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Dragonfly Tales
Gardening is Food Sovereignty in our Backyard

By Colette Wolf, UTTC/USDA Land Grant Agro-Ecology Extension Educator
5 November 2012

Despite the hot, dry summer our campus gardens were healthy and productive. We had sunflowers over 12 feet tall, knee-high corn before the Fourth of July and green pumpkins bigger than basketballs by mid-July. Our huge pumpkins are now orange and the dish-plate size, sunflower blooms are hanging heavy with seed. How did we do it? Organic gardening recognizes the importance of inter-relationships and we had many contributors.

First, Mother Earth provided an early spring followed by warm temperatures through-out our growing season. We planted a wide variety of flowering plants to attract pollinators; bees, moths and butterflies were abundant. Despite the lack of rainfall, we were spared damaging hail and wind storms, yet received timely rain falls. Water was amply provided by adjacent building faucets and insect eating birds enjoyed morning showers and tasty bug feasts.

Secondly, a wide range of student gardeners provided hands-on help. For 6-weeks, the Theodore Jamerson Elementary (TJES) summer school Junior Master Gardeners spent afternoons planting and maintaining the kidís garden. They also refreshed with healthy snacks like fruit smoothes, making real peanut butter or journaling under the cooling shade of our big cottonwood sisters. Community elder volunteers donated gardening supplies and companion hours to the Junior Master Gardenerís program, while helping photograph our events.

In addition, Our UTTC student horticulture assistants learned to use every tool in the garden shed to weed, dig, plant, water, in all the current and new UTTC gardens. Environmental Science students joined us mid-summer, allowing us to expand our gardening efforts on campus. Land Grant staff constantly contributed hours. In a collaborating effort with our maintenance groundskeepers and student senate, beautification projects were completed through restoration and new installation projects.

Plus, large, round, bales of donated brome grass helped us begin our no-till approach to vegetable and flower production. We are now well on our way to a no-till gardening system which conserves water, reduces weeds and contributes to our soil health. Soil relations like worms, fungi, nematodes, plant roots and more, now do the tilling for us. We are reducing our carbon foot print and eliminating dependence on chemical inhibitors.

Buckets of produce were distributed throughout campus and to our cafeteria. TJES Science Club will hold a mini farmers market selling pumpkins, beets, potatoes and carrots to raise funds. Land grant held pickling workshops. There is still produce to distribute. Along with vegetables, other plant material will be harvested, dried and stored for winter craft projects. We have a lot of flint corn to parch and grind, and many seeds to dry and save for next yearís planting.

What's next? Expanding our no-till gardens with ground preparation before frost; erecting a 2o'x48' high tunnel (a Quonset style greenhouse covered with plastic to extend our growing season); preserving our garden goods; restoring existing flower gardens and cleaning up our tools and sheds to prepare for next year.

We welcome your contribution and gratefully thank all our relations for helping us build organic inter-relationships and strengthening our food sovereignty. Grow food, eat well, empower your community. Aho!


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