OUr Earth is a student organization at the University of Oklahoma. Our purpose is to educate the OU community on environmental issues of all types affecting the campus, state, nation, and world and to encourage the active participation of members in activities relating to such issues.
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  • Community Garden

    Below you’ll find the OU Community Garden that was submitted to the administration to be reviewed.

    Authored by: Christopher Applegate, Mary Hestilow, Sara Sopczynski, and Rebecca Wood
    With input from: Departments of Biology, Botany and Microbiology Department, Interdisciplinary Perspectives on the Environment, and Landscaping


    I.     Description

    The University of Oklahoma community has already mandated many measures to make the campus more sustainable and environmentally conscious, including the campus-wide Crimson and Green Campaign, President Boren’s American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment, RecycleMania, Arbor Day, incorporating organic food options with the Laughing Tomato, UOSA’s Office of Green Initiatives, and much more. With all of this in mind, a large support group, including students and faculty of the Departments of Interdisciplinary Perspectives on the Environment, Botany and Microbiology, Geography, and others, and organizations including OUrEarth, the Oklahoma Botanical Society, and Student Congress Presents Green Week, have voiced a need and desire to have a Community Garden on the OU campus. Speaking for all these supporters, we are determined and eager to bring this project to fruition.

    The purpose of the Garden is to provide an outdoor urban gardening experience, laboratory, and classroom while promoting a sustainable and healthy lifestyle among students and the university community. Students and faculty will have an area in which to garden, offering a unique opportunity for people who do not have the land but who have the desire to garden. The Garden will be maintained collectively by students and will serve the student community, but faculty and staff members wishing to be involved are also welcome to do so.  Participation in the Garden would also provide opportunities for student organization and Greek house service projects.

    The Garden will be a year-round project, and students will need to set up plans for approval in the spring on how they will maintain the Garden during the summer when the student body temporarily falls drastically.  Given the vastness of the university community and enrollment in summer courses, summer maintenance will be manageable with sufficient planning, and should not cause any major problems.

    The Garden will be a proud aesthetic addition to our campus, and thus its location should be highly visible. It will bring members from all over the OU community together and has high potential for recruiting future students and staff members into a wonderful bonding experience. With the Garden in a visible location, many will come to know about it simply in this way.  To promote it otherwise, OUrEarth will maintain a page for the Community Garden on its webpage.  Students may also invite others to participate via Facebook and other social networking devices, as well as the OU Daily.

    The Community Garden will make OU more competitive, create a learning opportunity for those with interests in gardening, nutrition, and the environment, increase student involvement, and provide an overall more environmentally friendly community. The “Green Movement” is spreading quickly, and having a Garden on our campus will put us ahead of this trend. It is important to start locally first, and the Garden is a perfect way to do this. It is also a healthy way to produce organic products in the community, which could influence students to eat healthier and ward off the “freshman 15.”

    II.      Needs Assessment

    The student voice is growing for the need of a Community Garden.  This need not only supports the students but also adds to OU’s list of achievements and programs offered.  The Community Garden presents three overarching benefits to the people of OU: sustainability, community, and scholarship.   It will do this in the following ways: benefit the University’s continued tradition of ‘community,’ reduce OU’s carbon footprint[1] , benefit OU’s academic programs, and strengthen OU’s relationship with the Norman community.

    1. Tradition of Community

    OU has been committed to the community throughout the University’s long history.  Like President Boren has said, this “is truly an extraordinary institution,” that has a “strong sense of community.”  OU students volunteer at some of the highest rates in the country.  Programs like Big Event, Arbor Day, and others promote student volunteerism.  The University of Oklahoma helps its students learn about community and inspires them to get involved. The Garden would open more doors to students, by allowing them to serve more and continue to build community.  Every student has his or her own special talents and a Garden would give students the opportunity to share these talents with the OU community.  The Garden would also create a place for students to work together as a team and build lifelong friendships, adding greatly to the rich college experience.  OU is a place where everyone can come together to share their experiences.  Students from all around the world bring together different cultures, backgrounds, and languages.  In the end, OU is a place where everyone can come together to share their experiences.

    The Community Garden is, above all, a community resource – by OU students, for OU students. It represents a way for community members of diverse interests, cultures, and academic disciplines to unite in pursuit of a common goal. Indeed, the Community Garden initiative has already proven its potential to inspire dialogue between university staff and students, students and faculty, and students and the administration.  Freshmen in particular will reap the benefits of a Community Garden, as it will represent an easy and convenient way to get involved on campus. The existing efforts of student-led entities such as Big Event, service fraternity Alpha Phi Omega, and sorority and fraternity philanthropies will be enhanced by expanded opportunities for on-campus involvement.

