Community gardens provide Westminster students and community opportunity to reduce carbon footprint

Westminster College students gather at the campus community garden, which offers students the chance to get their hands dirty during work days every Thursday from 4:30 to 6 p.m. "Even if you’ve never worked in a garden before, we've got something for everyone and we can answer most questions you might have," said Ashleigh Hughes, the garden coordinator. Photo courtesy of the Westminster Environmental Center.

Westminster College students gather at the campus community garden, which offers students the chance to get their hands dirty during work days every Thursday from 4:30 to 6 p.m. "Even if you’ve never worked in a garden before, we've got something for everyone and we can answer most questions you might have," said Ashleigh Hughes, the garden coordinator. Photo courtesy of the Westminster Environmental Center.

Alongside the warm weather, community gardens have sprouted up across Salt Lake City, providing residents with the opportunity to learn about sustainable agriculture and how to reduce their carbon footprint. 

Westminster College's community garden was founded in 2007 and has since offered students with the chance to get their hands dirty during work days, which are every Thursday from 4:30 to 6 p.m. 

Ashleigh Hughes, a biology major and Westminster's garden coordinator, said she encourages everyone on campus to spend a day or two working in the garden. 

"Even if you’ve never worked in a garden before, we've got something for everyone and we can answer most questions you might have," Hughes said. 

During the winter, when the garden isn't producing, activities across campus try to generate student interest in growing healthy, organic foods. 

Zoey Gray, a public health major, hosts a farm stand in Richer Commons in the fall, where she makes sample recipes with fresh ingredients from Westminster's garden for students and faculty to try. 

Westminster College students gather at the campus community garden, which was founded in 2007. Ashleigh Hughes, the garden coordinator, said she encourages students to attend one or two work days in the garden and get their hands dirty. Photo courtesy of the Westminster Environmental Center.

Westminster College students gather at the campus community garden, which was founded in 2007. Ashleigh Hughes, the garden coordinator, said she encourages students to attend one or two work days in the garden and get their hands dirty. Photo courtesy of the Westminster Environmental Center.

"For a while, I really struggled to find a good way to resolve the issue of needing to eat but also wanting to cut down on my agricultural carbon footprint," Gray said. "But then one day I realized that community gardens are a great solution, and I applied for the farm stand job on campus within the week." 

Although she's currently only involved with the Westminster garden, Gray said she hopes to join other community gardens this summer for independent research. 

"I want to look at barriers to accessing community gardens so that we can get more people using them and reaping the benefits," Gray said. 

David Wright, director of a community garden in Holladay, said community gardens are designed to encourage participation from people of all backgrounds through common ownership. 

"It brings down this false narrative about an individualistic society," he said. 

There are over 30 community gardens between North Salt Lake and Sandy. Many ask volunteers to help with weeding, watering, planting and harvesting. 

"Everyone that comes to the gardens have different reasons for being there," Hughes said. "Some people are drawn by fresh produce and general health benefits of being outside. Others come for the people. And still others come to escape from daily stress for an hour or so and just work with their hands." 

Wright said that even if someone can't volunteer time, he or she can still be an advocate for community gardens through actions like social media promotion. He said, however, there is something especially rewarding about getting dirty and sweaty while working in the gardens. 

"Community gardens are hugely beneficial," Gray said. "They bring communities together, build social capital, develop trust within neighborhoods, beautify neighborhoods, create a safe meeting place and activity hub, provide exercise and fresh air for gardeners, get people thinking about where their food comes from, increase people's daily intake of fruits and vegetables and cut down on the environmental impact of agriculture by hopefully using sustainable gardening practices and keeping produce as local as possible." For a list of local gardens available to the public, visit WasatchGardens.org.