Club Grow Blooms Amidst Thorny Issues

Even with Santa Monica College's priority of sustainability, growing a campus garden has proven to be somewhat of a thorny issue.

Club Grow started in 2007 as "The Dirt Farmers," the brainchild of Melody Overstreet and Natasha Vokhshoori, former SMC Associated Student officers and current students of UC Santa Cruz. As "farmers," they led the charge

by pushing the garden project idea through the necessary committees to

become a fully functioning campus club. Once the founders left SMC, the remaining members evolved into the club now known as Club Grow.

Due to few participating faculty members, complex paperwork and funding issues, Club Grow has dealt with a variety of obstacles in starting an organic garden at SMC. Since the club wasn't well-known, few campus staff knew of its goal.

Finding a permanent spot for the garden was a challenge for Club Grow. SMC President Chui L. Tsang approved a lot for the garden in front of the Arts Complex at the main campus. However, Club Grow is expected to create a two-year plan describing a system for maintaining the garden.

"Groundbreaking on the organic garden and getting it established and planted is the number one objective," said Dana Morgan, SMC English professor and Club Grow advisor.

Morgan, currently on sabbatical to research how gardening can be integrated into the college curriculum, has been a devoted member of the club since its inception. Since she is on leave, Amber Katherine, chairmen of the Environmental Affairs Committee, has volunteered to be the club advisor in her absence.

Morgan also travels around to various schools observing different types of educational gardening programs. She records her findings in her blog at, where she discusses gardening initiatives around the Santa Monica area.

"My contributions to the club have included input from my knowledge into how other gardens are set up and managed," says Morgan. "There are many different models out there."

On her return, Morgan says she will try and encourage the use of the garden to her students. She plans on teaching her students how to nurture and care for the plants, teaching them to integrate growing food into their daily life.

SMC's Global Council has selected next year's theme to center around the subject of food. Springing from that theme, Club Grow plans to plant a diverse range of edible flora in their gardens.

"Since there is a vast amount of different cultures at SMC, the garden could be used as a sense of home," says Natasha Gorodnitski, SMC's Director of Sustainability, who is also a current acting member of Club Grow.

In an effort to reach their goal, Club Grow formulated a survey asking faculty how they might implement the garden into the curriculum. Club Grow hopes the garden will be used as an educational tool, proving that the garden will be more than just a pretty backdrop for SMC.

"I plan on giving my students the opportunity to understand more thoroughly, through nurturing plants and writing about it, the values held by people for whom growing their own food is a way of life," said Morgan.