Potomac Heights Vegetable Garden Flourishes

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GOGA members taste some of the fresh creations in the Green House

Tatyana White-Jenkins, Assistant Lifestyle Editor

In response to the creation of the Potomac Heights Vegetable Garden in 2009, a group of Mason students formed the Mason Organic Garden Association (GOGA) to further cultivate both the garden and their passions.

GOGA is an on-campus student organization dedicated to educating members of the Mason community about sustainable food and gardening practices.

“The students at the time were so excited about the start of the garden that they created their own student organization to tend to the garden,” said Danielle Wyman-Castellano, faculty advisor for GOGA.

With the help of GOGA, the Potomac Heights Vegetable Garden is flourishing, and so are students. Caroline Kittle, a sophomore environmental science major and treasurer of GOGA, joined due to a class requirement but stayed with the group because of its positive environment.

“Being around such passionate, like-minded people was what ultimately convinced me to stick around and take up a leadership position,” said Kittle. “Also, it’s just nice to be able to get outside on campus and not feel like you’re in the middle of a city.”

Senior anthropology major and current president of GOGA, Ethan Murdock, excitedly joined after hearing about the club at transfer orientation.

“I have always had an interest in plant life and jumped at the opportunity to be a part of the club when I transferred to Mason last year,” Murdock said.

One of GOGA’s missions is to educate students on the importance of sustainable food. In learning more about the topic, members of the Mason community can gain a better grasp on the issues and take action.

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Andy Gholson/ Fourth Estate

“GOGA’s efforts in educating our campus community on the importance of sustainable farming have been invaluable,” said Wyman-Castellano. “Hundreds of students, staff, and faculty have worked at the Potomac Heights Vegetable Garden with GOGA, and as a result have begun to take steps in their own lives to become more sustainable. Many have started gardens and farms, but most have begun to make more responsible food choices- choosing food that was grown in an environmentally sound manner.”

GOGA holds various events throughout the year in order to get the Mason community involved. The group has weekly garden hours Mondays and Thursdays from 3-6 p.m., holds monthly interest meetings and invites guest speakers to present on various subjects. In engaging the Mason community, GOGA hopes to better educate individuals about where their food comes from.

“A lot of students, as well as the public, are separated from the process of growing food,” said Murdock. “The garden serves as a way to educate people where their food comes from, how it grows, and to give back to the community by donating food.”

GOGA donates to the Pop-up Pantry, a student organization at Mason that helps students in need. By adding this element of service, members of GOGA can see the impact their hard work has on others.

“We donate half our produce to the campus pop-up pantry for homeless students at Mason,” said Kittle. “It’s nice to be able to provide them with fresh, rather than processed, food.”

Through community building, service and education, GOGA provides students with a positive learning experience that to benefit them in the long run.

“The work we do is a practical learning opportunity for students who join us, something they can take up and apply later in life, no matter their major,” said Kittle.

For many students, working with GOGA is a way to have fun and relieve stress.

“It’s fun. Better than that, there’s plenty to be said about the benefits of getting out and working in nature, including that it’s a stress reliever,” said Kittle. “Sometimes, you even get to take something home with you.”

Students of all majors are encouraged to check out GOGA since it addresses all sorts of issues.

“I will always encourage students to get involved with this group due to the fact that very few of us ever stop to consider where our food comes from or how it was grown,” said Wyman-Castellano. “I know that all students who become involved with GOGA will start to shift this perspective and will start asking questions about the origins of their food.”

Members of GOGA are looking for other passionate, environmentally-minded students to join their ranks.

“GOGA members will teach students or anyone else how to garden for free,” Wyman-Castellano said. “These students are some of the most warm, welcoming, passionate, and dedicated students I’ve ever met. They jump at any opportunity to share their passion for sustainable gardening with anyone who is willing to learn.”

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