Community unearthed by a garden

In recent years, many city-dwellers have taken to growing their own food. Community urban gardens have sprung up all over major cities, Los Angeles being one of them. And at our very own school, students have been busy cultivating our Organic Learning Garden. Club Grow is a student club that teaches people on campus about how to grow their own food and live healthier lives. They use the Organic Learning Garden to do this and they also maintain it, supplying food to many students. But even more, the club has given students a sense of community on campus, making it a vital part of SMC.

The club’s main purpose is to provide people with valuable knowledge about how to sustain themselves through growing their own food. Access to clean, unprocessed and non-GMO food is a nationwide concern. Many people in urban areas have limited access to healthy foods such as vegetables and fruits so the value of knowing how to produce these has increased drastically making Club Grow a useful community service for students.

“In essence, it’s just to get people learning about growing their own food,” said Jonathan Gomez, President of Club Grow. “It’s possible for anybody, anywhere to sustain themselves on their own food.”

Gomez explained that the club teaches people crucial basic gardening skills and also how to cook the plants after they harvest them. He said, “We teach people from seed to plate."

In addition, they organize events on campus where they invite guest speakers to put on demonstrations and teach gardening techniques to students. Recently, they helped coordinate the “Students Feeding Students” event during Earth Week where food was donated by multiple farmer’s markets around the city and given to students for free.

Club Grow also does something else for students: it creates community. For Gomez, it’s a place of serenity and a place to form friendships.

“I feel like it’s a little getaway," he said. "It’s like a little oasis when you walk into the garden.”

Club Grow has created a distinct sub-community at SMC. Students are forming friendships during their time in the garden and getting more involved in campus life.

Shanna Massachi, a first-year student, decided to join Club Grow and, to her surprise, became the club’s vice president. “It’s been fun,” she said. “I definitely enjoy it... It makes you feel more part of the school, instead of just going to class then going home.”

Natalie Flores, garden manager, said, “The garden has brought me great friends, incredible organic food and lessons that will forever be a part of my life. I’m happy to be a gardening manager at SMC, and even more happy that I'm on a team with incredible people.”

Gomez encourages all students to come visit the garden. He said, “Just come down and walk into the garden. You don’t have to be a part of any club. Come look at the stuff. Smell the flowers, touch the plants. You will feel an instant connection and see that the food here is so much better than you can get anywhere else. And hopefully, it will encourage you to eat healthier.”