Giving Thanks at Halloween for Another Spirited Garden Season

Becostumed volunteers press apples Friday at the fourth annual Edible Campus Gardens Fall Soiree and Service Project.

Becostumed volunteers press apples Friday at the fourth annual Edible Campus Gardens Fall Soiree and Service Project.

By Hilary Smith, Sustainability Resource Center

The atmosphere was Halloween, but the spirit was Thanksgiving, as Edible Campus Gardens volunteers past and present,

Fall Soiree and Service Project guests line up for a costume contest.

Soirée guests line up for a costume contest.

along with families and friends, gathered Friday for the fourth annual Fall Soirée and Service Project.

The event was held to celebrate the winding down of another successful growing season, and to give thanks to the many volunteers and stewards who make the gardens possible.

Dani Poirier is recognized for logging the most volunteer hours in the garden this semester.

Dani Poirier is recognized for logging the most volunteer hours in the garden this semester.

Four gardeners received special recognition for their service. Dani Poirier, a sophomore at the U in Environmental and Sustainability Studies and Strategic Communication, was honored as the volunteer to log the most hours in the gardens this semester. Poirier says she has tried to get her hands in the dirt for one to two garden shifts per week. “If there’s something you care about and you want to see it grow, then you should help to be a part of that growth,” she says.

Next to be recognized were Susan Finlayson and Rachel Fong. Finlayson taught the summer 2014 Organic Gardening course, ENVST 3280, with Fong as her teaching assistant. The course uses the campus gardens as a site for practical learning. Finlayson, an organic gardener and horticulturist by trade, is the Community Gardens Program Director at Wasatch Community Gardens. What she loves about the campus gardens and the organic gardening course, she says, is that they “bring it all together—gardening, science and community.” Fong, an Environmental and Sustainability Studies major at the U, says that one of her favorite parts of being a teaching assistant for the course was applying and sharing knowledge she had gained in other classes—like the ability to identify insects while pawing through compost. Finlayson will offer the organic gardening course again next summer.

Campus Gardens Manager Natalie Allsup-Edwards artfully arranges wares at the garden booth during the 2014 U of U Farmer's Market.

Campus Gardens Manager Natalie Allsup-Edwards artfully arranges wares at the garden booth during the 2014 U of U Farmer’s Market.

The fourth person commended was campus garden manager Natalie Allsup-Edwards, who will soon finish her service in that position. Allsup-Edwards says her interest was sparked the first time she bought student-grown produce at the U of U Farmer’s Market, and then again when a former garden steward visited one of her classes. Three and a half growing-seasons ago, she was hired as a compost steward for the gardens. As others graduated and moved on, she says she gradually acquired more duties and fell into her current position. “I love working outside, doing something physical,” she says, noting that she enjoys both the mindful aspects of gardening, like planning layouts, as well as the more mindless and meditative tasks, like weeding. Mostly, she says, what she has loved has been “getting my hands in the dirt every day of the week.”

In honoring the four, gardens project manager and sustainability coordinator Jen Colby emphasized that it’s the work of all of the many garden volunteers throughout the year, and not only these few, that keeps the gardens thriving.

The last tomatoes were pulled from the vine, their beds cleaned up for the end of the season, before the soiree began.

The last tomatoes were pulled from the vine, their beds cleaned up for the end of the season, before the soiree began.

Before the festivities began, a dozen or so volunteers gathered to perform various service projects. Some cleaned up tomato beds, weeding and removing the beds’ straw coverings. A few prepared compost, while others planted compact rows of green garlic.

As soon as these tasks were complete, a half-dozen strong-armed guests took turns coring, slicing and hand-pressing apples, as garden volunteer and event DJ Inacio Lopez spun records. The cider they produced washed down a colorful spread of foods made by Fiana Bistro using tomatillos, potatoes, squash and other produce grown in the campus gardens.

Volunteer Inacio Lopez spins records as the event's official DJ.

Volunteer Inacio Lopez spins records as the event’s official DJ.

Another event highlight, a costume contest, featured tough competition from, among others, a wizard, a human pumpkin (“organic, and locally grown”), a cowboy sheriff, Rosie the Riveter, a Monsanto seed salesman, a fairy, and the King and Queen of Autumn.

While the primary gardening season has passed, there will be plenty more chances to work in the gardens even throughout the colder months. To receive emails about upcoming volunteer opportunities, send an email to uofucampusgardens@gmail.com or fill out a volunteer form online.

A good growing season deserves a good party!

A good growing season deserves a good party!

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