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Students sow first seeds of UCF organic garden

Published: Sunday, February 22, 2009

Updated: Sunday, February 22, 2009 22:02

Organic Garden

Christina DeParis

UCF students planted the university's first student-grown organic garden on Saturday at the UCF Arboretum.

The Student Sustainability Alliance has long been planning for the garden, said alliance member Rebecca Rashkin.

"We had this idea for the community vegetable garden for a long time," Rashkin said. "So we decided to have a big volunteer day as kind of like a kick-off event."
More than 40 volunteers came out to participate in the half-acre garden behind the UCF Environmental Initiative office. They cleared the land of rocks and sticks and helped make rain barrels, pathways and irrigation systems.

Ryan Whittingham, a freshman political science major, said he believed that the event informed others about the issue of sustainability.
"I think it's great," Whittingham said. "I think it's going to bring awareness to this sort of thing because everything is about sustainability. That's the big thing these days, but to have it right here on campus is great for letting everyone get involved."

Chemical fertilizers and pesticides will not be used in the garden, which will be maintained by UCF students and volunteers. Volunteers will be able to come into the Arboretum and perform maintenance duties around the garden, such as weeding, Rashkin said.

     Wyatt Champion, a senior environmental engineering major, said working in the garden was a fun learning experience. He said he hadn't gardened since he was 12 years old.

"You learn the most and have the most fun when it's hands on," Champion said. "We have like 50 students out here spending their time on a beautiful day actually putting their time into the soil, and actually in a few months we will see the result."
Students will also have the option to adopt a plot in the garden, Rashkin said.
"We will have students or groups of students who decide to adopt a little area of land in which they will come out maybe every week or two weeks to maintain that land," she said. "They will weed it and spray natural pesticides like garlic oil to keep everything as organic as possible."
Twenty percent of the produce grown on the student plots will go to the volunteers, said Tina Richards, environmental educator of the Environmental Initiative. The other 80 percent will be sold to Aramark, UCF's dining provider, to use for the meal plans in the Marketplace and Knightro's.
"All the proceeds that we get from the sales will go back to the garden for next semester," Richards said. "So it will be a self-sustaining project."
The directors of the Environmental Initiative, which manages the Arboretum, worked with the Student Sustainability Alliance to get the land, Richards said.
The alliance is a closed committee of 12 students overseen by the SGA Environmental and Sustainability Coordinator. The committee serves as the line of communication between students and staff regarding student concerns about sustainability at UCF.

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