Did you know there are 121 species (Plants, Fruits, and Vegetables) growing on our campus? Chabot’s Knowledge Garden is growing plants, vegetables, and fruits from all over the world. The garden is financed by professors, the Student Senate, and other organizations. One of the primary groups caring for the garden are the students of SIC (Student Initiative Center). Fresh pantry is getting a permanent building on this campus.
The garden is tended to by clubs, classes, and community members. The garden is open to anyone who wants to be involved. However, once M & O (Maintenance and Operations) expands its yard, the garden is going to disappear from its current location behind the Softball field.
Fresh pantry is getting a permanent building on this campus. If there’s a building for it, the garden can supply fresh pantry year-round. Instructor Eric Heltzel says, “The pantry will also receive space for the fresh new college center, which will come in the next five to ten years whenever they build it.”
For right now, the fresh pantry is in the process of finding a permanent space on campus. When the fruits and vegetables grow, students take it to SIC and then supply it to the fresh food pantry. “With the food we give to the fresh pantry, we give it to the students, and they often bring their family members,” says Heltzel.
No profits are made in growing fruits and vegetables on campus. It’s about helping students and families address food insecurity. Before having a permanent building for the fresh pantry, it will be located in portables on campus behind the cafeteria.
Instructor Sean McFarland stated, “FRESH is making a proposal to the Facilities committee to secure the use of the portable. The advantage is that students can get food every day… instead of waiting for the Pop-Up Pantries which only happen every month or so.”
If or whenever M & O expands its yard, the garden is going to disappear. (“when the garden disappears) we’re going to look (on-campus) where else we are going to have to put the garden,” says McFarland.
For five years, M & O has been kind enough to lend the students the land. “M & O been very supportive of us with the garden. They’ve been helping us tend to it, and we have a good relationship with them now,” says Heltzel.
Plans are unknown as to when M & O is going to expand their yard. SIC is still looking to move their garden.
“We’ve at least had 30 organizations that have given us materials… we’ve partnered with places like California Native Plant Society, Home Depot, some churches, and the city of Hayward. More recently, we got support from Chabot itself. We’ve had a lot of partnering opportunities on campus and off. Amy Mattern helped as well to support the garden, in addition to the Student Senate,” stated McFarland.
The Seeds from the garden are coming from Mexico, Brazil, Greece, Italy, and various places around the world. The contributions are coming from students and their families, some from other countries. The campus garden is growing anise sage from Brazil, Phlomis fruticosa (Jerusalem sage) from Italy, just to name a couple.
“We have students who have families who live in other countries. Their families help send the seeds here for us to grow in the garden,” says MacFarland.
The garden is open for anybody who wants to be involved. The Knowledge Garden isn’t for SIC or any particular person but anybody, even for clubs, and classes on campus.
“Teachers have gone out there to garden like biology, art, and much more. We have an outdoor schoolhouse. We would love for more people and classes to come out,” says McFarland.
“I’ve seen welding, chemistry, and biology teachers working with the garden,” states Chabot student Jennifer Marenco.
For the last six months, over 300 students have been involved in the Chabot Knowledge Garden. The R.A.G.E (Revolutionaries Advocating Greener Ecosystems) is a club on campus that also tended to the garden on campus, as well as with the food pantry the college presents.
The garden represents a unique place student, and teachers can interact with each other. The Knowledge Garden is a place where people can learn something they can care about.
Student and member of SIC, Colleen McHugh says, “Students are interacting on campus in a meaningful way. This garden is something that they have in common, something we all love, like food. It gives them something to learn together. It’s amazing to see the community around the garden.”
The Knowledge Garden started five years ago. Two students from the UMOJA Program came up with an idea for this campus to have their garden. In the beginning, M & O supported the idea.
McFarland stated, “So the two students from the UMOJA program had the idea, they told, a teacher, Tom Dewitt. He said, ‘Go talk to the maintenance guys.’ And the people of M & O gave us the land they have supported us since the beginning.”
Juan Carrasco, a student, and member of SIC took an interest in the garden five years ago when it was all dirt. Since then he’s seen a lot of improvements. “It [the garden] improved a lot. There’s a variety of things growing in the garden that came from different parts of the world. There’s a different type of tomatoes, cucumbers, and other things too.” Carrasco stated. He went on explaining why it’s called The Knowledge Garden. “While your mind is growing, things are growing all around you, which is why it’s called The Knowledge Garden,” Carrasco explained.
The Knowledge Garden could be the focal point of the campus — a place where people can come to express their diversity and culture. The people who helped make this garden happen took a lot of pride in the work they do. A garden can be an excellent mentor.