    As the university continues to grow, the Community Garden will preserve the community atmosphere of our campus, augmenting the small-school feel that makes our large university feel like home.  Most importantly, the Community Garden will give students a vested interest in their university’s success, and grant them a sense of pride in their own accomplishments as well as in the accomplishments of their university. The Community Garden, an example of twenty-first century sustainability in action and will publicly prove to the students of OU that their university is responsive to their interests and their priorities. The Garden would promote the very essence of what community is all about by providing such a priceless opportunity.

    1. American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment

    Since President David L. Boren signed the American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment in 2007, the University of Oklahoma has embarked on a grand venture of environmental progress, with an ultimate goal of complete sustainability.  President Boren signed the American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment (ACUPCC) in April of 2007, adding OU’s name to a list of 152 other institutions and becoming the first institution in Oklahoma to sign on to this landmark commitment.  This has put OU in a unique position to be a leader in sustainability and offer students, faculty, and staff a way to be stewards to our planet.  OU has already accomplished many milestones that have improved our university.  Such accomplishments include:

    • Signing an agreement with OG&E (Oklahoma Gas & Electric Company) to purchase 100% of electricity from renewable sources by 2013 in the OU Spirit Wind Farm project
    • Campus-wide distribution of recycling containers
    • Expansion of the Physical Plant’s recycling program to incorporate plastics #1-7 as well as batteries, pallets, and toner cartridges
    • Student incentive programs for the use of reusable bags at Xcetera and discounted drinks for those with reusable cups
    • Creation of a reusable eco-clamshell food container for use at Cate Center restaurants
    • Increased participation in RecycleMania
      Increased participation in student environmental groups, including OUr Earth
    • Creation of Student Congress’ Green Week
    • Upgrades to Energy Star rated appliances within Couch Restaurants and existing buildings
    • Introduction of a weekly Farmers’ Market at the Laughing Tomato restaurant
    • Phasing out Styrofoam cups at all campus restaurants
    • Introduction of President Boren’s Crimson and Green Commitment, in which each student who signed the commitment resulted in $2 allocated for recycling initiatives

    These improvements represent the importance that members of the OU community place on environmental-friendly policies. The University of Oklahoma Community Garden, then, is the logical next step on OU’s path to sustainability, and will serve as a concrete reminder of the University’s commitment to environmental stewardship.

    OU can continue on this path of sustainability by promoting a Garden that ensures our continued decrease in carbon emissions.  Allowing students to grow their own food locally will diminish the need for students to travel to the store for some of their grocery needs.  It will also reduce the distance traveled by many of the food that campus members purchase today.    The Garden will promote a healthier lifestyle by providing fresh foods to students who might otherwise eat something unhealthy.  Overall, the Garden offers many benefits that also support the ACUPCC agreement and help to make OU an even greater institution. OU students are inspired by this University, and through it, these students are learning about community.

    OU received a ‘C’ from the Sustainable Endowments Institute (SEI) in our yearly College Sustainability Report Card.  Providing a Garden will only improve our scores and promote our university in an environmentally friendly way.  OU strives to meet the highest standards in the country in academics, research, community, and athletics. One day we will also meet one of the highest standards in the country when it comes to sustainability.  OU is in a unique position to continue its efforts to be the best of the best, and incorporating a Garden into the University will only give it more credibility to itself and to the SEI.

    1. Academic Programs

    The Community Garden will not only benefit the OU community in general, but it will also continue our tradition of exceptional higher education.  In the Fall of 2009, the Interdisciplinary Perspectives on the Environment program in the College of Arts and Sciences offered an online course on gardening called IPE 3913: Garden, Community, and Environment. The Department of Botany and Microbiology also has a class called BOT 2503 Plant Care and Cultivation that has not been utilized because of limited access to a garden. The Garden provides a way to enrich students’ education by incorporating hands-on experience into the educational curriculum here at OU.  Yet the pedagogical benefits of a Community Garden extend beyond the natural sciences into a sea of potential interdisciplinary opportunities in Environmental Engineering, Zoology, Geography, and Nutrition. Such tie-ins would offer students a chance to expand their intellectual horizons and undertake wide-ranging studies and experiments.

    Universities all around the globe are beginning to incorporate classes into their curriculum that are focused on sustainability.  This will allow OU to be in a more suitable position than most institutions as we continue to incorporate more classes focused on sustainability.  The Garden will be offering a way for students, faculty, and staff to work together and gain hands-on experience through the classroom and through volunteerism.  The Garden will continue to support an increased consciousness towards sustainable living.

    Overall, a Garden will increase the attractiveness of OU to potential students as more and more students continue to take these types of factors into account in choosing their school.  Institutions across the world are becoming more environmentally focused and OU continues to move in that direction.  A  Garden will be another portion to our commitment in pursuing a “Crimson and Green” institution.

