Through the year on campus it’s very common to hear words like ‘renewable’, ‘re-purposing’ ‘recycling’ or similar rhetoric; most commonly this vocabulary is brought up when the hottest topic on campus (for the past three years at least) is the conversational focus: sustainability.
Recently we were visited by students from the Don Ross Middle School in Squamish, who are currently in a month long unit about the general overarching concept of sustainability. We were lucky to lead them on a tour that demonstrated such systems around campus; lucky because they were good fun to have and also because many of us learned how truly diverse the many systems around this campus really are.
For me, the highlight of this trip was learning about the past, present and future about the community garden. Now the community garden is not our nickname for Squamish, it’s actually a specific place on campus, lovely and tucked away like the best of treasures. It might be easy for some to miss this masterpiece of communal collaboration on one’s daily rush through the cafeteria, but I would highly recommend popping in to visit these prosperous fields whenever in the vicinity.
The community garden was started nearly five years ago: at that time it consisted of five simple apple trees which were planted as a final project for Maya’s ‘Global Perspectives’ course. The main purpose for the garden then, as it is now, was not just to grow fresh food in our backyard but also to combat food ignorance; a useful venture that would allow us to visualize and experience the amount of time and effort it takes to make a quality meal. Having known this I for one have really been appreciating the meals I’ve eaten since (if you close your eyes and eat really slow you can taste the hard work)!
Aside from this the community garden is also a great place for relaxation and recreation, it’s not uncommon to see musicians strum away on their strings whilst folks sit around on the grass in circles, nibbling away crispy and juicy asparagus (the freshness of the food grown here is unbelievable). In the past three years, we’ve also seen the community garden expand ambitiously: as of today it houses a wide variety of eatables, including garlic, potatoes, asparagus, blueberries, figs, beans, beets, rhubarb and numerous herbs such as rosemary, thyme, sage and chives. Not to mention, a bee-hive set up and maintained by students provides both honey and widespread pollination in the garden. This means that students tending to the garden do not have to go from plant to plant, pollinating with a Q-tip as it done in many place without good natural pollination.
In the middle of the garden lies a cob house which is water-insulated via a mud, straw and ‘living-roof’ structure; thus it provides an excellent shelter for the gardening and bee keeping tools. Furthermore, due to the material from which it’s been built, it can be taken down and decomposed/recycled if ever needed. We often tell visitors that this is our university’s equivalent of Hagrid’s house. Just adjacent to this are a group of greenhouses which can store small and vulnerable herbs away from pests until they are big enough to move out and begin life anew in the outside world.
The cob-house or ‘Hagrid House’ as some know it
Garden theory was also used in this construction. I cannot claim to know much about garden theory, but I understand it has a large role to play in soil and water run-off regulation. This is maintained in the garden via several layers of trenches and strategies such as planting chives below the herb spiral or growing potatoes and garlic adjacent to each other.
Having witnessed how rapidly the garden has grown these few years, I’m not sure what will follow in the future, though I’m sure it will be great things. For one, I hear rumors that the garden might become a food source of catering for future events. I’ve also heard there will be numerous community work days that end in feasts of garden food. In all this uncertainty, I’m positive that the garden will remain a place for folks to work, sit down, or bite-off sections of crispy-fresh asparagus in the years to come.