By Mario Hernandez
CSU Bakersfield will soon have a garden on campus. The garden is set to provide fresh produce to students, staff, and faculty.
Economics Department Chair Aaron Hegde then-graduate student Evabelen Ventura conducted a survey in 2013 on food insecurity. The study showed that 40 percent of the participants who completed the survey demonstrated food insecurity, meaning they didn’t have reliable access to affordable and nutritious food.
“People like Evelyn Young Spath from the president’s office and other people had been seeing the need on this campus for a long time and that study solidified that and out of that came the idea of the edible food garden and food pantry,” said Summer Sullivan, edible garden coordinator. “The main purpose of the garden is to supply students, faculty and staff with healthy food.”
The garden will be aiding students, faculty and staff. It covers 1.75 acres, containing many facilities that will serve as a gathering place for students. A full acre of that will be used for growing produce. The remaining .75 acres will be for a study and relaxation area, amphitheater, and a hydroponics area. The garden will be located in the empty lot behind the softball field.
The garden will contain vertical hydroponics, which will increase the amount of food the garden can produce.
“It takes less water, saves usage of space and basically grows upward creating more food,” said Sullivan.
Part of the purpose of the garden is to supply the food pantry with fresh edible produce, as well as to assist the food pantry in distributing food to students, staff, and faculty.
In the process it will produce various other opportunities for human growth. The edible garden will integrate student opportunities through internships, research, marketing, volunteer opportunities and jobs.
Sullivan said that a garden manager will be hired after she leaves. The garden manager will hold important duties, such as training the new students or individuals wanting to obtain a role in the garden. Another aspect of the job will be overseeing the garden and all its requirements.
“Yes we want students to be running it, handling it. We want it to be student led,” said Sullivan.
Representatives from CSUB have gone to other campuses to observe other gardens. On Oct. 5, CSUB students drove out to Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, to observe the campus garden and system.
“We’re really not trying to reinvent the wheel we just need to find what is going to work and how can we be the most sufficient to integrate students into the garden,” said Sullivan.
One of the goals for the garden is to be self-sustaining.
“One of the main pieces obviously of the garden as well is to be financially self-sustaining through different processes such as grant writing,” Sullivan said. “(We will) sell some of the fresh produce at the farmer’s market. …We are also going to be reaching out to different donors.”
Last year, a survey was conducted regarding what people wanted in the garden. Responses ranged from citrus trees to apples, kale, lettuce, carrots and strawberries.
There is not a date for the completion of the garden. Sullivan hopes to see progress within the year.
“Everything is kind of ongoing and all happening at once. We’re obviously working on the living infrastructure of the garden, but as goals, to keep things moving so we can actually start building things and using things on the actual land,” said Sullivan.
Fernando Gutierrez, Jr., a nursing freshman at CSUB, was unaware of the new garden coming to the campus. Nonetheless, he said the edible garden was a good idea.
“It will help out a lot, help students concentrate more in class. When you’re hungry you don’t really concentrate. I’m here from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. and food is always a concern,” said Gutierrez.
Ruby Ceja, a nursing freshman at CSUB, wondered what they will grow.
“I don’t know if growing watermelons is possible. Probably not, they would take up too much space. Oranges be nice too,” said Ceja.
The edible garden is hosting build days for volunteers to help build planters. The next one is scheduled for Oct. 21.