August 3, 2010
With hands-on learning, the food grown will be distributed to local non-profit social service groups and allows transitioning opportunities for those in the criminal justice system
EUGENE, Ore. -- (August 3, 2010) â€“A two-acre abandoned lot adjacent to the U.S. Federal Courthouse is being transformed into an urban oasis of fresh vegetables, fruits and all kinds of native plant life. Presiding U.S. District Court Judge Ann Aikenâ€™s dream project of creating an urban garden that services community non-profits has come to life, thanks a special partnership with the UOâ€™s Department of Landscape Architecture and its energetic students and faculty members.
The empty lot is also being cared for by individuals from the criminal justice system; giving them the reentry skills needed to transition back into the community. The universityâ€™s Courthouse Garden program will teach students how to hone their gardening skills as well as how to develop an urban garden. Students began work during the winter season and are now in full gear with summer crops and activity, thanks to a summer class now underway.
Lorri Nelson, adjunct instructor, has big plans for the urban garden. This summer, she is teaching students the logistics of starting up an urban garden with a strong social services mission.
â€œI think itâ€™s a really enlightening program,â€ says Nelson. â€œItâ€™s more than just learning about gardening. Itâ€™s a hands-on course about the social issues of having an edible garden in the city. Besides helping to grow food for those who need it most, itâ€™s a social integration opportunity for people within the criminal justice system.â€
Probation officer, Jed Davis, agrees. â€œThe garden started a vacant lot of dirt and gravel. It has given our clients, who are transitioning back into society, important job skills, healthy food, as well as helping them learn to communicate with others. By working together, we are teaching skills and boosting self worth and self sufficiency, and in the long run, preventing crime,â€ says Davis.
Nelson said the summer course will teach students all about the logistics of gardening sustainably, whether it be teaching irrigation methods or planting new vegetable beds. Students and those from the in-transition program wonâ€™t be working side by side during class hours but there will be opportunities to work outside of class to service the garden.
And although the garden is temporary â€”the City of Eugene has leased the site to the University of Oregon for three yearsâ€”Nelson is optimistic that long-term benefits will soon ensue.
â€œItâ€™s just a really inspiring idea,â€ says Nelson. â€œThis class is a larger vision and helps to promote accessibility to sustainability, and cuts through any economic or racial divide. Everyone in the garden is on the same level, hoping to achieve the same goals. Iâ€™m hoping this project leads to more like it in the future.â€
Judge Aikenâ€™s deep involvement with the Relief Nursery (a nationally acclaimed model for preventing child abuse and preserving families) was the inspiration for this Courthouse Garden. She wanted to provide a reentry program for convicted persons and connect the gardenâ€™s produce to community service endeavors after seeing the positive results with the Relief Nursery garden.
â€œThe knowledge base of Ann Bettman and Lorrie Nelson has been essential,â€ says Jed Davis. â€œWe could not have done it without them. The passion and enthusiasm of the students has been mind blowing. The students came in to help our clients and shared ideas that went beyond gardening and how to help the community.â€
Ann Bettman, who had taught the landscape architecture Urban Farm course for over thirty years, was asked to help develop the project and soon after, Nelson agreed to teach the summer Courthouse Garden course. Bettman is an assistant adjunct professor of landscape architecture at UO and the retired director of the Urban Farm.
â€œItâ€™s all kind of happening so fast,â€ Nelson said. â€œItâ€™s incredible how much community support weâ€™ve received. EWEB installed our irrigation system, University of Oregon students have logged countless volunteer hours, Fall Creek Nursery just donated blueberry plants and so many other community members are offering their goods and services. Itâ€™s really reaching out beyond the university level.â€
The Courthouse Garden construction began on February 10, 2010. The urban garden class began June 21 and will conclude on August 13. Community residents also have the opportunity to work side by side with the students and reentry program participants on Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the garden site adjacent to the U.S. federal courthouse, 405 E. 8th Avenue. Tools are provided.
View the video made by Tzum Productions at www.youtube.com/uoregonaaa
About the University of Oregon
The University of Oregon is a world-class teaching and research institution and Oregon's flagship public university. The UO is a member of the Association of American Universities (AAU), an organization made up of the 63 leading public and private research institutions in the United States and Canada. The University of Oregon is one of only two AAU members in the Pacific Northwest.
Contact: Karen Johnson, AAA External Relations and Communications, (541) 346-3603, email@example.com
Source: Lorri Nelson, landscape architecture adjunct instructor, 541-345-5552, firstname.lastname@example.org
Jed Davis, probation officer, U.S. Federal Courthouse, 541-431-4060, John_Davis@orp.uscourts.gov
Story by Emily Wilson and Karen Johnson.
Video by Nancy Webber, Tzum Productions, email@example.com