    1. Norman Community

    The Community Garden, while intended for student use only, could offer many benefits to the wider Norman community.  Organizations like Food and Shelter for Friends could potentially use our excess produce to serve the poor.  This type of outreach to the Norman community is particularly important because it strengthens the ties between Norman and the University.  Big Event is a wonderful way in which we give back to our community; the Garden would give back in a different way.  We would be able to provide healthier foods to those in need whom students have never met.  We could touch many lives through the Community Garden in ways we never thought were possible.  Local organizations could even use our excess produce to help serve healthy foods to those in need.  OU offers many programs that build community and enhance our relationship with the surrounding area.  A Garden is another component that OU can continue to build a strong community foundation on.

    III.     Objectives and Outcomes

    The overall mission of the Garden is to provide the OU community with an urban gardening experience, an outdoor laboratory, and a learning environment that will help spread a positive and healthy lifestyle among the students and staff.

    The Garden will help lower OU’s carbon footprint by decreasing the amount of food needing to be transported to the campus while also providing more green-space.  This will fall in line with President Boren’s Climate Commitment and be beneficial for the entire OU community.

    The Garden will also be an opportunity for more service projects on campus. It will bring members from different organizations together to help create an aesthetic and sustainable component of the campus landscape while promoting a healthy lifestyle and creating an interactive bonding experience.

    Finally, the Garden is a great interactive way for students and staff to study sustainable agriculture. When potential students and staff come visit the campus, the Garden will be an advantage that OU has above other campuses.

    IV.      Community Garden Resources

    1. Green Week

    Student Congress Presents Green Week has within its budget funds to begin the project for the Garden.  Green Week has budgeted $2500, but due to successful fundraising, up to $4000 is available.  These funds will go to the purchase of materials and seeds and construction of the Garden.  The budgeted amount is sufficient to cover such costs (see Garden budget below).  If there is any amount left of the initial $2500 in excess of the costs, Green Week will reserve this money for future costs of seeds, soil, mulch, etc.

    1. Sponsorship

    To further grow funding and involvement, Green Week has made an application to the Pepsi Refresh Project for sponsorship of community projects and events.  The gardeners will also approach local businesses with sponsorship opportunities via donations of funds, seeds, and materials.  Applications to on-campus groups such as Student Alumni Association, University of Oklahoma Student Association, etc. will be considered when such a need arises.

    1. Dues

    Should the time arise that the Garden needs to branch into its own organization, organization leaders will need to consider charging reasonable dues to gardeners to cover ongoing material and maintenance costs such as seeds, soil, water, repair of raised beds, etc.  However, at this time, gardeners will not need to pay dues in order to participate, as gaining commitment to participation is the Garden founders’ priority.

    1. Budget

    Budget items for Green Week’s establishment of the Community Garden are provided below. Costs are estimates, thus, a ten percent (10%) contingency cost has been added for conservatism.

    1. Land

    The location of the Garden is pivotal to its success, as a convenient, on-campus location makes involvement possible for the entire University community.  This will ensure the Garden’s maintenance expectations are met, will encourage greater involvement, will preclude vandalism, and will make for a marketable asset to the University.  Ideally, the Garden will be located on the main campus (understood here as the area between Boyd and Fourth, Elm and Jenkins).  After meeting with OU Landscaping, the Garden founders are most interested in locating the Garden north of First Street between the Cate and Adams Centers.  This land is close to easily accessible water, the land is flat and could be developed without difficulty, and it is near areas that students and potential members visit frequently every day.  Additionally, by being within the vicinity of student housing, many watchful eyes and ears will help to ensure the Garden and gardeners’ safety from vandalism and other misdemeanors.  It is the founders vision that wherever the Garden is located, the land be provided at no cost to Garden members.
    Source: Google Satellite Maps

    1. Water and Irrigation

    Water is a necessary resource to a successful Garden.  This Proposal requests that the Garden be located in an area with easy access to water and that the cost of water be provided at a low cost to the Garden—at a cost of less than $250 annually.  An efficient drip irrigation system on a timer may be implemented at some point in the future to have a controlled moisture source; however, since some crops require different levels of water, gardeners may still need to provide additional water to some crops.  It will be the Plot Coordinator’s duty to research crops’ needs and arrange that the crops are plated among others with similar water needs.  Should summer drought and heat prevent effective gardening, the Garden Leadership will decide at which point the cost of the Garden’s needs, particularly watering needs, exceed the benefits and will take action accordingly.

    1. Labor

    Gardening will be done by Garden members.  Depending on crops planted, the required hours of gardeners will vary.  The Garden Leadership will decide the number of hours necessary in each planting season for this reason.  Garden members will not garden for wages, but may enjoy the fruits of their labor by taking home the crops for personal consumption.  The construction of the Garden will also be completed by Garden members with oversight from the Landscaping and Architecture Departments where applicable.  As such, the only labor costs of the Garden will be members’ time and material costs already listed in the budget.

