Not Just Your Mother’s Garden

By Ian Meier, Local Food Security

In July, I received a notification that there was an opening at the Environmental Center for the position of Assistant Garden Manager in the campus garden plot. At the time, surrounded by an arid desert landscape, it was hard to imagine returning to the irrigated greenery of Fort Lewis. However, weeks later, after the interview and hiring process was complete, I got my first look at where I would be working. Upon stepping foot in the garden, I was immediately struck by the diversity and abundance of plants grown. I was welcomed by beds of kale, chard, tomatoes, peas, garlic, onions, leeks, potatoes, arugula, borage, corn, carrots and squash, just to list a few. It was such a wonderful surprise to see how much could be produced from one quarter-acre plot.

As a student focusing in the field of environmental policy one might assume that I would be well acquainted with one of the Environmental Center’s most impactful ventures. However, like many Fort Lewis students, before accepting this position, I knew very little about the Campus Garden. I had never actually been to the far northeastern corner of campus where the garden and greenhouse are located. This is an issue that comes up quite regularly during our weekly garden meetings and within the Environmental Center. The garden is an incredible resource for Fort Lewis serving as a production site, educational tool, and model for the potential that lies in local sustainable agriculture. In addition, food produced from the garden is sold to Sodexo and incorporated into dining hall meals.

But for me, the campus garden has become so much more than that. At the risk of sounding exceedingly cliche, I must admit that the garden has become a sanctuary and place of comfort to me. The time I spend working in the garden is grounding, it allows me to clear my head and detach from the stresses of school and life. I look forward to my Tuesdays and Thursdays when I get to spend several hours working there. Completing a task that does not involve straining my eyes in the glow of artificial light is a welcome relief. I find myself learning in a different way, noticing aspects of the local landscape I would otherwise be oblivious to. I see mint growing in front of Reed, currants and mulberries on the quads, apples growing near the rim trail and juniper berries in front of Jones hall. My hope is that over time, more students will visit the garden and share in some of the education and comfort I have found there.

Every Thursday from 1-2:30 during college hour, we invite students and community members to join us for our a garden work day. In helping the EC staff you will not only be aiding in the production of healthy, organic and local food but also taking time for yourself to detach and recharge. Whether you send the time planting winter rye, watering garlic or harvesting the season’s best purple kale, I promise you will go into the rest of your day with a clear head space and deeper connection to your local environment.