LBCC Gardening Club Student Leaders Discuss Growing Food and Community
The new LBCC Student Gardening Club’s purpose is to “encourage the love, knowledge, and practice of gardening among LBCC students.” Although the club just formed at the beginning of the Spring 2022 quarter, it already has a dedicated core of students who are working to create gardening space for students by repairing and restoring parts of the defunct Student Organic Farm and Veterans Garden.
Three of the Gardening Club student leaders, George Krohn, Tiffany (Tiff) Griffiths, and Jonathan Orlando talked about their reasons for joining the club, their impressions of the club so far, and their vision for the club’s future.
Hi, George, Tiff, and Jonathan! Would you tell us a little bit about yourselves?
George: I guess it’s important to say that I’m a single dude. I’ve been living in Oregon for three years. I was born in Wyoming and I spent the first 20 years of my life there going to get educated at my high school and stuff and after I graduated I started to move around the country… I was originally doing landscaping work for about two years before the pandemic hit. The pandemic gave me a lot of time for self-reflection and self-improvement. That’s when I decided to come here and go to school to pursue my passion of cooking professionally.
Now I’m just about to finish up my first year as a culinary student. And I am trying real hard now that the Covid restrictions have been lifted to come out and do things and see things that I hadn’t before. Which is part of the reason why I joined the gardening club.
Tiff: Originally from Southern Utah. Desert. One hundred twenty-degree summers. Dry heat. Nasty. I grew up there my whole life until I was 18… I just knew that I wanted to live in the Pacific Northwest since seventh grade.
I finally found LB because I wanted to study horticulture…So I ended up here and I love it. I was here for the horticulture program and they cut it. Now I’m here until I can get over into OSU and finish my botany degree there.
Jonathan: I’m in the biological sciences at LBCC and I’ll be at OSU for botany. I started out landscaping when I was 19 and have either had an outdoor seasonal job or been landscaping my whole life. I enjoy the outdoors. I enjoy plants. I have a really large fascination with mushrooms and fungi and botany. Specifically, the plant pathology portion of botany because it involves the most mycology (the study of fungi).
Tiff, you were part of the Horticulture Program for a time when the LBCC Student Organic farm was still in use before the horticulture program was suspended in 2019. What do you remember about that time?
I remember it was my very first term here at LB. I took the Soils class. I was brand new to the area. And Stefan (Seiter, former head of the Horticulture Program) brought us out to the farm to do something for one of our very first labs. He gave us a tour of the farm and he showed us each of the apple trees and the blackberries and gooseberries. He said, “If you guys are ever hungry and you’re here at LB working hard, just come out to the farm. Just take a snack. Do some studying out here. I don’t care!”
So for that whole term, I had an hour break and I would come out to the farm and I would pick an apple. And there used to be a little bench by the rain garden and I used to sit there and do my homework all the time and eat an apple or a bunch of blackberries. Just come out here and snack. It was awesome! I loved that!
And then it went all overgrown and you couldn’t really do that anymore.
What made you all interested in joining the Gardening Club?
Jonathan: I don’t have a large space to garden at my house, so I figured it was a good opportunity to grow a couple plants that I won’t fit at my house. I also listen to a lot of podcasts. One of the podcasts heavily features what’s called mutual aid. Mutual aid is different from donations in that you bring people with different skill sets together and they help out the community and each other. It’s all just providing what you know and your knowledge and your skill set to the community around you. You get benefits out of it as well as benefiting the community.
I was also really excited to get in from the start. Since [the club] was just getting started that meant that my voice was likely going to be heard. I have landscaping skills to apply and some gardening skills, maybe not as much as everybody else, but some to apply. I just figured it was a good opportunity to apply some of those mutual aid ideas that I had learned about and also grow the plants that I’m not able to at my house.
George: I really and truly enjoy doing a fair amount of work with my hands. Even doing weed pulling is one of the best ways that I can imagine, for myself, to spend my time right now.
I’m just about to turn 30. So in my life I’ve gotten over and done with all the sittin’ and playin’ video games phase of my life and wanting to be inside all of the time. I like working and keeping myself physically strong through all the bending and lifting. And there’s a certain amount of instant gratification with gardening. We didn’t plant a lot of these plants but a month ago and we can already see them coming up. And that’s a nice feeling.
Searching for a sense of community is a big one too. Working on the fields and working on the land has always been a community thing to do with other people, which is something that I was sorely missing out on.
Tiff: Plants! Growing a garden is always fun. I just moved … and my new place has a garden! I’ve never officially grown my own garden. I’ve always had help, like my dad or my aunt. So taking on the task of growing your own garden can feel a little overwhelming.
So when I saw the garden club I was like, “Hell yeah! Why not? There’s a bunch of other like-minded people who I can learn from and who can take whatever I’m doing at the garden club and take it to my own garden and it should work out!
