After serving in jail for an extended period SLCC student Jason Thornton envisioned the creation of a garden to give back to the community.
“The hope in prison to make positive contributions to my community upon release was the hope that helped me survive,” Thornton said.
Thornton’s idea was originally developed on the Miller Campus of SLCC in February of 2009, which he called “Seeds of Hope.” This program was to “advocate for sustainable food systems primarily through volunteerism, lectures (and) to fill the need of food production in our economy,” for the less fortunate and hungry, Thornton explained.
On Oct. 19 the first “harvest party at the Community Garden at SLCC’s Taylorsville Redwood Campus was held from 11 a.m. to –2 p.m. The primary purpose of the party was to raise awareness of the community garden and the benefits available to students and faculty alike that Thornton has strongly pushed for.
Through the support of Sustainability Committee Chair Adam Dastrup, and the help of community organizations such as Wasatch Community Garden and Slow Flow Utah, Thornton gained the trust of key players such as President Bioteau, the president of SLCC, to build his vision of a garden on the Taylorsville Redwood Campus.
Groundbreaking for the garden began on April 20 2010, which landed on Earth Day. The site is located just east of the Construction Trades Building. Departments and groups take care of their respective plots. Some of the SLCC departments include the Student Life and Leadership, the Division of Natural Science, the Environmental Club, and the Thayne Center, just to name of few.
Paula Michniewicz, an Instructional Designer for Distance Learning and Instructional Technology has been planting and harvesting from her department’s plant boxes all summer. She “advocated for the garden by her consistent participation alone, with the help of the Environmental Club…tending the garden,” Thornton said.
Although the garden started at the end of spring semester 2010 with little student interest, Michniewicz has harvested cucumbers, peppers, squash, spinach, zucchini and over 50 tomatoes. She has given her vegetables back to the community as well as making her own breads, salsas and soups from the produce.
Thornton founded the community garden with the help of faculty members such as Michniewicz but he wanted to see more student participation. “I want to see more donations going to the hungry and more student involvement,” he said.
The garden provides an opportunity for faculty, staff, students and the local community to grow produce where they would normally not have the space to do so. As a result the garden “develops a better sense of community,” as the caption reads from the community garden sign. Students are given the opportunity for service learning and all produce goes to nonprofit organizations or to students and faculty on campus.
The Thayne Center is a SLCC organization on the Taylorsville Redwood Campus designed to unite SLCC with the greater community through civic participation, service learning and volunteerism.
“Activities at the party included painting pumpkins in addition to munching on candy and popcorn while spreading good garden vibes. We also feel confident that more students know about the benefits of community gardens,” Ann Schaar, a Campus-Community Partnerships Coordinator with the Thayne Center said.
Thornton emphasized his underlying theme of community gardening. “…I feel there are even larger benefits,” he said. “Community gardens reform individuals and strengthen communities. They teach the garden ethic that nothing is of waste in the garden. Waste, weeds and old plants are composted and made an invaluable part of the garden.”
Thornton feels that through this garden he can change the way people relate to each other in a community.
“This ethic applied to human relations will strengthen our communities as we realize that people are not disposable. The undesirable groups of people or individuals that have caused harm to another should not be shunned or turned away from our communities. We can change our perceptions and people can be reformed,” he said. “When these types of transformations occur, those people that were once viewed as undesirable become an integral part of our healthy communities.”
For more information about the community gardening at SLCC or about the Thayne Center and other organizations visit http://slccthaynecenter.blogspot.com, http://www.slowfoodutah.org, or www.slcc.edu/sll/Clubs_Organizations.asp.