SMC's very own organic garden in the making

The waning late afternoon daylight furthered the tranquility and peacefulness of the Native American blessing being performed by Tongan elder James Castillo, his wife Jeanette, and his brother Robert last Wednesday afternoon between the Art Complex and the Bookstore. The grass area between the Art Complex and Theater Arts Building will be transformed into Santa Monica College's very first Organic Learning Garden.

Erick Zavala, an SMC Student and member of SMC's Club Grow, went to the Santa Monica farmer's market to see if any vendors were willing to donate fresh food for the garden groundbreaking ceremony. Luckily, he came to find that some of the vendors were more than willing to help out.

The food presented at the groundbreaking served as an inspirational symbol of what could be grown in our own Organic Garden. A six-year dream of Club Grow, formerly called the Dirt Farmers, is now in the works.

"It can be used for a lot of subjects; it's a classroom, it's a multi-purpose room," Zavala said of the garden.

In addition, Zavala informed that the garden will have a weather station, where students studying weather-related topics could come to practice the understanding of weather. To make sure every student has a chance to participate in caring for and tending to the garden, it will be made wheelchair accessible.

As the groundbreaking ceremony was about to begin, two drummers paved the way heading toward the land where the garden will soon be. Zavala welcomed an excited crowd to gather closer to the podium, which was set up in center of the grass.

After the introductions and appreciations for a dream that is now in the works of being a reality, James Castillo stepped onto the grounds of the garden's new home.

Castillo, a Native American and Tonga Spiritual Elder, was the guest of honor at this ceremony in which he blessed the land with a Native American prayer.

Castillo presented Club Grow with a gift of Japanese White Pumpkin seeds, squash seeds, and Long Handled Gorge seeds.

"Europeans have come to this country with concrete and asphalt for brains," Castillo joked when referring to how people don't seem to care about nature. "We're the endangered species."

Castillo described Mother Nature as something that we should all care for and be aware of.

"I can see the future," proclaimed Dana Morgan, advisor to Club Grow and English Department professor. "I see the possibility of our garden…that this grass is going to be replaced with plants and fruit trees."

The prospects for the future of this Organic Learning Garden go far beyond the simple idea consuming the food produced within it. It will serve as an outdoor classroom for students of all types of majors from botany, to art, and nutrition.

After the Native American Blessing was performed, Morgan announced a second ceremony that she would lead with whoever wished to join in.

The intimate crowd stood in a circle with Morgan who explained how the ball of yarn she held, would be thrown to those within the circle, creating a web that would connect everyone. "This is the web of life," said Morgan. Each person who caught the ball had to say something in honor of the garden.

"In honor of our future garden and the blessing of life," Morgan kicked off the circle with as she threw the ball of yarn.

As the ball of yarn became a web of connections from one person to another, it was becoming evident that a long road had paid off to make the organic learning garden happen.

To conclude the momentous ceremony, all those present gathered around the table of fresh vegetables and fruits for a tasty treat.

The trees currently sitting in the future garden's site will be excavated and given new homes either in a different spot on campus or somewhere nearby in Santa Monica.

By the fall semester, the garden will be available to students and the community alike, spreading its wealth and health.