In 2011, Westmont alumnus Anthony Waldrop was hired by Sodexo as a sustainability coordinator which included developing a previously gardened area on campus. The original piece of land was about a ¼ of an acre. The first crops yielded mesclun lettuce, carrots, snap peas, cilantro, and green onions.
A success, the project was expanded to two garden sites in May 2012 totaling an acre. New crops planted included snap beans, summer squash, winter squash, cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers, tomatillos, eggplant, broccoli, beets, radishes, kohlrabi, potatoes, basil, and corn.
Farm Fresh Friday was introduced for campus dining, a weekly lunch special that features local and sustainable produce.
“At the beginning of each week, our chefs design recipes that incorporate seasonal produce from area farms or the Westmont Garden,” said Kevin O’Dowd, Sodexo General Manager for Westmont College. “In addition to local, organic produce, we strive to introduce exotic fruits and vegetables to students in order to raise culinary awareness.”
That fall, with a grant from the Westmont College Student Association and assistance from Santa Barbara City College, forty-five fruit trees/vines were planted including gala apple, fuji apple, pomegranate, lemon guava, strawberry guava, red malaysian guava, pineapple guava, satsuma mandarin, kiwi fruit, and avocado.
“Our mission for Westmont Garden is to provide an interactive, hands-on opportunity for the campus community to learn about the nutritional and environmental advantages of eating local food,” said Anthony Waldrop, sustainability coordinator on campus. “Not only are we supplementing the campus dining service with fresh, campus-grown produce, but we are offering education and training on sustainable agricultural practices.”
The garden also supports the mission of Westmont’s Bread of Life Ministry by donating produce for their meal sharing program.
Westmont Life Science classes participate in a mini-practicum in the gardens where they learn about sustainable agriculture and food systems while participating in the daily practices of the garden.
Six students have participated in a semester long sustainable agriculture internship where they learn the ins and outs of food production within the context of the Westmont Garden Project.
Fourth graders from a local elementary come to the garden to participate in garden activities
Santa Barbara Farm and Food Adventures has visited the garden to learn about the project and sample the produce from the gardens.
The project has been featured in Montecito Magazine and was the subject of a tour during the 2013 California Higher Education Sustainability Conference.
As of September 2013 the gardens have harvested over 5,000 pounds of campus-grown, sustainable produce. The harvest is featured in many dining recipes as well as in the salad bar.
Each week, a campus meal-sharing ministry called Bread of Life gets the first pick of the garden produce. When we have enough produce we donate to the Santa Barbara Food Bank
There are many critical campus and community-based collaborators on the project.
The Westmont Library worked with the Westmont Dining Commons in creating a sustainability exhibit that highlighted the gardens.
Westmont Dining Enhancement Team donated 2 cold frames for seedling starting.
Westmont Physical Plant allows the use of campus tools by garden workers and contributes irrigation supplies and many other needed materials.
Island Seed and Feed donated 75 vegetable starts for the gardens. Santa Barbara Home Improvement Center donated a $75 gift card for garden supplies. All Around Landscape and Irrigation donated compost and irrigation supplies.
“Last semester we got another grant from the Westmont College Student Association to put in more fruit trees,” said Waldrop. “We planted figs, dragon fruit, mango, grape vines, apple, persimmon, and guava. Within the next few months we are hoping to get to the 10,000 pounds harvested mark.”