The sun is shining, flowers are blooming and the smell of freshly cut grass hangs in the air. In gardens all across Portland, tiny sprouts are making their way through damp soil to bask in the glory of sunny days and drink the water of rainy ones. It won’t be long before they grow to be plants and then grow ripe vegetables for consumption on a summer afternoon. Gardening season is here!
In addition to the sizable population of urban gardeners in the Portland community, UP students are hard at work on their very own Student Led Unity Garden, fondly shortened to SLUG.
“We started planting as soon as the semester began,” said Clair Dinsmore, SLUG President. “[We planted] vegetables, some flowers, but mostly vegetables like potatoes, peas and tomatoes.”
Every Saturday morning, about 10 student gardeners work hard in the raised beds located past Fields and Schoenfeldt Hall. The garden is completely organic and sustainable, meaning students maintain it naturally, without the use of chemicals or pesticides.
“The garden is a good way to build community with the people around you, and also with the environment around you,” Dinsmore said. “Seeing a seed become a plant and then something you can eat is really satisfying. It’s important to be connected to what you’re consuming.”
Sophomore Marci Witczak has been a member of SLUG for two years. Before joining the club, she had little gardening experience, but she feels she has learned a lot about the gardening process through working with her fellow classmates.
“I definitely want to start [a garden] at my house,” Witczak said. “It’s a cool feeling to see your plants grow, and it’s pretty sustainable. We get a lot of rain here, so everything is easy to grow.”
Witczak notes that growing your own food is also a great way to save money on groceries and benefit the environment.
“It’s nice to see people from our community being able to gather veggies from the garden instead of having to go to the supermarket, which might not be organic,” Witczak said. “Plus all the extra fuel and funds that have to go into [shipping vegetables from other areas of the world] are eliminated by going to a local garden.”
With hands-on resources like the SLUG garden, it’s not hard to learn the skills needed to grow vegetables at home.
“It’s accessible to almost anyone as long as they’re willing to screw up a few times and have things not turn out,” Dinsmore said. “[With SLUG] we are able to use resources and experiment and learn rather than later in life when it’s our own money we’re investing.”
Working on a garden as a group is also a great opportunity to form connections with others. Not only do students work on the garden together, but they also share the produce with other student volunteers and the surrounding North Portland community. Last week, student gardeners planted their own lettuce starts in pots to take home with them.
“I feel like I’ve gotten to know people I wouldn’t have interacted with otherwise. It’s nice to go and talk to people and enjoy the sun. Or the rain,” Witczak said. “It’s a peaceful community.”
Students can get involved by contacting Dinsmore directly at email@example.com or by just showing up on a Saturday morning.
“We’re always looking for new people. It doesn’t matter if you have any gardening experience,” Dinsmore said.