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Student garden is no more

The student garden has come to an end after three seasons of difficulties. At its Nov. 14 fall general meeting, the KSU announced that another garden coordinator would not be hired.

Photo: Bryn Karcha

The student garden has come to an end after three seasons of difficulties. At its Nov. 14 fall general meeting, the KSU announced that another garden coordinator would not be hired.
Last fall, the Student Horticulturalist Society managed the garden in Nick Hatt’s backyard. Emma Wolfe, Rebecca Davies Wilson, and Anika Roberts-Stahlbrand made up the executive.
They worked on a volunteer basis throughout the year, and brought the idea of creating a union-hired garden coordinator position to the KSU. They hoped to give the coordinator an honorarium of $500.
“The Student Horticulturalists have been organizing how the plan is going to run and what is going to happen,” said Emma Wolfe at the 2012 spring general meeting. “This position is an incredible opportunity and creates opportunities in the fall as well. They will start running in September. The work put in is a lot and it deserves the $500 because of the time put into it.”
Though two people were found to fill the position, one dropped out, leaving only Asher Goldstein in charge of running the garden over the summer.
This left Goldstein in charge of a community garden with very little community participation.
While students helped kick off the Student Horticulturalists’ involvement in the garden by building another raised bed in the fall of 2011, there were only 15 to 20 individuals that participated in the summer. Among these were Goldstein and Noah White, who had been involved with the garden before the Student Horticulturalists took over.
“There wasn’t that much student participation other than Asher and Noah,” said Roberts-Stahlbrand. “It’s not quite ingrained enough in the culture to get the summer students out.”
Student participation wasn’t the only problem gardeners faced.
The soil was clay-like, and of poor quality. It didn’t allow for proper aeration and restricted the root vegetable growth.
Fire ants were also an issue. Their tunnels restricted the ability of the plants to get nutrients and moisture from the soil, and the ants themselves are omnivorous. They ruined the zucchini crop so no fruit came after it flowered.
Goldstein separated some of the ant-contaminated soil and applied Borax to it — a natural mineral with uses ranging from insect repellent to laundry detergent.
“The red ants are a problem, there are just so many of them,” said Roberts-Stahlbrand. “Asher boraxed them, which is the natural way to do it, and they came back.”
The garden also suffers from a chaotic history. Since its start three years ago, the garden has been partnered with four different organizations: the King’s Agricultural Food Cooperative Association, the King’s Agricultural Collective, the Ecology Action Centre, and the Student Horticulturalist Society.
Soil that was ordered for the garden was dumped in Nick Hatt’s front yard, and left there until the next year, when the Student Horticulturalists built another raised bed for the garden.
Despite these issues, members of the KSU remained positive about the prospects of the garden.
“This community garden not only represents new forms of student initiative but also the opportunity for King’s to become a more conscious and locally focused campus, and for the different elements of our campus to engage with the community nestled around us,” wrote then-president Kiki Wood, in her report from Sept. 19, 2010.
These hopes were not fulfilled over the trial season, and the Student Horticulturalists will not continue their involvement with the garden.
“We have decided, as the Student Horticulturalists, to rebrand,” said Roberts-Stahlbrand, “to remake ourselves as an interest group more… relating to food as directly as we can but not actually growing it. So I don’t think we are going to try and garden again. It was also a lot of time on our part.”
This isn’t the end of gardening at King’s though. Students can talk to the librarian about utilizing growing space around the library.

By David J. Shuman

David is a second-year journalism student at King's, is engagement/news editor of The Watch, and a copy editor of The Pigeon. He writes on student politics, campus happenings, and school news. 

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