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Cultivating Community: Augsburg’s Community Garden

Ten people in diverse garb sit on the edges of raised garden beds or at tables. Some are eating food, others are looking ahead with attentive gazes.
Gardeners gather for a meal and storytelling event in the garden.

Gazing out the west-facing upper windows of the Hagfors Center on Augsburg’s campus, you can’t miss benches, paths, and raised beds of Augsburg’s community garden. While the garden on the edge of campus has been cultivated since 2008, when the plans for the Hagfors Center for Science, Business, and Religion got underway, there was a distinct opportunity to preserve and re-imagine this unique community garden space. With support from the Medtronic Community Foundation, design guidance from O2 Design, and community-based input, the garden was rebuilt to make the space more accessible, inclusive, and visible. 

Throughout the design process for the new garden space, gardeners and Augsburg staff centered the enduring principles and goals for this vital community connection space: grow food, build relationships, and learn together. Two young people converse while sitting on the edge of a raised bed in the garden.The garden now has wider and defined pathways, clear plot boundaries, and a variety of raised and in-ground beds. 

The re-designed garden just finished its second season of production. With over sixty individual plots and communal growing space cultivated by residents of Cedar-Riverside and Augsburg staff, faculty, and students, the newly rebuilt garden is continuing to offer a place for learning and building community. 

About half of the members of Augsburg’s community garden are neighbors in Cedar-Riverside and Seward (six have a view of the garden from their homes across the street!), and about half are Augsburg staff, faculty, and students. Student groups, such as Hmong Women Together and the Augsburg Indigenous Student Association, tend portions of the communal gardening areas, and about ten students from TRIO Summer Bridge spent time learning in the garden over the 2019 growing season.

Individual gardeners are not the only people to utilize the garden; this fall, several professors teaching classes focused on food and sustainability are also capitalizing on the presence of the garden. From a history of food class, to a course on environmental connections to food, a chemistry AugSem, and a science of food and cooking class: the garden has increasingly become a laboratory for classroom learning on wide-ranging subjects related to growing and consuming food. Other classes utilize the garden in less formal ways, perhaps holding a class outside by The Loveliest of Trees, or sending students out for discussion as they walk the garden paths.

Natalie Jacobson and Allyson Green enjoy conversation in the garden. Another individual is in the foreground wearing a red backpack, their back turned to the camera.
Campus Kitchen Coordinator Natalie Jacobson (left) and Chief Sustainability Officer Allyson Green (right) enjoy conversation at a garden event.

During the summer and fall of 2019, the garden began to utilize the Food Lab space in the Hagfors Center for potlucks and food preparation. Chief Sustainability Officer Allyson Green, who oversees the garden, remarked that the first session of gardeners gathering in the food lab over the summer was the highlight of the season; people got to know one another and shared cooking techniques and conversation as they made sambusas. This season also saw a student-led storytelling event in partnership with Mixed Blood Theater and food activist, LaDonna Redmond. As gardeners and others are living into the new space, opportunities for connecting and learning with and from each other are growing alongside the vegetables. 

One challenge with the garden rebuild was impacted soil in the in-ground beds due to construction equipment. After the garden was initially built, gardeners were having a difficult time cultivating healthy root systems for their plants, requiring that all of the in-ground beds be dug up and the soil turned. Thankfully, dozens of students, several classes, and a few athletic teams answered the call, picking up shovels and making quick work of the beds that required turning.

When asked about how the garden fits into the overall sustainability commitments of Augsburg, Allyson noted that the garden is a visible demonstration of Augsburg’s commitment to caring for the place where Augsburg is located. By tending to our natural environment and building a place for community building, food access, and learning, the garden is an important aspect of Augsburg’s place-based and anchor institution work. 

An aerial view of the Augsburg Community Garden. A table in the foreground has food on it, and people are lining up to serve themselves.Allyson also noted her hopes for the garden. With twenty-five people on the waiting list, she hopes that the garden can continue to be a vital place on-campus for learning and relationship building that contributes to the well-being of the whole community. She dreams that the garden might be a model for cooperation and learning that can spread to other areas of campus, and even to other communities! 

As a space that requires the cooperation of dozens of people who all have different ideas about ways of growing food, habits of organization and storage, and different cultures, personalities, and life stories, the garden is a unique place for experimentation, building community amongst difference, and finding a middle ground. Here’s to a successful growing season and many more to come!

Cooking and building community with Campus Kitchen!

20160627_135606Hello! Kenani and DJ here, Augsburg Campus Kitchen’s summer 2016 Step-Up Interns. This summer we were placed with Augsburg Campus Kitchen for our first ever job through the City of Minneapolis Step-Up program. All summer we have been cooking and serving meals for youth at the Brian Coyle Center summer program. In addition, on Mondays, we helped teach gardening, cooking, and nutrition lessons to Brian Coyles’ K-8th graders. The theme for the summer was Top Chef and each week we had a cooking competition and awarded three participants Top Chef of the week. Thanks to grant support from The Campus Kitchens Project, These students were able to bring home a bag of groceries and recipes to their families so they could recreate the meals with them.

IMG_20160818_120719This past week in Top Chef we had a salsa competition where students were given a certain amount of fake money to buy the fresh ingredients to make their special salsas. The students had to be creative in making unique salsa while still making sure they had enough money to buy all the ingredients for their salsa. The kids had tons of fun making salsa and many of them were surprised how good their salsa turned out. For instance, a few students challenged themselves by putting less common ingredients such as black beans or pineapple in their salsa and still ended up loving it! We were really impressed that almost all the students liked their salsa – we learned it is almost impossible to make bad salsa from fresh ingredients!

Throughout the summer we learned about a community that is different than our own. We realized how everyone in Cedar-Riverside seems to know each other and how connected they are to their community. Even though we were out of our comfort zone a little at first we were able to make new friends and learn new things, not to mention becoming all-star dishwashers and building our resumes!

 

Campus Kitchen Expands Outreach To Seniors

 

CK student leaders deliver senior meals with nutritional information
Sophomore Rhys Dilenschneider and freshman Xochil Martinez delivered a special brochure with nutritional information as part of our initiative to expand outreach to seniors this year.

Every Thursday, Augsburg Campus Kitchen students package and deliver balanced meals to 50 seniors in our community. Thanks to a partnership between The Campus Kitchens Project and the AARP Foundation, we are excited to expand these meal deliveries and offer new programming, including nutrition education and themed community meals, to further combat food insecurity and anti-isolation.

This semester, sophomore Rhys Dilenschneider is leading these Thursday delivery shifts and working on nutrition education opportunities. For our first foray into nutrition education, Rhys created a handout explaining the nutritional components of a pumpkin/yam/chickpea patty that sophomore Hannah Thiry and cooking shift volunteers whipped up especially for seniors. Next on the horizon is a collaborative workshop, where Campus Kitchen leaders and seniors at Ebenezer Tower Apartments can share tips and techniques while learning to cook an easy meal together.

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Sophomore Hannah Thiry and the cooking shift crew prepared vitamin and protein packed pumpkin/yam/chickpea patties especially for our seniors.

One of our newer community partners, Common Bond Communities Seward Tower West, is eager to bring more of their residents into this program. Already, they have 14 residents on a waiting list to receive meals. Because Rhys and the other Campus Kitchen student leaders are on a tight schedule doing deliveries between classes, we are looking for a few more volunteers before we can start serving our neighbors Seward Tower West.

If you’re interested in helping us expand our outreach by volunteering or assisting with nutrition education, contact Allyson at campuskitchen@augsburg.edu. And stay tuned to our facebook page or Twitter for more news from our work with seniors and other neighbors!