Mission Gardens

Mission Garden is an ancient agricultural site, farmed continuously for more than 4,000 years. It is an agricultural heritage museum interpreting and celebrating this multicultural history through a series of Timeline Gardens. The garden areas already developed include Native Edible Plants, Early Agriculture or First Farmers, Hohokam, Pre-European Contact O'odham, Post-European Contact O'odham, Spanish Colonial fruit trees orchard, vegetable and herb garden, and field crops; Mexican Garden, Chinese Garden, Medicinal Garden and Children's Garden. The gardens currently being developed are: Yoeme, African American and Euro American Statehood; and Tomorrow's. There is a new irrigation canal/water feature, which will soon become habitat for protected species of fish. There are also chickens, compost-making, seed processing and collection, reference library, and several public educational programs and festivals. Mission Garden is a Pima County Park developed and operated by the non-profit Friends of Tucson's Birthplace. 

Possible internship tasks include:

  • Gardening:
    • Help with a variety of gardening tasks, which vary depending on the season and can include: weeding, harvesting, tilling, amending and mulching soil, planting, irrigating, thinning, pruning, composting, seed-saving, etc. 
    • Alternatively, they can choose an area of focus among the garden plots that are already developed, such as the fruit trees orchard, the Mexican, Chinese, or O'odham Gardens, and help us take care of those specific areas. 
    • Another option is to choose one of the yet-to-be developed areas...African and Euro-American (the latter will include "the story of cotton" exhibit and a citrus and pecan orchard) or Tomorrow's Garden (a garden interpreting potential ways to grow food locally in the near future, for which a basic design plan already exists) and concentrate on helping us to develop those new plots. 
  • Cooking: Making food with Mission Garden produce in our new kitchen. Tastings of the foods will be served to volunteers and visitors. 
  • Distributing produce throughout the community:
    • Summer: Making arrangements with local distributors, restaurants, farmers' markets, soup kitchens, Iskashitaa Refugee Network, etc. to sell or donate Mission Garden produce. 
      • Harvesting, cleaning, weighing, labeling and boxing produce for delivery. 
      • Preparing small amount of produce for sale and volunteer giveaways on Saturdays at Mission Garden. 

School Year 2019-2020: Help develop and implement a Mission Garden membership produce basket system. Mission Garden will soon be offering memberships, which will include regular produce baskets. This is a project to be set up in September.

Schedule: Interns can begin as soon as they wish and continue as long as they wish, Wednesdays through Saturdays. During May hours are 7am to 12pm. June-August hours are 6am to 11am. Anytime during those hours is fine, but during the summer it´s best to start as early as possible. In other words, if the intern wants to do 2 hours a day, it is recommended they begin at 6 or 7 am rather than beginning at 10 or 11 am. Starting in September volunteer hours are 8am to 12pm. There is not a minimum number of hours required, but sticking to a schedule is requested.

Benefits to student interns: The Mission Garden community is a friendly, diverse, knowledgeable group of people coming together to create a beautiful garden and to share and learn about history, culture and nature. At this historic site just west of downtown Tucson (accessible via the streetcar, and the bike and walking path known as "The Loop") you will meet archaeologists, farmers, foodies, naturalists, herbalists, educators, conservationists, historians, artists and botanists of all ages and cultural and ethnic backgrounds. Since the Garden involves so many aspects ranging from history, anthropology and history, to ethnobotany, biology and nutritional and plant science, there is always something new to learn, and the learning is all hands-on, experiential and sensorial. We like to call it tasting history. No matter how much you garner during your internship at Mission Garden you will inevitably gain a much richer sense of this place. 

Preferred Experience: No previous knowledge is required for the gardening and distribution internships. Some experience cooking is preferred for the cooking internship. 


Dena Cowan, dena.e.cowan@gmail.com