Gardens for Learning
In areas on campus where plants and produce can be grown by and for the PCC community, little known learning gardens have big impact
by Lesley McLam
Portland Community College’s learning gardens are designated plots of land on each campus that contain a variety of edible and non-edible owers, herbs and foods that are cared for by students, staff, faculty and volunteers.
Funds from PCC’s Eco-Social Justice Grant and passionate individuals on each campus in collaboration with PCC’s Sustainability leadership have expanded the program to develop a garden for each main campus and the Newburg center. The purpose of the gardens is to enable hands-on learning and engagement opportunities and to help meet the college’s sustainability goals, while also tackling food insecurity.
The Cascade Urban Learning Garden, or CULG, is the newest garden to PCC, breaking ground in the Spring of 2019. Development of the garden was funded with a $40,000 grant from the Eco-Social Justice grant (ESJ) program, according to Jolie Donahue, the Cascade Garden Coordinator. The Cascade biology department funds the part-time position of the learning garden coordinator and a few student work-study positions.
Donahue says that “what is unique about our garden is that we are in a small space and we are centrally located on campus.” The Cascade garden uses drip-irrigation to conserve water usage and has an ‘ambitious crop rotation plan,’ which Donahue expects will ensure weekly harvests for students and the campus Panther Pantry.
Cascade’s Learning Garden is a Bee Campus USA certified pollinator garden, which provides 100 square feet of sustainable food habitat for butterflies, bees, beneficial bugs, and hummingbirds. However, Rock Creek’s Learning garden retains the distinct honor of having become the fourth certified Bee Campus USA pollinator garden in the nation in 2016.
The 3.6 acre garden at RC allows for larger projects and greater student involvement, such as the 35 raised beds that provide the produce for the RC Dining Services, with surplus produce going to the Panther Pantry.
e Portlandia Farmstandia on RC’s campus is mostly run by students during its open season. It sells the organic produce grown at the RC garden to the community at below-market prices. They also offer the Volunteers for Veggies program, where volunteers can earn a $5 voucher to be used at the produce stand for each hour volunteered.
The Sylvania learning garden, managed by the campus’ Environmental Center, functions as a ‘Living Laboratory’ to allow individuals and groups to learn and teach through hands-on experience and a place to undertake social justice oriented initiatives.
Julia Betts, who helps coordinate the SE garden, says that the garden has no operational budget, is cared for by a couple of volunteers, and has so far “primarily partnered with ESOL classes for a variety of activities in the space.”
Betts also says that “although we are not a community garden in which folks can grow their own produce, we welcome anyone to support our efforts to distribute free produce to those in need, and to tend to our spaces and share their garden knowledge.”