Xochiquetzal Salazar here, first-year transfer student and Junior in the Sustainable Food and Farming program, reporting to you on our awesome Fall 2014 semester in the UMass Permaculture gardens. With winter approaching and the garden prepared for a chilly slumber, I cannot think of a better time to reflect on all the fun, engaging, and eye-opening experiences we shared among the Garden Crew and with all the incredible volunteers we had the pleasure of working with.
As a transfer student in my first semester, I applied to be a part of the UMass Permaculture Garden Crew in hopes of establishing a community of like-minded individuals in this enormous campus that was so new to me, and community was what I got. As the garden grew, we grew, and the Monday/Friday crew of five students from varying majors and grade levels became a small family; our own niche so to speak, one that really enjoyed each other’s company and a good potluck here and there.
That first day of class on a sunny September morning had me, admittedly, shaking in my Berkies. Sure I had gardened all my life, but it was in that moment that I realized I didn’t actually know that much about permaculture. These suspicions were confirmed when we took a humbling permaculture self-assessment, the same evaluation hat was administered at the end of the semester. Although I still have so much to learn, from being immersed in this environment for only a few months, my enlightenment was astounding, in regards to both my own world views and my understanding of permaculture.
From zone walks, to discussions on wild edibles, to seed saving, and so much more, every lesson our Garden Manager Lilly Israel implemented was captivating and empowering, providing us with not only a well-rounded permaculture education, but also valuable skills that promote sustainability in everyday life. In addition to these lessons, we were given the opportunity to participate in a number of events related to permaculture throughout the semester, from a Massachusetts Dinner with government representation to a Montessori School scavenger hunt with kindergarteners. The culmination of these made being a part of Garden Crew a truly worthwhile commitment.
Beyond this structured learning, the crew also did a lot of down-and-dirty hard work: harvesting, weeding, planting, potting, preparing for the Fall Student Farmer’s Market – you name it! It was during these times that stories were recanted, laughs were shared, and hearts sang out. I can say with confidence that these are memories to last a lifetime, and that this whole experience was the highlight of my first semester at UMass. The garden may be in hibernation now, but it better watch out, because we’ll be coming back for it in Spring 2015!
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