Tucked away behind the Cabernet parking lot, Sonoma State students have been hard at work in the Environmental Technology Center garden cultivating vegetables, fruit and community.
The Sonoma State Garden Club hosted a Fall Harvest Party last Friday, featuring pumpkin decorating, scarecrow building and live music. Soup Sandwich, a local ska-rock band composed of Sonoma State students, played some lively tunes while listeners mingled and learned about sustainability.
Join Us Making Progress (JUMP) Garden Coordinator Tomio Endo circled the party, helping inform curious students about the ideas behind the Garden.
“We’re really reaching and engaging students that would never come out to the garden, that have no knowledge base about it, and we show them what it means to be connected with each other,” said Endo. “There are a lot of great things that happen when you have people come together.”
The garden is funded by an Instructionally Related Activities grant that is applied for by the faculty of the environmental studies and planning department, and has made serious progress this past year.
Produce consisting of a great variety of plants, vegetables, fruits and gourds are grown in neat rows.
Hedgerows are planted around the perimeter to attract beneficial insects and animals to the garden. Everything grown is native to the region, and helps give students perspective about the agricultural process.
“It helps teach people where food really comes. You don’t just get it from the store, or from the cafeteria,” said Jamal Edwards, a dedicated student volunteer. “You see it grown on the trees and in the ground, and you have to take care of it. It’s important to give people that connection.”
Beyond being a rewarding experience, the garden helps real people that deal with hunger in Sonoma County.
“The Garden has a fresh, new focus for growing food for people in need,” said Rocky Rohwedder, a professor of environmental studies and planning at Sonoma State. “It’s all student-run; we just gave them the space and the goal.”
Starting in September, Serving Our Unfed People Everyday Re-packaging (SOUP-ER) and JUMP have teamed up to donate produce from the garden to The Society of St. Vincent de Paul, which helps provide meals to the homeless.
“SOUP-ER has been a program on campus for a couple of years now, and they repackage food from the cafeteria,” said Paulette Loubet, director of sustainability for JUMP. “But because the cafeteria is now open 24/7 they don’t have as many leftovers, so we decided to give St. Vincent de Paul produce as well.
“That’s the mission, the reason we’ve all come together. To grow the food and have it donated to a place where people actually need it,” said Endo.
Students are the backbone of the Garden, and make up a group of around 40 to 60 consistent volunteers every week.
“There are some people who really take it to heart and love being out here, and they will spend their free time here working and making it improved and more beautiful,” said Brandon Sanders, the head garden intern for the environmental studies and planning department. “Nothing would get done without them.”
The Sonoma State Garden Club is planning on throwing another event during Earth Week next semester, and is always welcoming new volunteers that want to learn more about sustainability and agriculture.
“With all the crazy doom and gloom, environmental issues and social issues in college, this is one way where you can learn how to solve a problem,” said Endo.
For more information on upcoming events and volunteer opportunities, visit the garden, which is located behind the Cabernet parking lot, or join the Sonoma State Garden Club’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/groups/107880162731103.