Thankful for a busy and bountiful Fall!

As the days get shorter, the air gets cooler, and winter rains begin to relieve our parched soils, it’s a wonderful time to reflect on on the bounty that the fall semester has brought to the Westmont Gardens!

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It has been a busy and fruitful few months in the Gardens… one of the most exciting developments was successfully raising funds to purchase 12 laying hens for our beautiful chicken coop! Over the summer, Westmont student John Wright built the garden an awesome, predator-proof chicken coop, and the Garden & Sustainability Club worked hard all semester to secure funding to bring chickens to Westmont. The purpose of having chickens is to create a more sustainable ecosystem in the garden: the chickens eat our green garden scraps and pesky bugs, and in turn they help make natural fertilizer that we add to our compost pile, which then gets added back to the garden beds to enrich the soil (not to mention they are super fun to have around)!img_1757IMG_3604

This semester has also been filled with fun activities with the Garden Club – from a farmers’ market field trip, to a delicious Mediterranean cooking class, potluck snacking in the garden, lots of bustling Friday afternoon workdays, beekeeping sessions with Paul Cronshaw, delicious persimmon milkshakes in the DC, and an awesome field trip to SB Natives Nursery – just to name a few! Below are photos from just a few of these activities:

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Farm Fresh Friday continues to be a hit with students, faculty, and staff in the Dining Commons! From our rotating fresh pressed juices to seasonal dishes featuring just-harvested produce from the gardens – the Dining Commons is constantly seeking new ways to bring fresh, local produce to our menus. Below are photos of some Farm Fresh Friday favorites:

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In an effort to increase awareness about sustainability on campus, the Garden Club has also hosted a monthly Sustainability Speaker Series in partnership with the Gaede Instiute! This fall we’ve been blessed to have a wide range of incredible speakers – from Paul Cronshaw, President of the Santa Barbara Beekeepers Association, to Kathi King, Director of Education & Outreach for the CEC, and Laura Johnson from Salty Girl Seafood. Next Tuesday, December 6th, the Garden Club will host the final Speaker Series Presentation of the semester with Ellie Perry, partner and co-founder of Sundowner Consulting. The presentation will take place from 3:30pm-4:30pm in Hieronymus Lounge. Local snacks will be provided!
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All in all, it has been a fabulous fall in the Westmont Gardens – full of gardening, raising chickens, cooking, eating, and learning together. Here’s to a bountiful fall and another wonderful year ahead in 2017!

A fruitful summer!

Hello friends of the Westmont Gardens! It’s hard to believe that it is already mid-August, and students are beginning to arrive back on campus for a new school year. While things certainly quiet down here at Westmont over the summer, the student garden employees and I can assure you that the gardens have been bursting with all kinds of delicious fruits, veggies, and herbs all summer long!

Thanks to all the hard work from student garden helpers Ian, Wendy, Jesse, and Elise – the garden looks more beautiful and bountiful than ever! Here are some photos to catch you up on all that’s taken place in the garden this summer…

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Executive Chef, Jose Leiva, making a simple summer salad with beautiful Westmont grown tomatoes.

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Westmont grown tomatoes making an appearance at the salad bar!

 

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Summer squash, beets, carrots, and arugula making their way into the DC kitchen!

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The Westmont bee hive has been thriving all summer long.

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Herbs galore! Pictured here: Basil, Parsley, Thyme and Rosemary.

These grapes made for great snacking in the garden this July!

These grapes made for great snacking in the garden this July!

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The zucchini may look small now… but it will soon be big enough to head straight to the DC kitchen, and onto your plates!

Baby lettuces freshly planted in the garden.

Baby lettuces freshly planted in the garden.

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The Westmont Garden’s beautiful new chicken coop, which was designed and built by Westmont student John Wright.

As students, faculty, and staff head back to the DC this fall, you’ll see all kinds of upgrades and updates to enhance your dining experience! If you are interested in joining the Garden & Sustainability Club, please send an email to westmont.garden@gmail.com

The Westmont Gardens are supported by Sodexo’s Dining Services team, as a way to bring more fresh, local produce to the DC! If you are a student who would like to be a part of enhancing the dining experience at Westmont, consider joining the Student Culinary Council! The Student Culinary Council meets once a month and is a way for students to make positive change around sustainability, health and wellness, and help implement new initiatives + special events in the DC. To learn more about joining this team, please email Michelle: maronson@westmont.edu.

Westmont Sustainability Week!

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In honor of the upcoming Earth Day celebration, the Westmont Garden & Sustainability Club is excited to host Westmont Sustainability Week throughout April 18th – 22nd! Next week will be full of awesome events to raise awareness about sustainability, food, farming, and recycling – as well exploring the connections between environmental stewardship and Christianity.

See below for the full Earth Week schedule + event details!

MONDAY, APRIL 18th

  • Pie making class @ 5pm in Armington Learn to make your own delicious pies from scratch! Email maronson@westmont.edu to RSVP – space is limited!
TUESDAY, APRIL 19th

  • Westmont Garden Tasting Table @ lunch in the DC – Stop by the Garden Club’s table in the front of the DC for a tasting of freshly harvested snacks like sugar snap peas, carrots, and edible flowers!
  • Worship Night in the Garden @ 5pm in the Track Garden – Join us in the Track Garden for a fun night of music, homemade pie, chai tea, and discussions about the intersection between faith and environmental stewardship. Guest speaker is Professor Amanda Sparkman!

