When I began a garden club at Otis last semester I really had no idea what was expected of me. What started off as a small idea I wished to push forward has now grown into a luscious, edible jungle.
As I decided to study Product Design, I had a definite goal of being a creative person that makes products for a positive impact on the environment. Through my minor in sustainability, I took the Human Ecology class with Elektra Grant, which was a turning point for me in my lifestyle and my career. After a few weeks of class, I felt instigated to start a movement that could inspire other people as well. Therefore, I funded the Dirty Deeds Garden Club on campus. Through the garden club, I aspired to learn more about gardening, meet more people interested in the same causes as me and instigate change within my community.
The name Dirty Deeds comes from the idea that we are doing the dirty work of pushing our community into a more sustainable and eco-thoughtful environment. When the idea of a community garden began, we had to face the dilemma that the school didn’t want to deal with a garden on campus because of the ongoing construction. Since the beginning of the club, we had to work hard to make our aspirations a reality. In the context that growing food is the new expression of a social and economical revolution, I see the Dirty Deeders as avant-gardeners.
Here is a little bit of my experience and the benefits of gardening.
1. Gardening brings people together. Since I started my garden journey I have made several friends, inside and outside of the Otis community. I became close friends with my teacher, club peers, master gardeners, farmer's market vendors, gardening aficionados, and even my roommate. Living in a digital era, in which a lot of the human interaction is reduced to virtual meetings, working together for a common goal is an optimal activity to reduce stress, depression, and social anxiety.
Chicken basmati fried rice with fresh baby beet greens and cilantro from the garden.
2. I improved my health impressively. At least two meals a week I eat something from the garden. That means that besides eating organic and sustainably grown produce, I now can brag about how good and healthy it makes me feel to eat something grown by myself.Besides my amazing green thumb skills, I get a lot of sunlight exposure when I am at the garden, which is not only healthy for my tan, but also for my Vitamin D levels! Vitamin D is uttermost beneficial for absorption of other vitamins and minerals and is only produced by our body when exposed to the sunlight. Plus I get to work out! Gardening involves low impact exercise that is great for all ages.
3. I learned a bunch about the environment. I won’t get into this vast topic too deeply because I want to keep you interested, but I can tell you it’s not looking good for us. You might think that being environmentally conscious is overrated, but if you think about it, plastic bags might be the only legacy we will leave for this planet if we destroy our own natural habitat. Through gardening I have been more connected to the Earth, and started to seek better choices in my lifestyle.
4. It helps my career. Gardening is actually a never-ending problem-solving activity, which is vital for artists and design students. Without paying attention to yourself, you are already in the midst of figuring out a new irrigation system, a watering schedule, how to improvise a situation, or how to best use your soil. The great part of this is that you get to eat your efforts.
Although Otis still doesn’t have a garden on campus, The Dirty Deeds currently have a plot at the Emerson Avenue Community Garden, located in walking distance from the Goldsmith Campus. At the early stages of the garden club, Dana Morgan, the Master Gardener at Emerson, heard about us through Maggie White (Dirty Deeds Club’s Advisor and Manager of the Otis Print lab). Dana offered us a plot at Emerson for free, and we have been growing food there since November of 2014. In exchange we volunteer working hours at the Emerson Avenue Community Garden, and design posters for their events.
Sunday, February 22 was a big workday at the Dirty Deeds’ Garden. As we slowly roll into the Californian summer, we had to get ready for the seasonal change. Since we planted our first seeds and seedlings last November, most of the plants had been harvested and flowered. That means that the plant is getting ready to produce seeds, which makes it taste very bitter.
Eight Dirty Deeders attended Sundays’ events. We started to work in the garden at 10am. We had a lot of work ahead of us, but time went by very fast while we were having fun. Most of the seasonal plants were ripped out of the soil. That might sound a bit drastic and non-green, but seasonal plants have a limited life cycle and would eventually die in the garden because of the changing season. We made sure to leave two specimens of each plant variety, in order to harvest the seeds. All the plants and plants clippings were placed in the compost bin. Some specialists argue that taking care of the soil is the most important task of a gardener, and composting plays a huge role in gardening. We nurture the soil, and the plant feeds off the soil. Thus, we tilted our soil and added compost to improve it even more.
At 11:30 am we gathered around the meditation classroom and had a very pleasant talk with Eugene Ahn. Eugene is a fellow gardener, and Continuing Education instructor at Otis in Digital Media. He helped to establish the mission of the restaurant Forage, in Silver Lake, where they prepare seasonal, delicious, affordable, high-quality food from neighborhood gardeners.
Eugene has much to say about how the philosophies of gardening and sustainable action can influence the fabric of society. From an artists’ point of view, we talked about how we can better connect the earth to art, and art to the earth. It was very interesting to listen to his life story. He shared his experiences, and how he got into gardening. Ironically enough, he started to garden once he moved to an urban setting. As a group, we also discussed how we connect to one another through food and the importance of community.
Gardening has been an amazing journey so far. Every time I eat veggies from the Dirty Deeds garden, I feel positive feelings of self-sufficiency. Learning to grow your food is an amazing skill that boosts self-confidence and community bonds. Come get dirty with us!
The purpose of this organization is to give the opportunity to learn more about gardening and sustainable living to the Otis Community. This club seeks to raise knowledge about environmental matters by inviting guest speakers, and through our current participation in Westchester’s Emerson Community Garden. Dirty Deeds looks forward to developing edible gardening alternatives on-campus to inspire community interaction.