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Food for Thought: CSUN Creates a Community Garden

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(NORTHRIDGE, Calif., Jul. 6th, 2010) ―

Observant eyes may have noticed three 16’ x 4’ raised-bed vegetable boxes occupying a corner of the Cal State Northridge campus adjacent to the path that leads to the University Park Apartments, near the tennis courts and Northridge Academy High School (NAHS). A cheerfully painted sign announces that the new plants on the block are the first sprouts of the CSUN Community Garden.

CSUN student volunteers gathered in March to build raised beds for the CSUN Campus Garden

“The garden is a celebration of the green consciousness and desire for sustainability currently sweeping the campus,” said Erica Wohldmann, assistant professor of psychology and a member of the core greening team of CSUN’s Institute of Sustainability.

As Wohldmann envisions it, the garden eventually will have a total of five raised beds, a spiral herb garden and a raised potato bin.

“We’ll be using a dense urban-style approach,” she said. “You can grow an amazing number of vegetables if you use a small space to its fullest capacity.”

“From a physical point of view, the garden’s location makes sense,” said Colin Donahue, associate vice president for facilities development and operations. “The area is visible to both dorm residents and NAHS students, which we hope will lead to collaboration and participation from a wide spectrum of students.”

The garden’s first raised beds were constructed by volunteers in March. Among them was Jean Porter, administrative analyst in academic resources and planning.

“This garden is about good food choices and how to grow them,” said Porter. “It’s a working demonstration of sustainable practices with an educational component for healthy eating.”

“In the short term,” said Wohldmann, “volunteers that I organize will tend the garden, but in the long term we hope to incorporate classes into the garden. Anyone who works in the garden will be allowed to harvest some food, although I envision that most of the food will be used for cooking classes and demonstrations, and eventually donations to local food banks.”

Student Roger Motti ’10 helped create a prototype for the CSUN garden by building a raised-bed garden at nearby Hillel House. Motti hopes to continue mapping the edible landscape around the campus come fall, as part of his interdisciplinary graduate research in geography, food science and psychology.

To support the CSUN garden, Wohldmann and Motti are pursuing grants, and Wohldmann will donate funds she earns from teaching a Sustainability Practices class. Academic Resources and Planning staffers already have designated their annual “holiday” gift for the garden. Initial planting will take place in the fall.

“We hope to celebrate a wonderful first harvest,” said Wohldmann, “while providing a great teaching environment.”

Read more great stories in CSUN’s Northridge Magazine: http://www.northridgemagazine.com/stories/60/

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