WEDNESDAY, APRIL 20th

  • Pot Your Own Garden @ lunch outside the DC – One of the most popular events during Sustainability Week! Learn to pot your own mini garden with herbs and flowers with the help of Westmont Garden & Sustainability Club members.
THURSDAY, APRIL 21st

  • Free Clothing Swap @ lunch outside the DC – All this week and next, donate your unwanted clothes and perhaps find something “new” during Thursday’s clothing swap! Put your clothes donations in the blue bin located at the front carpeted area of the DC (underneath the photographs), labeled “Clothes Donations for Sustainability Week”.
  • “The Greenhorns” Film Screening: 6:30pm in Adams 216 – A special viewing of “The Greenhorns” – a documentary film that explores the lives of America’s young farmer community. The film lasts 50 minutes and will be followed by an engaging, informal discussion. Here is a link to the documentary trailer.
FRIDAY, APRIL 22nd

  • Workday in the Track Garden @ 3-5pm – Join the Garden Club for our weekly work session in the garden! A great opportunity to check out what’s growing in the gardens if you’ve yet to visit.

Happy New Year!

Hello from the Westmont Gardens! 2016 is already off to a wonderful, rainy start – and we are thrilled to have Westmont students and faculty back on campus. First, I would like to introduce myself – I am Michelle Aronson, the new Garden Manager & Sustainability Coordinator for Westmont Dining.

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My background is in education, sustainable farming, and the culinary arts, and my life passion is all things in the realm of food and farming. I am thrilled to be a part of this special community and am eager to get growing!

The new year is one of the most exciting times to be a gardener. There are few things that are more enjoyable than sifting through stacks of seed catalogs full of unique fruit and vegetable varieties, and dreaming up a new season of bountiful harvests.

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This year, the Westmont Dining Garden Program hopes to scale up production, to provide even more fresh fruits and vegetables to be used by our chefs in the Dining Commons. We also hope to increase student awareness and involvement in the Garden Club, which meets every week to work in the garden, go on farm tours, enjoy potluck meals, and much more. The Garden Club also hopes to establish a more formalized student-led Sustainability group, which will work implement more environmentally friendly options around campus. If you would like to learn more about the Garden Club, send us an email: westmont.garden@gmail.com.

Better yet, join in our first workday! Friday, January 15th from 3pm-5pm. We will first meet in the Track Garden. (If you need directions, email westmont.garden@gmail.com)

Back to the gardens themselves... we are grateful for all the much needed rain, thanks to this year’s El Nino! Maggie Iba, Westmont’s wonderful previous Garden Manager/Sustainability Coordinator, planted lots of winter cover crops and other cool weather veggies, which are happily sprouting thanks to all the moisture in the soil.

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In addition to lots of flourishing greens and herbs growing this time of year, the garden also has figs + strawberry guavas galore!

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Hungry yet? 🙂

We hope to see you in the garden for another wonderful growing season! Please do join us this Friday in the Track Garden from 3pm-5pm for our first Garden Club workday of 2016.

A Rainy Day Reflection on the Drought.

The first rain of the season has come about a month earlier this year. It is a very welcomed visitor indeed.

Many people have been curious about how the drought has been affecting the garden. I wonder if because we as a culture are so disconnected from our natural environment, we don’t really know how, or even if, things are being affected. We hear about this extreme drought and see the brown, but are not really sure what that it means in the ecosystem. The lack of water, the higher temperatures and the dryer air have been affecting everything, and the garden is just part of that.

In the garden specifically, the drought has bought imbalance. Nature is always trying to find a sweet spot where organisms keep each other in check. With the lack of water, and thus plant growth in the surrounding areas, there has been a higher concentration of earwigs and other pests that have found a haven in the garden. This has made direct seeding plants very difficult. The gophers have also become more desperate in their search for water.

The soil of the garden has also gone into a state of dormancy. Moisture is required for bacteria and fungi to break down organic matter, as well as the transportation of nutrients and the overall health of the soil. With the soil as dry as it is, there is very little life outside of the irrigated areas.

It is my hope and prayer that this rain marks the end of our dry dormant season and that it will come fuller and more often.

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Westmont Sustainability Meeting

On June 21st a group of persons interested in sustainability at Westmont gathered together to discuss steps towards a wider discussion/implementation of these topics on campus. This meeting, which was called by the VP of Administration and Planning Chris Call, was attended by representatives from all areas of campus: faculty – Paul Willis, Wayne Iba, Campus Planning – Randy Jones, Physical Plant – Tom Beveridge, John Housh, Auxiliary Services – Bill Groeneveld, Library – Robin Lang, Dining Services – Anthony Waldrop, Provost – Mark Sargent, Student Life – Stu Cleek, and a student representative by e-mail – Shea Werner.

The meeting discussed some of the little things on campus that could be done to increase sustainability, what sustainability could be defined as, and and what next steps are to be taken. The consensus was that an inter-departmental task force with a direct communication line to the E-team, would be the best method for setting a framework, measuring progress, and focusing on both large and small things that Westmont as an institution can do to further sustainability.

We at dining services are excited to see the fruits of this meeting!