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Student garden benefits community

The botany department’s community garden is finishing its second year as a benefit to students and community who want to grow healthy, organic food at Weber State University, due to the efforts of Monica Romney.

Romney, a botany major, started the garden in the spring of 2011 as part of her thesis project required for graduation. She took on building raised garden beds by herself and, through the first year, she donated to the WSU Food Bank because there was no student participation.

Romney said that, in spring of this year, notices were put out to attract students to the garden. Eighteen students showed up to help out through the summer.

“Everyone who came to weed and water, we would harvest and then split it up between who showed up,” Romney said.

Romney’s first idea was to see if a family could grow what they needed in a 10-foot-by-4-inch garden plot, but due to how large zucchini and tomatoes grow, separate garden beds would be needed. Currently, there are 13 beds total in the garden area.

There are no pesticides or fertilizer in the garden. Compost is put into the ground, along with bone meal and blood meal, extracted from other plants to give back the phosphorus and nitrogen to the air.

The food from the garden is for any student at WSU who wants to help. Romney said that, if there were less people working on the garden, the surplus would be donated to the WSU Food Bank.

Romney taught a gardening class for 12 weeks at the Marshall White Community Center in Ogden. The class showed students how some plants need more water than other plants. The class was for younger children, to show them gardening techniques and teach them about different fruits and vegetables.

“There’s an interest out there for kids; they’re interested in it, but they just don’t have the opportunity to learn,” Romney said. Her class was the only one in the community center that maintained its students the whole 12 weeks of the course.

Barbara Wachocki, the botany department chair, mentored Romney through the thesis project.

“Monica has been fantastic; she has overseen this entire project,” Wachocki said.

Wachocki said Romney wanted to help low-income parents provide healthy, organic food for their children. With the help of her nutrition minor, she has been able to explain the health aspects of the food being harvested.

Julia Hull, a student at WSU, helped with the garden, and was one of the few who participated to the end of summer. She has plans to possibly take over the garden after Romney graduates in December 2013.

Hull started working in the garden in March of this year, helping compost the beds and maintain the garden and yard around it. Having a garden at home, Hull said it was more about the socialization than the actual produce for her.

“It was more of an opportunity to become involved in the botany program, and to meet new people,” Hull said.

Hull brought her four children along to expose them to gardening and the university. She said it’s important to expose children as much as possible to the university.

“I think it’s a great idea, and I think that I would like to see more participation,” Hull said. To bring in more participation, she said she wants to open up the schedule, currently Wednesdays and Saturdays, to any day during the week a participant is available.

Romney said it’s nice to be able to help people learn a new skill they can take with them if they choose later on in life. She said she would like to see greenhouses in elementary schools, to teach children about the importance of growing their own food, and to help in any way she can to increase knowledge about organic food and the importance of having a sustainable society.

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