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For more information, please contact us at:

Environmental Studies Program
Jeannette Rankin Hall 106A
The University of Montana
Missoula, MT 59812-4320
Tel: (406) 243-6273
Fax: (406) 243-6090

The ASUM Garden

Staci Short, Garden Manager, 406.590.7478

asum garden

The ASUM Student/Community Garden (Garden) is located behind the Lewis and Clark Villages student housing on South Higgins Avenue, one block before Pattee Canyon Road. To reach it, turn into the last (farthest south) entrance into the Village, and go behind the apartments to the dirt road leading to the greenhouses. The Garden is surrounded by an eight-foot high deer fence, which should remain closed at all times to prevent deer and other undesirable animals from damaging the gardens. Students and University of Montana faculty, staff, and alumni receive preference for these garden plots.

The Garden is comprised of seventy-two 15' x 15' plots, seventy of which are cultivated. The uncultivated plots include a compost pile and two plots which serve as a commons complete with a picnic table and sandbox. Of the seventy cultivated plots, three are the responsibility of the Garden manager - two Food Aid plots, and a third is a berry patch with well established raspberries, strawberries intended, chives going bonkers, and a future as a berry patch/perennial herbs plot.

Gardener Demographics - A 2007 sign-up survey (71.4% response rate) indicated the following demographic information about our gardeners:

More than 50% of gardeners live within one mile of the garden, over half bike or walk to the garden, and more than half were new or relatively inexperienced student gardeners. Total University of Montana affiliation (students, faculty/staff, or alumni) is 86.9%, and currently 60.9% of our gardeners are students. Our gardeners indicated their top five reasons for participating in community gardening were (1) growing nutritious/healthy food, (2) participating in the local production of their food, (3) saving money on food, (4) gaining gardening experience/knowledge, and (5) connection to nature.

Becoming One of the Gardeners - Plots are distributed on a first come, first served basis on Opening Day, which is the first Saturday of April. Preference is given to returning gardeners, who automatically reserve their plot at the end of the season if they desire. Rental fees are $25/$30 (students/community members) per plot per season as well as a $15 deposit for first-year gardeners.

Available Resources and Tools - On Opening Day, we often do not have water turned on yet, as Facility Services tends to be cautious about weather and the possibility of water pipes freezing and bursting. If you decide to begin planting prior to the water being turned on, plan on hauling your own water from another source!

We have relinquished the old, dangerous rototiller back to Garden City Harvest (GHC). We will not be encouraging gardeners to use rototillers any longer, as they damage soil structure, have high potential for damaging inexperienced gardeners, and are not really necessary for 225 square-foot garden plots.

The tool shed/resource library and its contents are in fine condition, and although the small greenhouse has a tendency to cook plants when not carefully monitored it is as well. The compost pile is in the midst of a desperately needed make-over which will be completed by the end of the 2007 season.

ASUM Student Garden Club (Club)

Staci Short, Garden Coordinator
ASUM Group Box 55 - UC 2nd Floor
Faculty Advisor: Phil Condon 243-2904

Currently, we are issuing an active call to action to students from the general UM community interested in gaining horticultural experience, growing local food, participating in an organic gardening community, or interested in the Club in any other way. If students are interested in becoming involved with the club, they should contact the Garden Manager at!

Technically speaking, the ASUM Student/Community Garden (Garden) is recognized by UM as the ASUM Student Garden Club (Club). The Club is the official entity receiving financial support from ASUM, neighborly assistance from Garden City Harvest (GCH), and next to no assurances from the University. This club currently has great potential to become actively involved with future sustainability issues and plans for the UM campus.

In order to be recognized and supported by ASUM, each fall the ASUM student group recognition petition is circulated by the current garden coordinator, and 2/3 of membership must be full-time students of the University. The potential for this club to become a vibrant active member of the University community will be realized when the Club becomes a partner with the Garden, rather than simply existing within the Garden's identity.

The current business of the club is administered by the Garden manager who must be a full-time student for the entire growing season, and all business activity is monitored by the ASUM Office Manager Carol Hayes. The process of obtaining funds from ASUM involves submitting a projected budget request form to the ASUM Senate in March of each year. The Senate then reviews these budgets, provides a recommendation to the Club, which is then invited to come to a Senate meeting and state its case – essentially, ask for money, then come back and ask again, since they seldom initially allocate the full request.

ASUM funds are allocated towards expenditures such as printing flyers, sign-up surveys and contracts, gardener notices, envelopes and postage for mailing and return mailing of surveys, contracts to gardeners who did not appear on Opening Day, and the printing of the resource notebook master copy, providing photocopies of reference materials for gardeners, and maintaining tools. Additionally, the Garden manager receives a modest hourly wage.

