to be breaking ground on that in the next couple weeks, but this summer we featured three different gardens: a Hmong garden, an African Diaspora garden, and a Three Sisters garden, which is Indigenous Native American style. So, we have performers from all three of those cultural groups who are out here today, and then some others as well celebrating the harvest like maybe some of our ancestors would have.
CHRISTOPHER CARTWRIGHT: So is this affiliated with the university, and are students involved in this?
REBA LUIKEN: Absolutely, yeah. So, Allen Centennial Garden is here on UW Madison’s campus. We’re a part of the Department of Horticulture, and we’ve involved students from a lot of different departments. So today we have student projects out in the student fair, we have the Hmong American Student Association, as well as some class projects, and we also have a number of students from religious studies, history of science, and the doo-wop a capella group is also out here today.
CHRISTOPHER CARTWRIGHT: I’m here today with John Walker, a graduate student helping create this event. Could you explain what your role is?
JOHN WALKER: Myself and Mirva are creating a space where people walking by between the projects that students do and the ceremonies, things that are going on over here, as a way to create a community conversation around what harvest is, and what autumn means to different people in the community. Because we have so many different people who are both native in this land, non-native in this land, immigrant, non-immigrant, and people have so many different ideas about what it means to go through harvest time, to go through fall. We want to represent that, so we’re just letting people tell their own stories and then when people have collected them, we’re letting people talk about them with each other because we know people have different traditions, and sometimes they don’t even know it. Or they might be extremely similar, but it’s that one little thing, and it’s like ‘Wait, your family does this?’ Or ‘You do this?’ So, we’re bringing that to light and celebrating all these faces and different traditions that we want to see.
REBA LUIKEN: In the Hmong garden we have a number of different herbs. All of them are part of a traditional Hmong chicken soup which is traditionally given to people after they give birth for a number of days. It’s one of the meals that they eat, and it helps to recover from birth and all the things that go along with that. We have a variety of different herbs that are used in that soup, so one of them is lemongrass. That might be more common, but we also have bloodleaf, Okinawa spinach, and two different kinds of mugwort and some other things as well that go into that soup. And we’re also very fortunate to be able to have a chance to taste that soup this afternoon when the campus food truck brings some soup that they’ve made using herbs from our garden.
MIRVA JOHNSON: So my name is Mirva Johnson, and I got involved really because I got an email asking if I wanted to help out. This sounded exactly like something that I’m interested in. My work is in folklore, I’m a PhD candidate, and I wanted to get involved with running the event and hosting these conversations about what people do, believe, and make surrounding fall and harvest and just kind of getting some dialogue going between folks. I’m excited, it’s a beautiful day – this worked out really well.
CHRISTOPHER CARTWRIGHT: It really is. Could you explain what kind of things you’ve seen people writing down or drawing?
MIRVA JOHNSON: It is really a cool mix. We’ve gotten a lot of pumpkins, a lot of harvesting and some different planting traditions. We got some pumpkin cannons and a lot of hot, warm beverages. A lot of fall, changing leaf colors…it has been a lot so far, I’m really excited to see what comes next.
Image courtesy: WORT News