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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!

Place-Based Justice Network Summer Institute 2019: Augsburg to Host and Call for Proposals

Place-based Justice Network logo

The Sabo Center is excited to announce that Augsburg University will be hosting the sixth annual Place-Based Justice Network Summer Institute in July 2019. The three-day gathering is an essential learning and networking opportunity for the Place-Based Justice Network, a group of twenty member institutions that are committed to transforming higher education and our communities by deconstructing systems of oppression through place-based community engagement with a racial justice lens.

Place-based community engagement is a focused approach to university community engagement that emphasizes long-term, university-wide engagement in community partnerships in a clearly defined geographic area, and focuses equally on-campus and community impact. Engaging with stakeholders from across the university and neighborhood community, a place-based approach aims to enact real and meaningful social change through partnership and co-creative work.

The Summer Institute will consist of plenary lectures and workshops, keynote speakers, site visits to organizations connected to Augsburg, and opportunities to learn from practitioners of place-based community engagement from across the country.

The PBJN has released a call for proposals for workshops and breakout sessions during the Summer Institute. They seek proposals for sessions that center dialogue and interactivity on topics related to place-based community engagement initiatives and their planning, development, programs, evaluation, and impact. Potential topics for breakout sessions include, but are not limited to:

Scholar-activism and community-based research: examples and lessons learned

  • Relationship-building and decentralized decision making
  • Sustaining long-term commitments with neighborhoods and communities
  • Critical scholarship on community engagement including racial justice, economic justice, education justice, disability justice, queer, and feminist theory and practices
  • Lessons from community organizing
  • Asset-based community development
  • Power analysis and community voice
  • Anti-racist storytelling strategies
  • Preparing students to enter and transition out of place-based community engagement

Breakout session proposals are due Monday, May 13th, 2019 at 5 pm PST.

Interested in participating? Contact the Sabo Center for more information about how to attend the Summer Institute and submit a proposal for a breakout session (sabocenter@augsburg.edu)

Sisterhood Boutique to Hold Fashion Show at Augsburg

Sisterhood Boutique is a small thrift store with a big heart.Sisterhood Boutique storefront

Located across the street from the Augsburg University campus, the Sisterhood Boutique stands as a symbol of empowerment for women. Started by young women who lived in Cedar-Riverside, the Sisterhood is described by shoppers as the “hidden gem” of the West Bank neighborhood. Donated clothing and jewelry is sold in a polished retail space, with all sales go towards a leadership program designed to help young women prepare for a career. The program includes various paid internships at the boutique where interns learn the skill sets necessary to run a business and become an entrepreneur. Augsburg students in the Sabo Center’s LEAD Fellows program have also worked at the Sisterhood.

One of the main events at the Sisterhood Boutique is their annual pop up fashion show. It is a collaborative, student-run event. Augsburg students, along with students from the U of M and St. Kate’s come together to coordinate the venue, models, and decorations, and to design the outfits. In the past, all items at the show were donated or altered by a fashion class at St. Kate’s. This year’s fashion show is coming up soon on Tuesday, March 5th, 2019, at the Augsburg University Hoversten Chapel, located in Foss Center. Doors open at 6, and the show begins at 7. Everyone is welcome, and the event is free of charge. Attendees are encouraged to bring along gently used clothing items to donate to the Sisterhood!

Learn more about the event by visiting the Sisterhood’s Facebook event page: Sisterhood Fashion Show