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Campus community garden offers students education in sustainable gardening practices

By Megan Marr, July 2 2024—

The University of Calgary’s campus community garden is a place where students, staff and faculty can grow their own food, learn about sustainable gardening practices and become part of a larger community. 

The garden – which operates out of the Office of Sustainability – is located on campus near the Cascade Hall residence building and west of Lot 49. 

In an interview with the Gauntlet, Ali Epp –  engagement coordinator at the Office of Sustainability – described the campus community garden as a place for everyone on campus to learn more about growing food and an opportunity to build community.

“[The garden is] an educational space for people to learn how to grow food and to hopefully give more access to food to students, staff, faculty and community members in and surrounding the University of Calgary.”

Anyone can rent a plot in the garden for $20 per growing season, and a communal shed with gloves, sprinklers and other gardening equipment is provided to plot holders free of charge. In addition to becoming a plot member, students can also become volunteers or club members of the garden.

For those that are hesitant to undertake an entire plot or have never gardened before, Epp suggested renting a plot with a friend and collectively managing it. She also noted that educational resources are shared with members at the beginning of each growing season to make sure everyone has the information they need to confidently start their gardening journey. 

“That communal aspect of gardening makes it a lot easier to navigate,” Epp said. “We see a lot of people coming in from a diverse array of gardening experience and they all find community there and everybody’s willing to help so it’s a really good space for that.”

Additionally, Epp explained that several workshops are hosted throughout the growing season – on both gardening-related topics and food preservation topics such as dehydrating and pickling. 

“This year we had a garden launch event where we hosted a composting workshop, we hosted a plan-your-plot workshop, [and] we did a mushroom growing workshop, which was really cool,” said Epp. “It was a really good event and we saw a lot of people learning and growing and even the people with the most experience out there were learning new things.”

Epp noted that the garden is adjacent to natural areas, and that wildlife such as coyotes are often observed nearby. Students who visit the garden are advised to be aware of this and to follow best practices for dealing with wildlife encounters. 

“If anybody needs to know any more information before heading over to the garden, or if they want to take a look at it, I would just suggest they go to the Living with Wildlife website,” recommended Epp.

Epp said while plot availability varies from year to year, they typically see about 10 plots open up each year. She also mentioned that there are plans for the garden to expand in future years, which may mean more plot availability in upcoming seasons. 

“We’re looking to expand it in upcoming years, so hopefully there are going to be more plots available to students, staff and faculty and maybe research opportunities, different educational opportunities…. [The garden is] technically open to anybody.”

For students who are interested in renting a plot for the 2025 growing season, applications typically open up in January. However, emails to garden@ucalgary.ca are welcome before then to land a spot on the waitlist. More information on becoming a member can be found here.

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