    V.        Year-Long Timeline for Establishing the Community Garden

    • April 9, 2010: Submit Community Garden Proposal to University of Oklahoma Administration and gain approval to move forward.
    • April 18, 2010: During the week of Green Week, announce the establishment of an OU Community Garden, pending University approval.
    • May & Summer 2010: Continue to handle all paperwork, including location approval, water supply approval, construction and design approval, establish Garden Leadership, bid acquisition for materials, etc.
    • August, 2010: Groundbreaking and Garden construction
    • September, 2010: Plant first crops
    • September-November, 2010: Maintain Garden, harvesting crops when ready
    • November, 2010: Final fall harvest; fallow ground for winter
    • February, 2011: Plant Spring crops
    • February-May, 2011: Maintain Garden, harvesting crops when ready
    • May, 2011: Make preparations for the Garden throughout summer.

    VI.       OU Community Garden Leadership

    The Community Garden will be managed and maintained by and for students.  As such, certain student leaders will need to take responsibility for the Garden in the following roles: Garden Coordinator, Garden Vice-Coordinator, Plot Coordinator, Seed Recorder, Seed Collector, and Garden Watcher.  These roles are described below, and will be conducted under the supervision of OUrEarth until the Community Garden can become an organization of its own.

    Garden Coordinator

    • He/she is the contact person on all related items for the Garden.
    • He/she will answer inquires from new members.
    • He/she will ensure that other chair officials maintain their duties.
    • He/she will coordinate with Landscaping when necessary.
    • He/she will manage the email list.
    • He/she will govern chair meetings.
    • He/she will coordinate fundraising when necessary and work closely with the Seed Collector.

    Garden Vice-Coordinator

    • He/she will coordinate Gardening events.
    • He/she will coordinate with related clubs and departments relating to the Garden.
    • He/she will assist the Garden Coordinator in other duties that may be needed.
    • He/she will continue the Garden Coordinator’s duties if he/she is unable to carry them out.

    Plot Coordinator

    • He/she will hold the plot design templates for members.
    • He/she will assign plots to Garden members and reassign as needed, and/or set up schedules that organize members to assist in regular upkeep of the Garden at set times.
    • He/she will oversee the plots for weeds, pests, etc. that may either impede other members’ plots or may impede the entire plot in general.
    • He/she will manage the tools to ensure they have been placed in the proper area before leaving the site at the end of a workday.
    • He/she will coordinate with suppliers for seeds and other materials as needed.
    • He/she will oversee the development of the site and equipment within the Garden.

    Seed Recorder

    • He/she will keep minutes of meetings.
    • He/she will hold informational paperwork such as:
      • Waiver of Liability
      • Garden Rules
      • Planting vegetable seasons
      • He/she will document and keep records of the members’ volunteer hours.
      • He/she will send out announcements of meeting times, work days, volunteer sign-ups, and all other events.

    Seed Collector

    • He/she will keep a balance of funds that are allocated towards the Garden.
    • He/she will be the primary contact person for UOSA funding opportunities.
    • He/she will take and manage dues if applicable.
    • He/she will find opportunities for fundraising and share the ideas with other group leaders and members.

    Garden Watcher

    • He/she will document the committee’s work and take pictures to incorporate into the website.
    • He/she will maintain the website regularly.
    • He/she will maintain other media outlets such as Facebook and Twitter as necessary.

    VI.    OU Community Garden Rules and Regulations

    1. Garden members will be required to meet a specific amount of volunteer hours to maintain status of upkeep and acquiring foods from the Garden.
    2. Garden care must be met at least twice a week during ‘off peak’ season and four times during ‘peak’ season for the Garden as a whole.
    3. The OU Community Garden is indeed about Community, and any excess food produced during the growing season not taken by Garden members will be donated to outreach programs on campus and in the Norman community.
    4. Group work days will be held once a week during ‘peak’ season, and twice a month during the ‘off peak’ season.
    5. Formal meetings will be held once a month.  All members are highly encouraged to attend every meeting to ensure up-to-date information on Garden activities.
    6. Tools and other equipment will be available in a location to be determined once exact location is obtained.  Access to tools and other equipment will be allowed by combination lock whose combination code will be recorded by the Seed Recorder When necessary, the Seed Recorder will give members access to the code.
    7. The application of synthetic herbicides, pesticides, and fertilizers to the Garden is prohibited.  All of the materials needed to grow the crops will be provided, and the materials provided will all be made of natural substances for organic production.

    When the growing season is over, the plots will be prepped for the new growing season and proper maintenance will be maintained throughout the ‘off


    [1] per the American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment that President Boren signed onto in April 2007

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