Fortino Morales III

Community Garden Coordinator at Agricultural Operations

Fortino Morales

Fortino Morales

Only a few gardeners in this world have greener thumbs than Fortino Morales III (’11).

That’s because Morales doesn’t just grow plants; he grows programs — and communities — with his actions as well.

As the campus’s community garden coordinator, he contributes to various projects for Agricultural Operations and oversees the community garden. Although it’s only been his job for about two years, Morales was actually one of the driving forces that brought a community garden to UCR — and he helped do this while he was still a student.

“What I really like about my job is the fact that no two days are the same,” he said. That variety, he says, helps him stay on top of all his projects.

His day starts routinely enough, by checking emails. But after that, he’s doing anything from meeting with student groups to advising staff and faculty for campus seminars.

Morales graduated from UCR in 2011 with a degree in environmental science. When Chancellor Tim White offered him a job, Morales stayed because he was driven to finish the many on-campus projects he started as a student.

“We’re lucky enough to have support from the campus administration for the community garden. It’s nice to have that kind of support,” Morales said.

It helps that the extroverted Morales really enjoys being around other people — so much so that he lives with 11 people in a seven-bedroom house. “Sometimes it gets hectic, but there’s always something going on.”

San Diego is his hometown and also the place where he cultivated many of his hobbies, which include biking, hiking, backpacking, camping, going to beaches and downtown areas, swimming with sharks and snorkeling.

He enjoys going back to San Diego when he can, but has become increasingly passionate about his responsibilities in Riverside.

“I’m really interested in the idea of food justice and sustainability. I think there is a disconnect between the research being done at UCR and its effect on the local community,” said Morales. “It’s nice that the university wants to support and facilitate the exchange of ideas.”

Acting as a bridge, Morales hopes to help expand UCR’s relationships with local communities through the community garden and by supporting local farmers.

“We’re a top land grant university that does agricultural research in a city with a rich agricultural history, and I feel like I get to be a part of that in different ways,” Morales said. “I love what I’m doing and what the university is doing and I hope it continues to grow.”

— Konrad Nagy

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