In 2011, the Campus Crops 2 project used resources from the SPF to hire another full-time garden coordinator for the summer, and fund new projects such as: expanding the container garden onto the Strathcona terrace, work with Thompson House to run a container garden for their kitchen and collaborate with Residences to start gardens in Upper Rez. Additionally, the group ensured their continuation by creating a comprehensive garden plan, ensuring continuity between graduating and incoming members.
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Over the last decade, McGill campus has seen a huge increase in the number of environmental student initiatives, such as Organic Campus, Gorilla Composting and SSMU’s environmental commissions and actions. Campus Crops is a parallel organization which provides unique services and opportunities to the student body, particularly those on the downtown campus, offering experiential learning throughout the year in gardens and workshops. It is a student group dedicated to gaining the skills and knowledge to provide people with healthy food, grown in their own backyards (or University campuses). During the summer they run a volunteer-based garden and a series of workshops on urban agriculture and food politics, and in the colder months they experiment with indoor growing techniques. All students, staff, faculty and other community members are encouraged to get involved. Their goals are to: provide a working alternative to corporate food systems in order to create a community that is more self-sufficient and environmentally responsible; help people learn how to grow their own food and tend their own urban garden through a hands-on approach; raise awareness around issues like food security; and provide Midnight Kitchen, another student group on campus, with fresh produce for their meals. They accomplish this by using compost from McGill’s industrial composting machine, Big Hannah, and giving vegetables to Midnight Kitchen during the growing season. Campus Crops is part of a closed-loop food system on campus, resulting in limited waste production.
Campus Crops has been in operation since September 2007, working hard to gain access to gardening space on campus for students and community members, and providing students with spaces and opportunities to learn about gardening and urban agriculture in a hands-on way. Additionally, Campus Crops seeks to promote discussion around issues of food politics and food security on campus through social and educational events such as workshops, film screenings and potlucks. They have held workshops for RadFrosh.
The group has maintained various gardens at McGill’s Macdonald campus since 2008. These gardens are largely maintained by student volunteers with little garden experience. In the fall of 2009 they became a working group of QPIRG-McGill. From April until October they grow food outdoors in the gardens behind the McGill School of Environment and in containers on the terrace behind the James Administration building. In addition, throughout the year we host a variety of workshops and run various side projects, including indoor-growing, sprouting, mushrooms, etc. All the food we produce is divided among volunteers during the summer, and donated to Midnight Kitchen during the school year.
By providing students with space where they can garden, they gain an opportunity to explore their connections with food, land, and their urban environment and foster skills and knowledge pertaining to food security, sustainable food systems, and sustainable urban design. Bringing issues of food production on to campus in this way contributes to a culture of sustainability by highlighting the labour and resources involved in food production, and exploring how people in urban settings can create alternative food systems. We also feel that students taking collective ownership of physical spaces on campus contributes to a culture of sustainability in giving them collective responsibility for maintaining and caring for those spaces.
Campus Crops prides themselves on bettering their outreach to the community, coordinating visits and activities for day camps in the city, working with student and non-student volunteers, hosting workshops, and coordinating with Santropol's garden.
Throughout the years, Campus Crops has developed important ties to many other groups in the city, especially in with the SPF-funded garden coordinator position. These include groups include other urban agriculture projects, social justice organizations, and groups working for greater accessibility for all. Campus Crops as a group has developed a good mix of new and old members, combining fresh ideas and motivation with established knowledge and experience.
Campus Crops 1 [Summer 2010]
In 2010, Campus Crops received permission to use several new spaces on campus: The space behind the MSE building for a more typical in-ground garden, and the space behind the James Administration building for a container garden (similar to the Edible Campus garden). Resources from the SPF were used to: hire a student to maintain the garden, coordinate volunteers, and coordinate with Midnight Kitchen; materials for starting seedlings and other garden expenses; promotional materials for workshops; bike trailers and to host a harvest party.
Campus Crops 2 [Summer 2011]
Resources from the SPF were used to hire another full-time garden coordinator for the summer, and fund new projects such as: expanding the container garden onto the Strathcona terrace, work with Thompson House to run a container garden for their kitchen and collaborate with Residences to start gardens in Upper Rez. Additionally, the group ensured their continuation by creating a comprehensive garden plan, ensuring continuity between graduating and incoming members.
Campus Crops 3 [Summer 2012]
In 2012, resources from the SPF were used again to hire a summer garden coordinator, replant the gardens, build and irrigation system, and conduct workshops throughout the summer. Campus Crops continues to be a visible presence on the McGill campus and a vital part of a closed-loop food production system on campus.
Campus Crops 4 [Summer 2013]
The SPF-funded position of garden coordinator for 2013, apart from day-to-day garden maintenance, focused on designing a training manual in conjunction with a training workshop for new volunteers, as well as producing an exit report with recommendations on gardening and the general structure of the collective.
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