With what started back in February 2009 by former Salt Lake Community College student Jason Thornton, SLCC Community Gardens has grown from what was a single location at Miller campus to three locations that include Taylorsville-Redwood Garden, East Garden and the newest addition, the Jordan Garden.
The vision of the community gardens began while Thornton was serving time in prison. Not only was it a survival method while he was serving his time, but a way for him to give back to the community at large once he was released.
The idea was to create a garden on campus, where the students, faculty and staff could work together to grow fresh vegetables, herbs, flowers and donate all the food to non-profit organizations, or they could keep the food for themselves. Thornton’s goal was to “advocate for sustainable food systems primarily through volunteerism, lectures [and] to fill the need of food production in our economy,” he quoted to The Globe in February 2009.
The three community gardens have between 11 and 15 garden boxes that have a wood perimeter of an approximate 4’x 6’ each.
“Most of the time it is a department or a group that has a box as opposed to an individual,” said Paula Michniewicz, SLCC Instructional Designer who also volunteers and oversees the community gardens.
Many of the boxes have handmade signs that label the sponsor’s name.
“We gather here Thursday mornings at 9 a.m. We weed and water each other’s gardens. We take care of each other,” said Michniewicz.
There are about 17 different school departments/student groups along with about 30 to 35 individuals who seed and maintain the different garden boxes, according to Michniewicz. The gardens consist mostly of vegetables such as tomatoes, squash and beans. There are herb boxes as well as flower boxes to attract bees to help with the pollination process.
Beyond food production, the gardens create a great segue for faculty and staff to get out of the office to water and weed during a therapeutic break-time. People from all over show up and get to know one another while they garden together. It creates a great sense of community, and often people walking by will stop and visit as well.
The gardens have also become a learning tool.
The garden boxes located behind the Eccles Early Childhood Development Lab School are used to teach preschoolers how to seed and plant. They get to watch their gardens grow.
“Last year the children grew sunflowers. They would have fun measuring them to see how fast they would grow,” said Michniewicz.
Growing a garden is a process from preparing the dirt, to planting the seeds, watering, fertilizing and caring for the life that is developing before your eyes. By comparison, this is similar to the process of reform that Thornton experienced from going to prison, to growing and making the changes necessary to give back to the community. That is what the SLCC Community Gardens are all about.