Harris Roussos, co-president of the SAMOHI Garden Club, answers my questionnaire.
1. Staffing: What is your role in the garden? Do you make decisions about the garden alone or collaboratively? If collaboratively, who is involved? Who works in the garden on a regular basis? (include students, teachers, grounds workers, administrators, garden master, etc.) Names are very helpful, if you know them. Do volunteers work in the garden regularly? Who supervises the garden work? How are people recruited (students)? How is the garden promoted and by whom?
I am the co-president of the Gardening Club, working alongside fellow senior Noah Dubin. Every week we garden together in a group of about 14 students. Our most committed members include Zane Four, Rahim Hashim, Billy Parent, Shane Landi, Michael Hodges, Miles Feinberg, Evan Bigelow, Andrew Locke, Sky Crane, Adael Baksenbaum, and Cameron Lampert who show up every week without fail. We plant, weed, harvest, and eat all together. As far as recruiting goes, the club is mostly close friends so we don’t really recruit, but new people show up every week. We make all decisions about the garden as a group. We have recently decided to paint a mural on one of the walls surrounding the garden to spruce the place up a bit. Jenna Gasparino and Debbie Harding are the administrators behind the magic. They not only help with security issues, but work in the garden too.
2. Finances: What group or groups support the garden? Is there a grant? How long does it last? If you don’t know this information, who would know? Are you reimbursed for purchases? Have you spent your own money on the garden? For what?
My mother has funded most of our gardening expenses so far, but we recently received a sponsorship from Richard (Dick) Lahey, Owner of Merrihew’s Sunset Gardens – the plant nursery at which I work. He will provide us with pots, soil, fertilizer, and seeds. There was a grant in 1997 which funded a greenhouse and some raised beds, but I do not know if this is still in effect.
3. Sponsorship: Is there an individual or group that helped build/found the garden? Do they continue to be involved? How so? See question 2.
4. History: How long has the garden been in place? Has it always been in the same location? What changes have taken place over time (to the physical space)? Any changes in leadership or administration that you know of? What is the future of the garden, such as decreasing the size, enlargement, staffing, or removal?
Since its establishment in June of 1997, the Garden has not been steadily maintained. There have been peaks and troughs in the garden’s upkeep, but nothing very lasting. The last successful Gardening Club was held in 2007 led by Austin Draper who has since graduated. I have spoke to a few younger students who would like to take over the garden next year, but nothing is set in stone yet. I have heard Debbie talking about the garden’s relocation in the next few years because of construction at Samo, but I don’t know any details. I hope it stays.
5. Values: Why is the garden important to you? How important do you think the garden is to others at the school? What are the benefits to you personally? What do you see as the most important work of the garden club?
In the garden, time seems to slow down. It is a place of peace and quiet. Harnessing the earth’s power and using it to create something is a great feeling. There are few things more satisfying than eating vegetables you grew yourself. Who knew one could benefit from playing in the dirt? Also, the colors that occur naturally in the garden are amazing; all the different shades of green, purple, red, and orange really add an aesthetic element to the garden. I would say the most important work of the gardening club is spreading the joy of gardening and bringing people together. The results are great, but those are ephemeral. It is the connection to other people, to nature, and to yourself that really has a lasting effect.
Many thanks to Harris for taking the time to answer these questions. During my sabbatical from teaching English at Santa Monica College, I am visiting gardens and farms:. My field trips so far include some school gardens, community gardens, and botanical gardens. My interests change according the type of garden/farm I’m visiting. I like to see what plants are grown, especially California natives and organic vegetables. I’m also interested in how the garden is managed, and what educational programs have been developed. It probably goes without saying that walking in a garden, slowing down enough to observe closely, is far better than looking at pictures. Pictures are nice, but garden pictures cannot equal the experience. I’ll be writing more about experiencing gardens.