Linfield Community Garden blossoms

Lily Ratliff '12Students are growing vegetables, and a passion for sustainability, on campus.

Linfield College lies nestled in the Willamette Valley, home to some of the world’s richest soils — soils that nurture local, small-scale farms, a robust wine industry and Linfield’s own Community Garden.

The garden began simply, as an idea cultivated by Linfield students, and has now blossomed into a 78’ x 48’ plot complete with compost tumbler and garden shed. Many hands have contributed to the establishment of this bountiful endeavor, with Lily Ratliff ’12 leading the charge.

In fall of 2009, Ratliff founded the Garden Club with encouragement from biology Professor Chad Tillberg. The group grew quickly, with students excited about the possibility of developing an on-campus garden. The Sustainability Grant Fund, an initiative passed by students earlier in 2009, allowed the club to apply for start-up funds to get the project off the ground (or on the ground, you might say).

With a $2,128 grant, students got to work planning, ordering materials and coordinating with facilities staff. They cut sod, built raised beds, coordinated the construction of a cedar fence and planted seeds.

A core group of dedicated students tended the garden over the summer and learned a lot in the process. Volunteers water and weed regularly and come together for work parties and potlucks.

Produce from the garden currently goes to anyone who helps with the project, but there are plans to donate garden produce to the local food bank, the Salvation Army and even to the dining hall on campus.

The Linfield Community Garden adds a unique element to the campus, as the garden is student-led, student-managed and student-funded.

“The garden,” Ratliff says, “adds something different to Linfield — an awareness of where our food comes from.” The establishment of the garden pairs nicely with this year’s freshmen colloquium reading, In Defense of Food, by author and food activist Michael Pollan.

Although fresh organic veggies and connection to the food we eat are important, Ratliff says that the most rewarding part of the project is the strong sense of community gained by collaborating with students, faculty and staff to develop the plot. That, and the abundance of vegetation that has sprung forth over the past few months.

“I get really excited when I go to the garden and see things growing. Besides,” she adds smiling, “who doesn’t like fresh carrots out of the garden?”

Story by Duncan Reid ’10