On July 30, students, faculty, staff, and members of the community gathered together at a ceremonial event to break ground on a new community garden on the Estrella Mountain campus. Attendees received an overview of the project and then 30 students overturned the fertile ground to plant compost. The City of Phoenix donated a large truckload of compost in addition to a truckload of mulch to fill beds for growing.
Students, faculty, and staff developed this experiential project, which exemplifies one of the many ways Estrella Mountain is a learning college. According to Liahla Roberts, a Science department Laboratory Technician, “The EMCC Community Garden has been more than a year in the making.”
Through hands-on cultivation, working on the EMCC Community Garden facilitates the college’s mission as a learning college to provide education about individual food choices and how they directly impact the environment. The EMCC Community Garden will be utilized as part of the college’s environmental biology, general biology, and community education courses. “Our objective is to model what we teach in Environmental Biology, which is to think globally and act locally,” says Biology faculty member Jarod Raithel, Ph.D. “By providing this public garden space, a diverse community of user groups will enjoy the satisfaction and rewards of growing their own food.”
Raithel emphasizes, “The value of the teamwork that brought the idea to fruition. The birth of our community garden has truly been a group effort, spearheaded by Liahla Roberts, STEM technician, Jon Busier and Chris Molinar, facilities manager, Robert Dorsett, Director of Veteran's Programming, Dean Kristina Scott, Bronwen Steele,STEAM Coordinator, and Vice President Dr. Rey Rivera. The student presidents of the Veteran's Club, Bryan Barrow, and Horticultural Innovations Club, Chris Farinella, respectively, have been instrumental throughout the process.”
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has touted the benefits of community gardens. In addition to the production of fresh food, the relationship-building that can develop is invaluable particularly in communities grappling with the various disparities born out of poverty. Reaching beyond the classroom, the Estrella Mountain food pantry and the homeless Veterans program will use food grown in the EMCC Community Garden to benefit people in need. The EMCC Community Garden will not only bring together students, campus, civic leaders, and community members but also broaden the knowledge of healthy food practices.
The EMCC Community Garden welcomes volunteer groups, donors, and sponsors. Jonathan Robles in the EMCC Development office at 623-935-8502 or via email at [email protected] for more information.