By Carolina Fojo, East Coast Fellow, Bon Appétit Management Company Foundation
I’m a 5'2", relatively small Latina. Though she’d be loath to admit it, Davina Kwong, the Bon Appétit general manager at Gallaudet University, is even shorter than I am. So recently when we, along with a small group of Gallaudet students, decided to build 14 large raised garden beds, using 952 cinderblocks that each weighed upwards of 25 pounds, and then filling those beds with soil (and I mean lots, and lots, and lots of soil), it quickly became clear that would be in need of some serious reinforcement.
So, naturally, Davina got the Gallaudet football team involved.
And let me tell you, if heavy lifting is what you need, then having an entire football team at your disposal is pretty darn handy!
While I tottered under the weight of one cinderblock as we built the garden beds, the towering football players waltzed past me with one cinderblock under each arm, not even breaking a sweat. When we needed to haul dirt, I grabbed five of the biggest guys I could find, hopped in the pickup truck and seven minutes, five shovels, and some muddy shoes later, they had the back of the truck bending under the weight of the soil.
Not too shabby!
In total, it took three long, intense work days to go from 58 square feet of empty space to 14 raised beds, and a garden that’s ready to be planted. But the dream behind this project has been much longer in the making. Over a year and a half ago, Davina went online and purchased seeds for what she hoped would one day become Gallaudet’s very first garden. Her dream was to bring the freshest food possible to the campus, as well as to create an educational tool about the importance of healthy eating and where our food comes from, not only for the university students, but for students at the on-campus elementary and high schools as well.
Since then, the list of similar dreamers has steadily been growing—Davina has been joined by students in the environmental club who care about the quality of our food, and professors in the business department who see the garden as a potential tool for students to learn how to create a solid business model.
As with most community projects, the garden’s evolution thus far has been very "organic" (pun intended). The latest development has been the creation of two summer internship positions for students to maintain the garden while learning about food and successful business models. And after that…who knows!
All I can say is that all the students on Gallaudet’s campus can look forward to some very local, very delicious vegetables in the Bon Appétit café this coming fall!
A huge thank you to the Gallaudet football team, without whose help we would probably still be hauling cinderblocks. (Gallaudet has posted more photos from the workday here.)