Community Garden Offers Independence For Botany Major

OGDEN, Utah – Weber State University botany student, Monica Romney didn’t plan on getting divorced, becoming a single mother or receiving food stamps. When her well-paying job dissolved and her marriage ended, she remained committed to feeding her two young children nutritious meals and came up with the idea of creating a community garden. 

“I figured there had to be other moms out there, like me, who wanted to buy their kids carrots and fresh celery but end up buying what they can afford on a limited income, usually high-fat, high sodium, pre-packaged foods,” said Romney who witnessed the obesity epidemic first hand while working in a low-income area following her divorce.

“I saw so many moms and dads coming into the store with severely overweight children, and I thought there has to be a healthier way to feed kids and get them excited about growing the food they eat.”  

Romney presented the idea of an organic community garden at WSU and immediately received encouragement from her botany professor, Dawn Gatherum. Funding came from a Hemingway Grant, the botany department, the botany club and Housing and Residence Life to build and plant 13 raised beds behind the Veterans Upward Bound building on campus in spring of 2011.

“I got a late start and ended up planting all the 10-by-4-foot beds by myself,” Romney said. “With the help of my kids, we weeded and harvested enough produce to feed my family as well as many other families in Ogden through our donations to Community Action Partnership and the Marshall White Center.”

Romney’s dedication to the community garden led to a summer teaching assignment at the Marshall White Center where she taught low-income children the joy of gardening.

“I want kids to learn how to mess around in the dirt and get exposed to growing their own food,” Romney said. “Maybe when they grow up, they will look back on my class and take up gardening and have a much healthier future.”

In the spring of 2012, 17 WSU students paid a $20 fee, used to purchase plants and seeds, and participated in the community garden by planting, weeding and harvesting the vegetables for their own families.

“Together we decided what vegetables to plant and what we would use in our own kitchens,” Romney said. “We planted beans, zucchini, tomatoes, eggplant, cucumbers, peppers and basil.”

The participants enjoyed the harvest throughout the summer and fall and many plan to return to the community garden next spring where Romney will once again be found, spade in hand. 

Graduating in December 2013, Romney plans to use her degree to share her knowledge of plants and gardening with children, helping them make wiser food choices in the future. 

Romney says the harvest from the garden has supplemented her family, along with the food stamps she receives. She says there are other welfare recipients, like her, who don’t see welfare as a way of life, but as temporary assistance when times are lean.

“If moms had the opportunity and the knowledge, they would feed their kids better and work toward getting off food stamps,” Romney said. “Community gardens can be a first step toward independence.”

Visit weber.edu/wsutoday for more news about Weber State University.
Contact:
Monica Romney, WSU botany major
801-699-2266 • monica.romney@yahoo.com

Dawn Gatherum, professor of botany
801-626-6175 • dgatherum@weber.edu
Author:
Kimberly Jensen, University Communications
801-626-7581 • kimberlyjensen6@weber.edu