CMC's Secret Green Thumb

The CMC Gardening Club is one of our campus' best-kept secrets. Unless you've gone looking for it, you probably haven’t seen it. Nestled between the C-M-S tennis courts and the Children's School, this once-barren patch of land has been converted to an amazing community garden by a dedicated group of student gardeners. The idea of a student run organic garden at CMC was first proposed by Elizabeth Freide, Ben Feldman, Emily Nathan and Rachel Waterman in the Fall of 2011. A petition was made and funds were secured from ASCMC's Student Senate to start such a project in the Spring that year and the Gardening Club has been running since then. The club meets every Friday at 3:30 for a work session at the garden and members also water the beds throughout the week. There are currently 15 to 20 active members.

The garden is currently undergoing many changes. A drip-irrigation system was set up towards the end of last semester and new planting beds are being built. Currently, the garden contains carrots, mint, Basel and Fava beans. Gardeners are also involved in other aspects of environmental work. They have built 2 composting bins, a lasagna composting patch, and some small vermicompost units. The club is not all work, however, and most gardening sessions are followed up by a club dinner.

The relaxation that one gets from being in nature and working with one's hands is hard to find anywhere else, and working in the garden is an ideal way to get rid of the week's stress on a Friday evening.  My philosophy professor told our class that work which involves creation or building gives a person a lot of happiness and satisfaction. Gardening is exactly this type of work - every session leads to visible, tangible growth. 

The garden itself still produces a fairly low crop yield, but everything that has managed to grow (including the latest batch of carrots) has been extremely tasty and satisfying to eat. Last semester, the unexpected hail killed some of the young plants and this semester it became clear that the beds were not wide enough. Each mistake makes for better gardeners. The club is about to plant its latest batch of vegetables - lettuce, kale, and cauliflower.

Three other colleges in the consortium (Pomona, Pitzer and Scripps) have gardens. In the future the CMC Gardening Club hopes to collaborate with these gardens and form a 5C student gardening network. The CMC club is currently using the Pomona Organic Farm’s green house in order to start a batch of Claremont lettuce and kale.

Last semester, the garden received an additional $600 from Senate to start a smaller satellite garden outside the Auen apartment. The Auen garden site will consist mostly of herbs and other vegetables and will be open to the entire school to harvest. Work on this project will begin soon.

Most CMC-ers are encouraged to focus on large-scale issues - like environmental protection at a policy or organizational level. But it is also important to address issues at a local level. Kitchen and community gardens are integral to the future of our environmental sustainability, especially in urban settings. A college community garden may not be impacting the world, but we are certainly trying to do our part, one carrot at a time.

If anyone is interested in joining the CMC Community Gardening Club or even visiting the garden, you can contact Ben Feldman at bfeldman14@students.claremontmckenna.edu. Also, feel free to drop by at the garden on Fridays at 3:30 if you wish to meet the club.