A Brief History of Community Gardening on the UCI Campus
By Char and Tim Bradley
The original community garden, located at the corner of Campus Drive and University Drive, was started as part of a horticultural class taught by Professor Joe Arditti, from the School of Biological Sciences. When the class was not being taught, other interested people on campus worked the plots. Eventually, the horticulture class was not offered and the garden became a community garden.
In 1999 the campus decided to expand Mesa Court freshman housing, which meant our garden would become a parking lot. Luckily, Jim Craig, the Director of Student Housing, allowed us to relocate to a space near Arroyo Vista Housing. There we established 100 garden plots, each 12′ by 16′ in size. At this time the University required us to be a registered campus club. So we organized as Arroyo Vista Community Garden.
Unexpected funding became available to the University to build additional undergraduate housing. This resulted in our garden being relocated again in 2008. The University was very accommodating in building the garden at the current site next to Palo Verde Graduate Housing. This site has 99 plots, each one measuring 12′ by 16′. As part of this move, which required modifying our Constitution and Bylaws, the club officers and members-at-large decided to guarantee a minimum of 10 plots to current UCI students. We retained our initials (AVCG) but changed the name to Anteater Village Community Garden.
Due to the visibility of our garden at this site along Anteater Drive, we immediately acquired a waiting list for plots. For the last several years the waiting list has remained at about 100 people and unfortunately it takes about three years to reach the top of the list. Students sometimes move up the waitlist more quickly due to the guarantee of a minimum of 10 plots to current UCI students.
The Anthill Village Community Garden is the only true community garden at UCI. We have nearly 190 members, 40% of whom are alums, retirees and other residents from the surrounding community, 60% of whom are affiliated with UCI as current students, faculty, staff, alumni or retirees.
The University has designated land that can be used by the AVCG Club. Our use of this land is at the discretion of the University. A community garden on the campus is not guaranteed. However, we know the University is supportive of our efforts and seeks to encourage sustainability activities. Our current location is on an earthquake fault (east – west) and has a very large water main going under the garden (north – south) that serves graduate housing and University Hills. So we are hopeful that this location will be continuously available to the club for many years to come.
The University requires that our plots be continuously worked so that the garden remains attractive. Our club has chosen to establish crews that work to keep the club functioning well. All members are expected to volunteer a minimum of 12 hours per year. This plan has been working well for several years. The University requires that two of the three officers be current UCI faculty, staff or students. This is probably the most challenging requirement. Although alums and retirees are a vital part of the club, less than one-third of our members are current UCI faculty, staff or students.
Community gardens are increasingly important as housing becomes more and more dense, often without sufficient land to grow anything. Additionally, community gardens help people to grow more of what they eat, provide a sustainable environment, and encourage collaboration amongst people who enjoy growing plants. Our Events Crew organizes several activities each year that are open to our club members and their families. Lastly, we want to mention that many members of the local UCI community, including visiting family and young children, frequently and regularly walk through the garden just to enjoy looking at what gardeners are growing.
Char and Tim Bradley joined the community garden about 25 years ago and took part in the club organization as it was at that time. Due to their roles at UCI (Char was University Registrar and Tim was a professor and Chair of the Academic Senate in 2007-08), they were positioned to help represent the goals of the garden during this critical period of transition. They both have been officers and members of the club’s steering committee for many years. Thank you Char and Tim!
–Marie Connors, Feb. 11, 2017