Furthermore, ASUM special request funds may be utilized for a remodeling of the Garden's composting facility, erection of an interpretive sign and other potential projects. Ultimately, ASUM is a source of official recognition for the Club, the only entity that technically exists in association with the Garden, as well as the only source of finances outside the yearly plot rental fees. Without ASUM, this garden would not exist as we currently know it.

Environmental Studies Program (EVST)

For the greater part of its existence the Garden was administered solely by student volunteers from EVST. It began as the ASUM Garden Committee in 1980, founded by EVST student Michael Copeland and other students living in University housing at Bannack Court. In 1982 a garden with one-hundred, 20' x 20' plots was thriving in the area that is now the Dornblaser Field parking lot. Today, tucked between Mount Sentinel and UM student housing, a garden containing seventy-two 15' x 15' plots is a brilliant symbol of cultivating place-based relationships and local food. In the beginning and today, the educational potential has been under-emphasized, and the Garden's security has been compromised as a result.

As Copeland has passionately stated, "A lot of students have had the opportunity to grow their own food in [the past twenty-five] years. UM owes ASUM something – an obligation, a responsibility to put the needs of the student for a place to grow food at the forefront of their planning for the area!" He is certainly not alone in his thinking, but few people are speaking like this loud enough in public. This twenty-five year old garden may again be threatened by development on South Campus, and it may well be up to the students of EVST and other University departments to ensure it is planned into the current development.

Recently, the role of the EVST's Sustainable Food & Farming emphasis in the identity of the ASUM Student/Community Garden (Garden) has been slight. The currently listed advisor for the ASUM Student Garden Club (Club), the technical Garden entity, is an environmental writing professor, and the relationship between the Sustainable Food & Farming emphasis professors and the Garden appears to have been largely casual and occasional.

EVST professor Neva Hassanein has generously offered financial support for the development of an interpretive sign to be erected at the Garden. This will be one of the first in a series of partnerships between the Garden and the University as we seek to create a stronger, more obvious relationship between the Garden and University students. It is our hope that student volunteers, educational classes, and future on-site student research projects will strengthen the base of student support upon which this garden was built. Ultimately, it is the voices of these students which may have the greatest impact on the future of this garden.

Garden City Harvest

Tim Hall, Community Garden Director
Cell: 550-3663 (GCH phone) OR

The relationship between Garden City Harvest (GCH) and the ASUM Student/Community Garden (Garden) is informal; it is that of a neighbor lending a cup of sugar. The Garden is not officially affiliated with GCH. However, GCH facilitates the hiring of the Garden Manager each year, as well as providing lots of assistance. GCH donates two or more dump truck loads of manure each spring, maintains tools used by the Garden's gardeners, serves as a clearing house for all the community gardens, and is therefore a logical recognizable liaison between the community and the Garden.

Although the many of the specifics in this Garden's history seem to be somewhat fuzzy, it is clear that GCH stepped into the picture in 1997. At the time the Garden's volunteer-based operating system seemed to be eroding, and it was beginning to appear as though the Garden would implode. In a valiant effort to stave off impending collapse, GCH offered a significant amount of labor, resources, volunteers, and guidance to the Garden, and continues to do so to this day.

At this point, GCH serves as an excellent intermediary between the community and the Garden. However, looking ahead to the development of South Campus, it is difficult to speak to GCH's ability to preserve the Garden. The security of the Garden, the investments made by ASUM, GCH, and individual gardeners, and the invaluable opportunity to grow relationships and nutritious local food in this Garden are by no means certain.

South Campus Development Master Plan

Understandably, as uncertainty and pending change face the ASUM Student/Community Garden (Garden); many of the gardeners have expressed curiosity and concern about its future. Admittedly, the South Campus Master Plan (SCMP) website provides very limited information, which includes a meeting schedule (all meetings are open to the public), an overview of the process, a brief Power Point presentation on the history of land acquisitions which resulted in the SCMP, and a list of SCMP Development Committee members.

Currently, the SCMP Committee's proposed plan includes the Garden as it presently exists. At this time, this proposal is before the Board of Regents for consideration and approval.

Recommendations, based on a Spring 2007 meeting with SCMP Committee Chair Ms. Rosi Keller, would be that all persons interested in the continued existence of the Garden attend committee meetings (which are all open to the public) as indicated in the meeting schedule on their web page. This is a perfect time for advocates of the Garden to step forward and ensure that the Garden is included in the master plan under the aegis of green space, sustainability, experiential learning, and community building.

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