10 March 2008

Freshmen Female Farmers

This year, 11 first year students embarked on a project never before undertaken at the University of San Francisco. Putting aside pencils and papers, stepping out of the confines of the classrooms, 11 young women are getting back in touch with simple pleasures of soil and seeds, giving life to USF’s first on-campus organic garden.

The garden is a small plot of land behind the Education Building. Though it was just a mess of weeds and dirt as recently as last summer, two visionary professors saw the land’s potential, and worked together to plan a new living-learning community they named the Garden Project. 11 students were selected to live together, study together, and garden together.

I had the pleasure of interviewing three of these gardeners this weekend. On a personal note, these young women are very delightful company: I have never before been in an interview situation with so much giggling – it was almost slumber party-esque.

From left to right: freshmen farmers Gopika Misri, Valeria Vital, and Nalini Bholonauth.

The three I spoke to all had little experience gardening before coming to USF. “Uh, I used to watch my grandma water her garden,” Bholonauth described as the extent of her prior knowledge. Nevertheless the idea of the living-learning community appealed to them because it seemed like a good way to connect with people at their new school.

Fortunately for them, community is one thing they got plenty of from this experience. When I asked them what they had learned that would stick with them the most, expecting to hear them gush about the importance of locally grown, organic, pesticide-free, non-genetically enhanced produce, I was surprised to hear them all agree that it was learning to work as a group, and learning to reach out to the larger university population to encourage their involvement that they would take away.

They have learned about all that other stuff too though, don’t get me wrong. Coming from a state of more or less complete ignorance on the subject (“I used to think organic just meant more expensive,” Misri said), the women are now experts on contemporary gardening issues.

Aside from the actual gardening, the women have been taking classes, doing extensive reading, and even taking field trips to other gardens in the Bay Area and beyond. Read about their field trips in their class blog.

Their newfound knowledge seems to be paying off. The garden is slowly but surely reaching maturity. It would seem the main crop they’ve harvested thus far has been broccoli.

Now to the tough questions: “How was it?” I asked. “Was it really different than what you’d find at a grocery store?” (No more softball reporting from me!)

Vital contemplated for a moment. “It just tasted fresher,” she said. “Well, I don’t know if I was just imagining that…No, it was definitely fresher.”

1 comment:

Jacob Marx said...

You say that my map skills are good, but I'd have to say you are the sh*t at mapping. It seems to me that things are going very well for you in the journalism field, what are your plans in the future? Are you interested in a career or atleast a future job in journalism?