Students Inaugurate “Earl’s Garden”

Walk past the polished windows, concrete paths and sharp angles of Warren
College, cross Voigt drive past the music playing from water polo warm-ups and
turn left into the Goldberg apartments. You’ll find a small patch of dirt, covered with
hay and surrounded by green wire fence. A yellow sign, hand painted, leans against
the fence. “Earl’s Garden” it says. It is a farm no bigger than most front yards. And
yet its founder says it’s one of the most radical food projects UCSD has ever had.
On Sunday, Nov. 7, students gave the garden life as they planted the inaugural crops.

Throughout the afternoon a group of students planted kale, lavender, chives and
other vegetables in Warren College’s new residential farm. They came in old T-shirts and
stained jeans to get dirty in the garden. Student dug holes with their hands, leaving
clean shovels and spades leaning against a wooden frame. Sixth College sophomore Angela Cooper told students about the garden as they walked by.

Cooper, a member of the Econauts — a group which works with the Housing, Dining and Hospitality Department to increase sustainability — said she spends a lot of her time staying inside her dorm, watching TV and playing video. But the garden brought her out.

“It’s much more peaceful,” she said. “Its something I can do out of my room that isn’t
demanding. It’s slow-go, I get to talk to people. It’s very nice”

Earl’s Garden began as vision of Warren College senior Jessica Baltmanas, who
said she wanted an inclusive garden that would serve the community and help
students connect with each other.

“This isn’t for me just a garden,” Baltmanas said. “It isn’t only about growing kale.
It’s really about what happens in here. It’s about people being together and learning
from each other.”

People who knew of Baltmanas’ passion for gardening told her San Diego might not
be the best place for her.

“They said I should go to Berkeley or UC Davis,” she said. “But I don’t want to go
somewhere that already had what I wanted.”

She said she hopes the garden will be a place of creativity for student. Planting is
itself an art, she said. The canvas is plot of soil that slopes steps down into Goldberg
apartments in small patches of chocolate brown dirt. They form little crescents that
alternate in the pattern of fish scales.

Revelle College senior Keegan Oneal explained the pattern helps retain water.
Oneal helped design the garden with Baltmanas. Oneal said he believes in the philosophy
of permaculture, or diversity in nature.

“You want to embrace the chaos,” Oneal said. It shows in his plant selection. Beside
the usual garden plants such as carrots, peas, turnips and radishes, Earl’s Garden
will feature basil, grapes, fava beans and even some clover for rabbits. He said
gardens should create an environment that allows plants and animals to cooperate,
and that he tries to work with nature.

Both Oneal and Baltmanas said they had a close relationship with plants at a young
age. Baltmanas began gardening as a child. She says her first food memory is pulling
carrots out of her father’s farm in Lithuania. It gave her a life-long love of gardening.

But while Baltmanas spent her youth nuturing plants, Oneal was killing them.
His father was firefighter who cut down trees to support his family. Oneal said he
came to gardening when he began to feel there were problems in what he calls “the
industrial food model.” He said that Earl’s Garden is a way for student to reconnect
with their food. He said students can benefit from the relaxation of gardening.

“It slows thing down to a natural pace,” Oneal said. “It’s a human scale. Not the
industrial scale, not the modern scale. Not Facebook, not cell phones. I relax and
enjoy the speed of nature.”

Matt Finkelstein, a Marshall College alumnus and co-founder of the UCSD
Sustainable Food Project, said projects like Earl’s Garden help show UCSD’s
commitment to the environment.

“We still think it would add tremendous value to the university and help grow the
university’s reputation as one of the greenest campuses in the country to have a
really vibrant food and gardening [community],” he said.

Baltmanas said she expects the first crops to be ready in a few months and that all
student are welcome to come garden in Earl’s.

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