New Campus Community Garden Slated for Grand Opening on December 1

Campus and community members are invited to come out and learn more about “R’Garden” and the Cultivate R’Space program

staff in front of old greenhouse

UCR Community Garden Coordinator Fortino Morales III (far right) stands with UCR students (from left) Elizabeth Tizcareno, Yesenia Gurrola, Pavan Rami, and Gina Gonzalez,, who are members of Cultivate R'Space. Lead by Morales, the students and other volunteers have devoted hundreds of hours to creating the new UCR Community Garden on a former Agricultural Operations research site near Lot 30. In the future, the group hopes to refurbish and use the abandoned greenhouse pictured above.Photo by Ross French

Editor’s Note: Updated on Dec. 7, 2012 with photos from the grand opening.

RIVERSIDE, Calif. (www.ucr.edu)  —  University of California, Riverside staff, students and faculty, as well as members of the Riverside community, are invited to attend the grand opening of the UCR Community Garden on Saturday, December 1 from 1 to 3 p.m. The garden is adjacent to Parking Lot 30, near the corner of Canyon Crest Dr. and Martin Luther King Ave.

“This event will celebrate the opening of ‘R’Garden’ and show the progress that has been made,” said Fortino Morales, a 2011 graduate of UCR and the community garden coordinator. “We’ll talk about the history of the garden and where we hope to go with it.”

Chancellor Timothy P. White, an avid supporter of the community garden, is expected to be one of several speakers from the campus and surrounding community. In addition, Morales said that community organizations including the Wood Streets Green Team and the Child Leader Project are expected to have information tables with details of their community garden programs and that there will be hands-on activities including planting seedlings in newspaper and a chalkboard where people can contribute their vision for R’Garden. In addition, students from the Bourns College of Engineering will be demonstrating their mobile solar power system, an 18-foot trailer with solar panels that collect energy in large, rechargeable DC batteries.

Irrigation pipe and garden

An old irrigation pipe stands next to the site of the new UCR Community Garden. The now-bare soil will soon have a cover-crop planted that will help amend the soil in preparation for spring planting.  The garden also has a small grove of citrus trees.Photo by Ross French

In addition to providing campus and community members with a place to raise fruits and vegetables, the nearly three-acre garden is also part of the Cultivate R’Space program and will be used for the hands-on component of the annual student-led Urban Garden seminar, a two-unit student course held during Spring quarter that examines sustainable and just food systems and how they affect economic, environmental and social issues. There are also plans to develop a youth garden suitable for student field trips, areas dedicated to UCR departments, as well as plots that will be made available to people in the campus and surrounding communities.  The site also features a small citrus grove.

Planning and design of the site is scheduled to take place through the Winter months, with the first section of the garden becoming available in the spring. In the meantime, a cover crop of legumes and grass is being planted to help prepare the soil for planting.

“We are planning a really innovative design process. The idea is to come up with a design for the entire space, but then develop it in phases,” Morales said. “So phase one may be a smaller area, a quarter of an acre. We’ll work on designing and getting that going really well, and then work on developing the next space. With two or three acres we can really do a lot.”

Morales said he is hopeful that members of the community will come out and share their knowledge, not merely when the garden is up and running, but also during the planning phase.

“There is a lot of expertise in the community, and it would be really great to have these individuals participate,” he said. “This event, and the garden itself, is open to everyone. This is not just a student project, not just a faculty thing, but something that is here for everyone.”

For information on the community garden or the grand opening event, contact Morales at Fortino.Morales@ucr.edu or (951) 827-4271.

The History and Future of the Garden

UC Riverside has been home to community gardens at several points during its history. The current garden got its start in 2008 with the formation of Sustainable UCR, a student group of which Morales was a member. In 2009, Sustainable UCR and the university partnered with the Salvation Army to develop a small patch of land on the northeast side of the campus, with the fruits and vegetables going towards the Salvation Army’s food distribution program. Budget cuts forced the Salvation Army to withdraw from the project, but the students and local community members continued tending the garden.

Morales stayed involved throughout the two-year pilot program, then was one of many students who worked with campus administrators on identifying a new, permanent site for the garden. Chancellor White provided one-time funding of $145,723 to be used for start-up costs as well as a student affairs officer position to oversee the R’Garden Project. Morales was hired for the position in the summer of 2012 and has been overseeing the development plan for the site, recruiting student interns, applying for grants for future funding. He will also help maintain the gardens during lulls in student interest and availability.

“Having a full-time employee will help the program survive throughout the year,” Morales said. “There are ebbs and flows of student interest during midterms, finals and holiday breaks.”

The 2011-12 school year was one of transition for the garden as the old site was phased out in preparation for planned construction and the new site was not yet available, meaning that the Urban Garden Seminar did not have a space available for the hands-on component of the program.

Morales has been assisted by members of UCR’s Cultivate R’Space group. These undergraduates – senior ethnic studies major Gina Gonzalez of Riverside, junior environmental studies major Pavan Rami of Cerritos, senior media and cultural studies/women studies major Yesenia Gurrola of Sylmar and senior environmental science/women studies major Elizabeth Tizcareno of North Hollywood –have done a variety of jobs, ranging from meetings with administrators to preparing the new garden site and helping to build the infrastructure at the garden. The group’s goal is for the garden to become a permanent, self-sustainable site that provides both food and educational opportunities,

“Cultivate R’space embodies a holistic, inter-sectional, educational and hands on approach to transforming the intimate and outside spaces we inhabit,” Gurrola said. “This collective goes beyond gardening and sustainability.”

About the Urban Garden Seminar

The Urban Garden Seminar came about during the first year of the pilot project.

“We started noticing that there were a lot of different people helping out with the garden. Not just people from UCR, but also community members with knowledge of local plants, knowledge of the area,” Morales said. “We wanted to pull all that information together into some sort of formalized program, and that is where the student-led seminar came from.”

During the fall and winter months, interested students come together and create a 10-week syllabus for the seminar. They arrange guest speakers, plan readings and assignments and work with faculty advisors to build the two-unit course. Past advisors have included Chris Amrhein of environmental science, Scott Fedick of anthropology, Farah Godrej of political science, and Darrel Jenerette of botany and plant sciences.

Rami said he got his start with the R’Garden through her participation in the Urban Garden Seminar in Spring 2011.

“It was, hands down, the best class I took in college. We sat side-by-side with students, graduate students, faculty, and staff discussing issues and proposing solutions,” Rami said. “After that, I increased my involvement over summer, and before I knew it, I was helping with the Where’s R’Garden movement in the Urban Garden Seminar a year later.”

“Cultivate R’Space takes the ideals of sustainability to another level by making the connection that everything is connected, and those same ideals can be used to improve other issues prevailing today,” he added.

Photo Gallery from the Grand Opening – Photos by Carlos Puma

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