Student garden a growing concern

"It's satifying to see people's faces light up when the vegetables are ready to eat," says co-ordinator Ondrea Rogers

by Hilary Thomson staff writer

Sowing, hoeing, feeding and weeding are the extra-curricular activities for a group of about 25 students who are cultivating an organic garden that is helping to feed the UBC community.

In a south campus plot about the size of a triple-wide city lot, students from faculties ranging from Arts to Forestry have planted a natural food demonstration garden that is providing greens to salad bars at Green College, to members of the Alma Mater Society (AMS) Natural Food Co-op and to hungry customers who visit the site.

"We're providing campus food to campus people," says Ondrea Rogers, an Environmental Science student who co-ordinates the garden. "We want to show how local land can be used to create a sustainable food supply."

Rogers and a core group of four student volunteers, including two exchange students from Quebec, took responsibility for managing the garden this spring and summer. The garden grows everything from sunflowers to scarlet runner beans in a pattern of plots that resembles a daisy.

"The garden provides a great opportunity for students to connect theory and practice," says Agricultural Sciences Dean Moura Quayle. "It's learner-centred and leads to experimentation, curiosity and the compelling need to know more about agriculture food systems and how they work."

The garden is an offshoot of the AMS Natural Food Co-op which provides dry goods and organic produce to more than 100 members through bulk purchases from local growers.

Through a donation of land from the Faculty of Agricultural Sciences and seeds, irrigation and other equipment given by local companies, the students were able to start their own garden this year and plan to run it year-round.

An e-mail lets members know what vegetables are ready for picking and sets out tasks for the weekly work party. Volunteers get paid in green stuff--the real green stuff, that is--lettuce, peas and broccoli.

Rogers and others teach visitors and volunteers about sustainable agricultural practices and introduce them to the philosophy of food security.

"Food security encompasses not only local availability of food," says Rogers. "It also takes in reduction of transport costs, pollution and energy used for the refrigeration needed to import food."

The garden is supported by grants from federal and provincial government employment programs.

The Demonstration Garden, which is located on the south corner of West Mall and Thunderbird Boulevard, will host educational tours and offer vegetables for sale Sept. 14 and 21 from noon to 3 p.m.

A harvest picnic will be held at the garden on Sept. 14 from 3 to 5 p.m. Call the Grub Hub at 604-822-0020 for more information.