By Christie Melhorn, September 19 2017 —
Tucked beside the Cascade residence parking lot is the campus community garden — a hidden treasure at the University of Calgary. The humble space stretches the length of a soccer field and boasts looming sunflowers, plump zucchinis and plenty of potatoes. It is run by the Office of Sustainability and maintained by the U of C Garden Club. Both want to teach gardening skills to students and reward the fruits of their labour — literally.
Garden Club president April Jang says that not many students are aware of the campus garden.
“The garden’s kind of out of the way,” Jang said. “We call it our secret garden. But it shouldn’t be secret. We want to share it and share our produce with other students.”
According to U of C Garden Club records, it was founded in 2000 by U of C students Christy Bryceland, Erin Despard, Yori Jamin and Lisa Willcott. Their goal was to promote environmental sustainability on campus and forge meaningful relationships between students. They seem to have succeeded, as the garden has survived two relocations — first from where the Children’s Hospital now stands and then from the corner of 19th St and Collegiate Blvd. Students like Jang are determined to keep it thriving.
“We really want to keep it alive,” Jang said. “It’s a huge community, on and off campus.”
The garden includes a communal plot taken care of by U of C Garden Club members and personal plots held by both students and non-students. Applications for personal plots are accepted in the spring.
Jang says that being a campus garden club member is an opportunity for students to expand their network and cultivate new skills.
“People living nearby and other community gardens members are involved. We take field trips to learn from experts in the city,” she said. “I visited the Wildwood Community Garden and learned how they inserted a decomposing log into the soil and let it turn into compost. We’ve also gone to Blue Mountain Biodynamics Farm — I got to harvest eggs!”
Jang says it’s also a great place to de-stress.
“I’m in engineering and know that sometimes you forget that anything outside of schools exists,” Jang said. “The garden is very relaxing. It’s got that ‘away-from-everything’ feel and I really love that.”
Students are also encouraged to get creative and learn about how nature functions while saving money on groceries.
“We try to work with nature in harmony,” Jang said. “It is about trying something new and having fun. We grow everything — lettuce, radishes, sunchokes, mint and basil. After our harvest dinners, we encourage students to take veggies home.”
Jang also says that she now has a more meaningful relationship with food.
“There is nothing like a fresh-picked tomato,” Jang said. “Gardening has opened my eyes about where my food comes from and what you can do with vegetables. Even my family has caught on. We don’t just have basic lettuce salads anymore.”
Jang says that the club understands tight schedules and budgets. Membership is free and there is no mandatory commitment.
Students are encouraged to drop by for Tuesgardens every Tuesday evening from 5:30–8:30 p.m. Unfortunately, the garden is closed in the winter however now’s a great time to get involved as the fall harvest is approaching.
To become a U of C Garden Club member, visit table number 43 on Thursday Sept. 21 or table 58 on Friday Sept. 22 at Clubs Week in MacHall. Students are also welcome to drop by any of their events during the semester or email firstname.lastname@example.org.