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Campus community garden benefits students of all interests

By Frederique Lavoipierre Faculty Contributer
On November 16, 2010


Tucked into the northwest corner of campus, adjacent to Copeland Creek and the Environmental Technology Center, the campus community garden is a destination  worth exploring. Several times a week, student interns and club members tend the well-established garden in this peaceful corner of campus. 
On Fridays, the garden bustles with activity! Dozens of students from across campus show up to help the garden interns. Lecturer Julie Bright meets with the club she advises, Friends of Copeland Creek, at noon, to work on nature trails and restoration efforts along the creek. The preschoolers from the Children's School are frequent visitors, checking on their set of beds in the garden. 
As the work day winds down, it is rewarding to look around and see the remarkable changes made in our campus backyard by this ever-changing and energetic group of SSU students. 
In addition to Friends of Copeland Creek, campus partners include the Global Environmental Activism Club and Slow Food Club; both pitch in on a regular basis. SSU Preserves, the Entomology Program, the JUMP student service leadership organization, and fraternities and sororities seeking service opportunities all participate in garden activities. 
Students from the School of Extended Education's Sustainable Landscape Professional Certificate Program have contributed to planning the garden's future. Environmental Studies and Planning, (ENSP) and biology students are frequent volunteers; others participating in the garden include students enrolled in University 102, psychology courses, and art classes. 
Last fall, a cohort from the math department, led by Professor Jean Chan, grew some winter crops. Not long before that, the garden served as a canvas for the art department. Research projects from various departments have been conducted in the garden. 
The teamwork of faculty, garden coordinator, interns and student volunteers has resulted in a flourishing garden and increased funding, even in this era of campus belt-tightening.  An SSU IRA, (Instructionally Related Activities) grant for $6,000 now supports several student interns to supervise volunteers and maintain the garden. 
The ENSP department provides funds to pay the garden coordinator. The garden is among four service-learning programs included in a 3-year $150,000 Learn-and-Serve grant awarded to the Center for Community Engagement. 
Donations from local businesses, including numerous local nurseries, help keep our garden green. Sonoma Compost has been generous for years. As members of the Sonoma County School Garden Network, we have access to a supply of vegetable plants and seeds. The Milo Baker chapter of the California Native Plant Society has provided many garden plants. 
Their most recent donation enabled us, with the help of biology department graduate students, to plant a new border along the garden. 
An SSU garden intern spent last spring semester assisting in the community garden start-up at the nearby Holy Family Episcopal Church. The garden, Neighborhood Farm, is within walking distance of campus; groups of SSU students may check out beds for a nominal fee. 
The California Rare Fruit Society donated our orchard; SRJC sustainable agriculture instructor and SSU alumnus Heidi Herrmann assists with orchard maintenance, and SSU Agroecology instructor Robin Burton continues her involvement in the garden. 
We visualize the garden as a place of synergy, a gathering place for students from departments across campus to exchange ideas. Plans for improvements include growing more produce, certifying the garden with the National Wildlife Backyard Habitat program, and applying for a grant to bring us closer to our goal of creating a publically accessible showcase of sustainable landscape practices. Interested volunteers are invited to join. 
For more information about the garden, contact Dr. Laura Watt, program faculty advisor (, or Frederique Lavoipierre, garden coordinator ( Interns include Chirelle McCorley, David Ortiz, Karissa Westphal and Greg Anthenian. They can be found tending the garden most Monday and Wednesday mornings, and on Fridays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

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