5C Community Garden Club Sows First Seeds of New Beginnings, New Garden at CMC

Last semester, Ben Feldman CM ’13, Libby Friede CM ’13, and Emma Nathan CM’13 founded a Community Garden Club at Claremont McKenna College (CMC). The young garden is about half an acre in size and located on the outskirts of the shot put field. CMC’s student garden club is open to all students across the five colleges wishing to learn more about the agricultural process. The club consists of about 15-17 active members that tend to the farm and actively promote awareness about organic food and sustainability.

The garden is currently in the middle of a busy planting season as members plan to cultivate fava, kale, lettuce, carrots, and other crops. Student gardeners have just finished making mounded beds and are now looking into a drip irrigation system to more effectively water their crops, though the current top priority is seeding their crops. Active gardeners work at least one shift per week to keep the garden in good shape. Other duties include laying compost and building bed supports.

“We’re trying to work our soil and have a good foundation of the garden,” Feldman said. “We are not yet looking towards a harvest.”

Like the name suggests, the Community Garden Club is a collaborative effort from students and faculty all over the 5Cs. Feldman, Friede, and Nathan received much help from the more experienced student leader of Pomona’s organic farm, Adam Long PO ’13.

“He was really helpful in getting us started,” Feldman said.

Pomona’s already established farm also donated compost for the Community Garden Club’s first event. Pitzer Agroecology Professor Juan Araya, the Pomona Farm manager, was also instrumental in helping the Community Garden Club acquire resources and basic farming knowledge.

The founders, coming from various academic backgrounds and interest, cite diverse reasons for their commitment to the garden. Feldman, an EEP (Environment, Economics, and Politics) major who is interested in food justice issues, has worked at an urban farm in Berkeley, CA to explore his academic interests. Fellow founder Friede is a cognitive science major and believes that planting affects student gardeners’ thought processes.

“I think community gardeners will think more about what they put into their bodies… being involved with the growing and gardening process,” she commented.

Nathan, a management engineering major, had similar reasons for her interest in the garden.

“I grew up around community gardens in Portland, Oregon and am really interested in sustainable design.”

The garden has proven to be a big hit with its members. They are able to address serious issues and have fun experimenting with planting.

“I like the gardening club because of the opportunity to put work into something and see the physical progress along the way,” Josh Rael CM’14 said. “Hopefully the small garden we maintain today will continue to grow.”

The idea was first conceived after a CMC Sophomore Leadership Experience retreat sponsored by the Kravis Leadership Institute. Although upperclassmen had already proposed the idea, it was not until last semester that the students were able to put their ideas into action with help from CMC Director of Facilities Brian Worley. Feldman, Friede, and Nathan were able to create the garden with backing from the Kravis Center for Leadership and other CMC facilities. They envisioned a place in which students could, according to Feldman, “have access to organic foods and learn about the process of gardening. And not only learn about it but to also reap the benefits of it.”

Initially, the question of where to locate the garden was the biggest logistical problem that members faced. In order to promote the issue of sustainability more visibly, “some of the students wanted it to be closer to the heart of CMC’s campus,” said Feldman. However, the fragility of the garden made the initially proposed central location unfeasible. Now, Feldman says he is happy with the garden’s location.

“It’s a little away from campus, but really not that bad… we get really good sunlight,” he concluded.

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