Students volunteer in garden

On Friday, USC’s Office of Sustainability hosted students interested in gardening for a fall seed-starting workshop at its urban garden on 3015 Shrine Place. During the event, attendees had the chance to learn about which seeds thrive in fall climates, and were even provided with seeds, pots and soil to plant some of these vegetables and bring them home.

The workshop was just one of many events the office has planned for the coming year. They are also planning on starting another garden on a new plot of land, supporting student programs, working with student groups to advertise at the farmers’ market and collaborating with groups on campus to form sustainability events.

The urban garden has been around since 2010 and Sustainability has continually used it as a resource. USC’s garden is not only a thriving patch of green in the middle of Los Angeles, but also the only garden at USC that grows food. Though student volunteers provide the labor that goes into maintaining the garden, local nonprofit Urban Farming supplies seeds, soil and tools.

According to Estefanee Villalba, the USC Office of Sustainability’s Urban Garden Coordinator, an urban garden is simply a “garden in the middle of an urban city,” but the concept of creating one has been important to USC.

“The urban garden shows the community that you can grow your own stuff in pots in your apartment,” Villalba said.

Besides having its own urban garden, the Office of Sustainability works to encourage others to start their own gardens.

“I want [elementary school students] to be aware that they can actually grow some of their own food,” Villalba said.

The Office of Sustainability, however, has faced many problems when it comes to starting a garden at nearby 32nd Street School, the most pressing of which has been getting funding. Even when sustainability workers are able to start gardens at elementary schools, the schools often cannot afford to water them every day. Because of these challenges, the group usually focuses on simply educating the kids about gardening.

Reaching out to grade schools isn’t all the Office of Sustainability does. Throughout the 2013-14 school year, Villalba will work with Jad Wenger from Heartbeet Gardening, a company that helps maintain the urban garden. Together, Villaba and Wenger hope to expand the garden and plant more in the land they have.

Starting this year, Sustainability also hopes to work with Starbucks to start a better compost pile, which will benefit the garden and the environment.

Justin Bogda, a senior at USC who is in charge of programming and student outreach for USC’s Office of Sustainability, is putting together a Green Student Assembly. The group will be part of a joint effort between the Office of Sustainability and the USG Program Board to oversee programs such as Earth Week and green organizations on campus.

Because there is no sustainability club on campus, the Green Student Assembly will be a way for students to get more involved with the Office of Sustainability. Currently, the office is small and off-campus, and many students are unaware of the opportunities available.

The Green Student Assembly will be able to assist student organizations using funding from USG.

“As most assemblies do, we can recognize any student organization to help provide them with funding for their events,” Bogda said.

The Office of Sustainability welcomes volunteers to help with USC’s urban garden, but has been having trouble finding people willing to help with the dirty work.

“I find that a lot of volunteers that come to the garden want to volunteer but don’t want to get their hands dirty,” Villalba said.  Most of her volunteers are the same people who go to the workshops, the people who are aware of what gardening entails and are willing to help out.

Applications to join the Green Student Assembly are available online and will be considered until this Friday. Bogda said that he hopes to “create a presence on campus for years to come” and “start a culture this semester and get people who are very dedicated.”


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