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Edible Garden open for business

By Karen Nannery

Reporter

After years of careful planning, CSU Bakersfield’s Edible Garden comes to fruition.

According to CSUB Sustainability Coordinator Jennifer Sanchez, the idea for the garden came about after a graduate student conducted a survey in 2013, which revealed that more than forty percent of students, staff and faculty identified themselves as food insecure.  

This survey caught the attention of the CSU Chancellor’s office who did some investigating themselves in 2015-2016.

What they found was that two in five of CSU students, staff or faculty self-identified as food insecure, and one in 10 identified themselves as homeless.  

One recommendation was for campuses to have food pantries like the one we have here on campus, which opened in September of 2017. The Edible Garden will provide fresh organic fruits and vegetables to the Food Pantry.

Sanchez is currently responsible for the management of the Garden, along with Santiago Ontiveros, the CSUB Food Access Coordinator.  Credit also goes to Wes Miller from the CSUB Agriculture Business Club, who Sanchez explains is “hands on the ground on the project”. Miller volunteers daily in the garden according to Sanchez.

Major credit also goes to Summer Sullivan who spent a year as the Edible Garden coordinator from 2017 to July of 2018 and Dr. Evelyn Young Spath, former Chief of Staff to the President whom Sanchez says championed the project. “She is really the reason that we have what we have out there right now.”

So, what do they have out there right now?  The first planting was on Earth Day 2018, and several varieties of tomatoes, corn, pumpkins, eggplants and squash were planted.  Harvesting occurs in spurts as the produce is ready, but according to Sanchez, over 200 pounds has already been harvested.

Implementing the garden wasn’t easy.  The biggest obstacle was getting water out to the garden.  The cost to expand water service out to the Edible Garden would be thousands of dollars and would be a major construction project.  

Volunteers purchased a water hose and connected it to the nearest water spigot with the permission of Marlene Hensley of the Natural Sciences Environmental Studies Dept.  It is only within the last few weeks that the landscaping crew extended an underground pipe from the spigot to the Edible Garden, a much more effective way to provide water for the garden’s drip irrigation system.

Right now, the garden is small, but there is plenty of room to expand.  1.75 acres have been allotted for the Edible Garden and there are plans to expand what is currently there.  

Sanchez said that, “We want to succeed with what we have, we don’t want it to grow too fast because we want it to be successful.  We want to be successful in our procedure and in our management system of it, and in our pest control. We want to make sure that we iron out all those details.”  

Volunteers are welcome to participate, and should contact Jennifer Sanchez at 661-654-3552.

“Students should know that we want students to use it as a welcoming community where they can visit, participate and add their own touch, and that they can become leaders of that project.  We fully welcome student engagement and when they do participate in that project, it has a real value to the individuals that receive the food.”

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