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Students road trip to college gardens

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Posted: Thursday, October 6, 2011 1:00 am

Hidden behind Sullivan Hall and Pereira Hall is a little garden unbeknownst to many LMU students and faculty members. Those who tend to the garden take pride in it and work to promote sustainability, food justice and environmental awareness. They are also interested in turning it into a bigger and more positive aspect of LMU's campus.

LIONS Garden Club and the Human Rights Coalition collaborated and decided over the summer that the LMU garden that opened last spring needed to reach the community in new ways. To accomplish this, they planned an Urban Garden Road Trip that took place this past weekend. Ten students, along with Campus Ministry's Minister for Social Justice and trip staff advisor Marty Roers, went on the road trip and visited six gardens and farms at other universities, including CSU Monterey Bay, UC Santa Cruz and University of San Francisco to gain some ideas to bring back and possibly implement in the LMU garden.

According to Natalie Hernandez, a junior urban studies and Spanish double major, as well as the Urban Garden Road Trip coordinator, the planning process for the trip began with a group of students that came together over the summer to expand on what the garden already is and how to serve people with food from the garden.

Before the trip, Hernandez said University engagement and obtaining food for sustainability was their focus. Hernandez wants to make "healthy options ... available to everyone."

"Urban gardens are outdoor classrooms and need to be utilized as [such]. With urban gardens popping up around our neighborhoods, it is important to learn how food grows and how it can build community," said Hernandez.

The participants took more from the experience than simply learning about expanding and publicizing LMU's urban garden.

According to Hernandez, the site leaders at the universities were knowledgeable and passionate about what they were growing but, "laid-back in that there was no pressure to get it right the first time."

Kim Tomicich, a senior environmental studies major and member of the LIONS Garden Club, said, "Something that most of our hosts repeatedly emphasized is that gardening is a long-term learning process. Failure is a given when working directly with nature and all external factors like weather and pests, but it is not such a big deal because it's all part of the learning process. That took a lot of pressure off of us. Here at LMU, as students, we strive to make everything run perfectly in our lives. But knowing that we will face failures and challenges beyond our control, and that the most important part of gardening is learning from trial and error, relieves a huge amount of pressure."

Each participant had a favorite garden out of the six that were visited.

Hernandez's favorite location was the University of San Francisco because according to Hernandez, "It was cool to see a sister Jesuit university's garden [which was] about twice as big as ours. We had a potluck and were able to talk to faculty and students about how gardening was important to food issues and food justice on campus. We also exchanged seeds from our gardens."

Tomicich's favorite location was the Kresgé Garden at UC Santa Cruz because, "it provided us with a model very similar to what we hope to enact here at LMU ... [and] it was a more approachable and realistic model for us."

Daman Coffman, a senior business major who went on the trip as a service requirement for his environmental ethics class, said, "The [Alan] Chadwick Garden [at UC Santa Cruz] hands down was my favorite [because] it was ridiculously lush and fruitful [and] I ate so many apples."

After visiting those university gardens Tomicich said, "LMU is way behind the times [because] some of the gardens we visited have been in operation since the 1970s."

Prior to going on the trip, Hernandez also said, "I really hope that this trip, if anything, inspires us to bring back [ideas] to the garden." And the trip did just that for many of the participants including Coffman.

"The trip inspired me to take action [and] ... we are all in the beginning stages of our garden so it helped us tremendously from logistics to philosophy," said Coffman. Coffman hopes that LMU will have a sustainable living community where students can "actively be a part of growing healthy, nutritious food while having a great time with friends and learning a ton." While he enjoyed the trip, Coffman said, "I would love to see a weeklong trip up the coast visiting gardens and attending D.I.Y [do it yourself] workshops."

Yoni Carnice, an undeclared freshman agreed with Coffman and said, "It would be great to see a Living Learning Community centered around a garden like ... [the one] in UC Santa Cruz."

Tomicich said, "The trip sparked so many ideas ... [such as] the immediate possibility for the LIONS Garden Club to utilize gardening as a teambuilding opportunity for student groups on campus ... [and] we encourage faculty to consider to utilize the garden as part of their curricula."

Upon coming back from the trip, Hernandez said, "For now, I would really like people to come out to the Garden Workdays [to learn about gardening from members of the LIONS Garden Club] on Fridays from 12:30 p.m. - 3 p.m. [and] later it would be cool to offer consistent workshops on gardening. ... Then maybe one day we can have an academic class on community gardens and growing food."

Coffman said, "I had little interest in becoming involved before this trip, much less growing food, but now I have tasted the delicious benefits."

To learn more about the trip or the garden, email or visit the Garden Workdays on Friday at 12:30 - 3 p.m.

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