Illustration by Anna Mcgrew
Illustration by Anna Mcgrew

Colleges Nine and Ten students will break ground this quarter in hope of decolonizing the way society thinks about gardening through the colleges’ first community garden. Community Gardens (CLNI 70) is a two-unit course and part of an ongoing process to cultivate a garden specifically for the two sister colleges.

Instructed by professor Linnea Beckett, a UC Santa Cruz alumna and food justice coordinator for Colleges Nine and Ten, the class studies indigenous ecological practices by looking to the Amah Mutsun Relearning Program’s efforts at the Arboretum. The program entails relearning and recovering planting methods native to the Americas — prior to European invasion — as the class acknowledges the UCSC campus is located on stolen Amah Mutsun land.

“We really want to think deeply about what this garden could not only mean for the folks that compose those colleges but also the histories of the land that the gardens are going to be built on,” Beckett said, referring to the Amah Mutsun land.

While the idea of communal gardens is not new to UCSC, the endeavor to bring a communal garden to Colleges Nine and Ten was an idea initiated by a group of students from the sister colleges back in 2012, Beckett said.

Once proposed, the idea was taken up by the current Colleges Nine and Ten Provost Flora Lu. Since that time, students in the class in previous years have been responsible for plotting out land, building the infrastructure needed for tools and planter boxes and setting up an irrigation system. Four years later, the legacy lives on, executed by students of the current class who are beginning the planting stage.

Additional class projects include aiding in the construction and cultivation of the newfound community garden established at Calabasas Elementary School in Watsonville. This is a project also facilitated by Lu. These projects are an effort to reach out to underrepresented communities and combat food deserts and food injustice in and around Santa Cruz, Beckett said.

The class gives students a space to come together and to be educated in how to advocate for social change.

“I think that it’s important for students to get in touch with the soil and find a way to bring their classmates and fellow students together, but to also build something that’s very pure. It’s a healing activity,” said third-year CLNI 70 student Mara Lee.

CLNI 70 will be transitioning throughout the quarter to various locations in the Santa Cruz area, Beckett said. The students learn about how gardening relates to the two colleges’ themes — social justice and community and international and global perspectives.

The planting process will consist of two workdays, set to take place at the end of May. After this quarter, Beckett said, the class will continue to be sustained by four undergraduate interns, who will be paid by funds raised by the Garden Club through the Campus Sustainability Council.

“The goal is to essentially design and build a new garden at Colleges Nine and Ten, but really I think the mission is about building community through our shared connection to the earth,” said third-year CLNI 70 student Gracia Brown in an email.

Many other colleges already have established gardening programs, such as the Kresge Garden Co-Op. But the emphasis on gardening as it relates to larger topics regarding

food and history is unique to Colleges Nine and Ten. The set layout of the garden, as well as what will be planted, is yet to be decided.

“This is really an inaugural moment in Colleges Nine and Ten, for building a garden that will sustain for many years,” Beckett said. “[That’s] all the more reason to be creative and thoughtful in that process.”