This past summer, UC Davis took another step toward promoting environmental sustainability by implementing an edible garden.
Started by ASUCD Senator Levi Menovske, the garden will offer students the opportunity to pick fresh fruit on campus at no additional cost.
While attending a multi-organization meeting, Menovske was inspired by the suggestion of an edible campus.
“I did a little bit of research and it sounded really cool,” Menovske said. “I thought, how cool would it be if students had that opportunity, to be walking to class and stop and pick an apple from an apple tree?”
The Student Co-ops currently have gardens on campus open to the public, but Menovske was concerned. While it was important for students to have a sustainable option on campus, he felt that they did not feel comfortable enough to use the preexisting gardens at the Co-ops.
“It’s kind of like their house,” he said. “So students don’t really eat [the Co-ops’] vegetables.”
Working together with CalPIRG, Menovske decided to put the edible garden plan into action. He wrote ASUCD Senate Bill 61, which allowed him to plant nine fruit trees on the grass plot in front of Mann Laboratory, between Hoagland Hall and the soccer field, out of ASUCD funds.
Once fully grown, the trees will bear fruit such as plums, pomegranates, lemons and persimmons. Student volunteers from CALPIRG will maintain the garden, as well the Campus Senate for the Environment, who will hire a volunteer coordinator to be in charge of student interns to help on campus, including the edible orchard.
When asked about his opinions on the garden, ASUCD President Jack Zwald was skeptical at first.
“We’ll see if Levi’s plan to maintain it will work out,” Zwald said. “But there’s no reason to doubt that it will.”
Menovske, on the other hand, is optimistic.
“The plan is Campus Grounds is going to be putting in an automated drip system to water them, so we don’t have to have people manually watering them all the time,” he said.
Students can get involved with the project by joining organizations that are already working on it, such as CalPIRG, the Aggie Public Arts Committee or the Campus Center for the Environment.
Noelani Velasquez, a junior wildlife, fish and conservation biology and anthropology double major, supports the idea of students working on the garden.
“It would be cooler if it were student-run,” Velasquez said. “It’s a good idea and I think it would be cool if we had something like that. I mean, we are Davis after all.”
Menovske envisions much more than just a few trees for the garden. He hopes to see it developed into a space that students will want to use, complete with walkways, picnic tables, benches and drinking fountains – a place to study, read and hang out, all while having access to healthy, fresh fruit, he said.
Zwald also considers the garden a positive, regardless of what it becomes.
“We get some nice trees and foliage,” he said. “At the end of the day it’s a positive; whether or not it will catch on, I don’t know.”
In retrospect, Menovske is glad to have run for senator with the garden as a platform issue. He believes that doing so sparked interest in a variety of campus organizations that will continue to contribute long after his term as senator is up.
“I’m excited to come back in 15 years and see the trees full grown and students eating lots of fruits,” he said.
JENNIFER SCOFIELD can be reached at email@example.com.