What are your impressions of the Gardening Club so far?
Tiff: I’m so excited about the club. I would come over and walk my dog all the time at the farm. For the past two years it was severely under-managed and overgrown, but I was here when it was in the thicks. I always had the dream of revamping the farm but it seemed like an impossible task. So when I saw that Melinda (Williams, the Gardening Club representative) was doing it, I was so excited!
Just to see everybody caring about weeding and doing the hard stupid stuff. It’s been so exciting to see people come out and just care about getting it to a usable point, not even necessarily knowing that they’re going to get fruits and vegetables out of it. They’re doing it just to clean it up. So that’s been super exciting…
Like Jonathan [Orlando] just out there taking out the sticky weeds and poison hemlock on his own. His attitude is, “Oh it’s fine so that no one else has to deal with it during our work party.” I’m like, “Thank you! Oh my gosh! That’s awesome.”
Jonathan: I really enjoy it! I like that everyone who’s there seems to be inspired. That is exciting to me. I don’t feel like anyone’s there just to be there. We’re all there to hang out and garden and learn from each other.
George: I think this is great. I think that gardening as a skill is one of those things that should have a resurgence in popular culture. I think people should know how to grow their own food and what to grow and when.
What do you envision for the future of the club?
Jonathan: I like the idea of coordinating with the culinary department. I think that’s an awesome idea for a community college to grow the food that’s going into their culinary department. But it’s not [the culinary school’s] financial responsibility or time responsibility. Somebody who is interested in growing the food [in the Gardening Club] is doing that. I’m really interested in doing that.
Apart from that, whatever ideas that people have, even giving back to communities or food shares or garden groups exchanging plants or plant sales. Any of that. I’m happy to get that out of the garden. That would be fantastic just to make the club something that’s enjoyable and make people want to come out.
But I think it’s mainly important to just get newer people in. Since it is a community college, people aren’t going to be going here forever. Everybody moves on at some point. So it’s ensuring that our hard work doesn’t turn back into what it was when we got there and [the farm and gardening facilities] are not in a state of disrepair and overgrown.
Tiff: I’m planning on sticking around here and making sure that nothing happens to this place…I really just don’t want [the farm and gardening facilities] to go to waste again. We have so much beautiful land. You can put your hand in, down to your elbow, in such good soil…
It’s not that [the garden] is going to get bigger and bigger until it’s crazy, although, of course, we’d all love to get to that point. But I want to make sure [the club] is sustainable. And it would be fun to have a little peaceful place for the students again to welcome them out here.
As long as we don’t invite too many people and they don’t eat all of our fruit.
George: It’s that cheesy but true adage that “Wise men plant trees knowing that they’ll never sit in their shade.” I can see how beautiful this lot is. I think it’s an acre, acre and a half that we have here? Underneath all the tall grass, blackberries, and birds that come in here I can see where the rows of crops would go. I can only imagine four or five years from now, kids coming in and getting to reap the benefits of that, and that makes me super happy to think that might be the case.
So, what I found in the Gardening Club is a lot of hope looking into the future. Which is something we all need.
One of the goals of the Gardening Club is to “build community between student gardeners.” How do you feel about this?
Tiff: That’s probably the best part! I’ve never had friends who are interested in the same things as me. Like when we were cleaning up the hoop houses and Jonathan is like, “Oh look at this millipede. Look at this praying mantis sack!” And I get so excited because all of my other friends are like, “Ugh, bugs!” Instead of “Tiff, come look at this!” It’s so awesome to have people who care about the same things and want to share those experiences with you.”
Jonathan: I think that’s the best thing, to share the interest and passion that I have for plants and fungi and the things that I see growing out in the garden with the people coming in.
It’s clear that the Gardening Club community has also been very busy! Even though the club has only been in existence for one quarter, you have already done a great deal to reclaim parts of the student organic farm and the Veteran’s Garden from weeds and disrepair.
George: That’s the purpose of community. We don’t bring all the same things to the table. We bring a variety of skills and levels of skills to the table and that way we fill in the blanks for each other.
And as a community of people gardening, we become capable of getting a lot of good work done that way. We are capable of supporting each other’s work and it brings the median amount of work that we do up to a higher level.
That’s why community is so important.
That’s why people always do better in community than they do on their own.
LBCC Student Gardening Club At-a-Glance
Who: Open to all LBCC students
What: The goals of the club are to provide a place for LBCC students to practice gardening, facilitate instruction in gardening techniques to new gardeners, and build community between student gardeners.
Where: The LBCC Student Organic Farm and the Veteran’s Garden located in the northwest corner of the Albany campus by the Wellness Trail
When: The club formed at the beginning of Spring 2022 and will be active throughout the summer and fall growing seasons.
For more information contact: Gardening Club Representative Melinda Williams, firstname.lastname@example.org