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USD's Community Garden

Down in the valley, neatly tucked behind Missions Crossroads, lies a garden growing more than just your typical array of vegetables. For the past few months, several student groups and departments dug, planted, and watched as a community garden found its roots here on campus. As of this past spring semester, a Community Garden for-credit course taught students the value of their work through gardening shifts, guest speakers, and a hands-on approach to learning.

Check out what junior Connor Self and freshman Emma Angold had to say about their experience!

How and why did you get involved with the garden project?

Connor: I grew up always having a garden at home, and I’ve worked on farms before, eventually wanting to go into agriculture when I graduate. So, I got involved with the garden idea a bit during my freshman year. At the time, I wanted to get outside and practice digging in the dirt and planting things. I lived in the Valley, so I saw the space down there. I tried to get other people involved, but we had no real structure. We contacted people in the Missions who said we could grow stuff, but nothing really happened my freshman or sophomore year. I came back from studying abroad this past semester and saw they offered a class. I joined and it’s been great. I was glad to see that coming back, someone had started putting something together to get people organized and involved.

emmaangoldEmma: When I was little, I used to garden with my dad. I remember how much fun came from cooking with the food we grew. Plus, I knew it was very environmentally friendly. I found out about the garden through Outdoor Adventures and the Sustainability club, Be Blue Go Green.

What role does the class serve in contributing to the garden?

C: In it’s first semester, there are 12 people in the class. Courtney Walters (read more about Courtney here) is the facilitator, but it’s not a traditional structure. It’s a community, hands-on, self-learning process. At the beginning of the semester, we all signed up for weekly gardening shifts, usually with a partner or two. We had different special events associated with the class, but for the most part you learn by yourself and go at your own pace.

E: Sometimes we had guest speakers come in and talk to us about gardening practices. Aside from the shifts we signed up for at the beginning of the semester, we look at what needs to be done in the garden, and if there’s stuff to plant, we’ll do that along with weeding, watering, and making sure there aren’t any bad bugs. Then we harvest if necessary. Some of the vegetables go to Missions Cafe, like the kale for the smoothies, but people are welcome to take anything they want to cook.

What is the benefit of maintaining the garden on campus, and what personal significance does it hold for you?

C: It’s really important to be connected to your food and know where it comes from. Students learn about how food grows, the resources it takes, and the amount of work involved, as well as how to do it all sustainably while providing fresh produce. Being outside and working with plants is a very physical connection to the earth that you don’t get on the campus lawn where everything is nice and beautiful. When you take a role in growing something and watching it from a seed and physically touching it, that kind of thing teaches you the value of plant life and life in general.

E: There’s such an emotional attachment to watching something grow, kind of like your little baby. I get so proud! I just want to see it flourish. It holds the value of nurturing and giving the plant the resources it needs.

How has sustainability impacted USD and what are some future goals for the garden?

mulchbinC: Eventually, we want to expand the garden, but before that can happen, we need more support and awareness from the broader USD community. A lot of us have this grand vision of taking up the whole space behind crossroads. We’d like to not only make it into a continually producing food source for people, but also a space to enjoy. Maybe we could build tables incorporated into the garden for students to hang out.

E: At the Earth Week SLP fair, we had a booth for the gardening club/class to reach out. Connor and I are starting the Cult of Cultivation club next semester for people who are interested in the project but don’t have room in their schedules for the class. Working with the school’s sustainability club, Be Blue Go Green, I’ve noticed thatwe practice some very good things on campus like recycling, but we can always improve by increasing awareness since I don’t think enough people know about the garden. We’re trying to host more sustainable events that promote it and show what we’re doing with the space. Hopefully, we can get the garden’s produce in other eateries on campus, which would be cool for students if they saw their food was grown on campus.

Sounds like the garden is well on its way! Thank you to these hardworking Toreros for truly being Changemakers, and congratulations for all their success so far! Stay up-to-date with the project and find more information about the Fall 2014 course by liking their Facebook page, USD Edible Garden Community.

"We’d like to not only make it into a continually producing food source for people, but also a space to enjoy." Connor Self, Junior