Since the fall of 2009, Notre Dame students and faculty have been pulling weeds, digging trenches, feeding vermicompost worms, and munching on sugar snap peas as they volunteer at the Veggielution Community Farm. Veggielution, located on the grounds of the Emma Prusch Farm Park, is a 2-acre non-profit community farm dedicated to creating a more sustainable food system in San Jose. The students and staff are members of Notre Dame's environmental club, Eating in Earth's Image Organically (EIEIO), started by Ms. Kuszmar and now lead by Ms. Mo-Fish. The club gives students the opportunity to volunteer as farm workers at Veggielution and learn about the essentials of organic and sustainable local farming and food consumption while also celebrating community. Many of the students have also served as interns for the Veggielution program and as members of the Dig Crew, gaining additional skills in sustainable agriculture.
Inspired by their experience with Veggielution, Notre Dame collaborated with the Health Department of San Jose State University, and worked to receive a Western Growers Foundation School Garden Grant in 2010. Grant funds were used to establish the Notre Dame Garden Project, which was enhanced by four 4'x 8' raised-bed planter boxes donated by DeLoitte. Santa Cruz-based Green Planet Organics donated the first round of organic starter plants in August, which flourished under the care of the students.
The Notre Dame Garden Project provides students with gardening opportunities that promote leadership and advocacy for social justice, food justice, nutritional wellness, and environmental care. The group's activities are led by a team of seniors as part of their Senior Service Learning Projects (SSLPs), under Ms. Kuszmar's mentorship. The goal is to develop and sustain an on-campus, organic, edible, demonstration garden. Diverse curricular and co-curricular connections are being made through the use of the garden, from basic garden maintenance, planting and harvesting, to use of the produce in wellness activities. The garden also illustrates educational connections between environmental stewardship, biology, eco-justice, mathematics, and community service. Eventually, the harvest will be shared with underprivileged neighbors to provide access to healthy, organic food.
In collaboration with this project, senior Laura Pandori is leading a school-wide composting program which diverts students' lunch scraps from landfills. The scraps are being used in the Notre Dame vermicompost bin, built by Laura. The resulting castings will be used as nutrients for the Notre Dame garden, and ultimately sold at the Notre Dame Farmer's Markets. Excess scraps will be taken to the Veggielution worm boxes by EIEIO members for composting.
The Notre Dame Garden Project will host monthly Farmer's Markets on campus to allow the entire Notre Dame community the opportunity to buy fresh produce and celebrate our downtown community. The markets will include:
- Veggielution produce harvested and sold by Notre Dame students who are Veggielution volunteers. Proceeds from this booth will go back to Veggielution in support of their efforts.
- Smoker Honey generously donated and spun by the Smoker family. Proceeds will be used to fund the garden and various social justice issues identified by students in conjunction with the SSLP.
- Notre Dame Garden produce grown right here on campus. Proceeds will be used to fund various garden projects.
- Notre Dame Garden Project recipes specifically tailored for the produce that is in season and sold at the market.
- Shade Grown, Fair Trade, Organic Coffee from Café Tequio (Tequio means "Social Justice" in Oaxacan): Courtesy of Willow Glen Coffee Roasters. Coffee will be sold by the pound and available to taste. Proceeds from the coffee will go to the Notre Dame Immersion Trip Scholarship Fund.