The idea of a campus community garden came to Central Oregon Community college student, Lisa Barnett, in spring 2011 as she was sitting in her own backyard. At the time, Barnett said the thought was only a passing fancy, and not something she was willing to pursue. She never imagined that by the fall, she’d be trying to make her idea a reality.
The idea for a COCC community garden made its transformation from passing thought to plan of action in the summer of 2011 when Barnett took a technical writing class taught by Karyl Severson. Technical writing is meant to prepare students for writing in business settings so Severson required her students to come up with a term project to make a difference in the community.
“Lisa immediately had this idea, and I thought it was perfect for the class,” said Severson.
It was during the technical writing class that Barnett began outlining the necessary steps to bring a community garden to COCC; the first step, she decided, would be to form a gardening club. To form a club at COCC, there needs to be at least four interested student members and a member of COCC’s faculty who is willing to serve as the advisor. Barnett said that enough students have showed interest in the club and the director of the multicultural department and master gardener Karen Roth, is willing to be the advisor, so soon she’ll be ready to fill out the application to start the club. However, because the purpose of the club is to create a community garden, there are issues such as funding, location and workers that Barnett wants to tend to before getting the club going.
“What I need to do is talk to the students and see what they want,” said Barnett.
The garden is still very much in its planning stages, but she is already brain storming how to obtain resources and funding for the project. If she can create a gardening club, Barnett plans to apply for funding from the Associated Students of Central Oregon Community College, the student government. She said she also plans to look for funding and donations from outside the college, including machinery from a local contractor and lumber donated by a peer from the technical writing class, Daniel Hammer.
“To secure extra funding and get people involved, I’d like to open it to the community,” said Barnett. Once the garden is thriving, Barnett also hopes to bring in funding and connect with the community by taking the produce grown there to the farmer’s market– but she knows before she gets to that stage, there are other matters to be decided, such as location.
Though Barnett said she’s willing to “take what she can get,” her ideal location for a community garden would be in the campus village, near the new student restaurant. The idea is that the restaurant could use some of the produce that is grown in the garden, but whether or not this is a possibility has yet to be confirmed.
Though most aspects of the garden club haven’t moved beyond their planning stages, one member of the COCC community says she is confident in the plan and willing to help however she can: Severson, the professor of the writing class where the idea first began to grow.
“I sort of envisioned that if anyone needed writing done I could help, as a routine gardener,” said Severson. She is willing to offer her writing skills in the form of writing proposals and other necessary documents, because she says she believes in what the students are trying to do and thinks the garden would be a good addition to the campus.
“This world is so full of stress… one of the ways I deal with it is by gardening, it’s so relaxing,” said Severson, suggesting that the garden could be a source of stress relief for students as well. “Another thing is, with these economic hard times, people need to know how to have a little vegetable garden.”
Another benefit that Barnett foresees the garden having is relieving some of the waste from campus coffee shops and cafes to use as compost. She wants the garden to be beneficial to as many parts of the community as possible, so they’ll know about it and take interest.
“It’s going to have to be something that students are already looking for to join,” said Barnett.
Reaching out to different people on campus as well as in the community is another reason why Severson said she is so on board with Barnett’s idea.
“COCC has this mission to be a good part of the community,” said Severson.
A lot needs to be done before the garden can become a reality, but Barnett said she’s willing to take it on and enthusiastic to get others involved.
“I definitely think it’s possible, colleges from all over are doing this,” said Barnett. She hopes that COCC will be among those colleges by next Spring.
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