Katie Oberman ‘20

Ellie's Garden Co-chair and Grow at UC San Diego Secretary

Katie is a sociology major with a double minor in math and education studies.

How did you first get involved with Grow and Ellie's Garden? 

I have been gardening since I was a little kid, so when I first came to UC San Diego, I immediately started searching for a community garden that I could be a part of. I found that in Ellie's Garden. As I got more involved in that organization, I became aware that our co-chairs at the time were attending occasional Grow at UC San Diego meetings consisting of representatives from many other campus community gardens. Ellie's Garden members began getting news from the other gardens and we started helping each other when we could. By Spring Quarter of my freshman year, I was one of Ellie's Garden’s new future co-chairs, so I started joining my predecessors at the Grow meetings and kept coming after I officially became co-chair. Over the summer, I became more involved as the organization shifted leadership as a result of students graduating. Now, I have become the secretary of Grow and am one of its principal members. I was lucky to have my garden friends to welcome me and help me become more involved in Ellie's and Grow.

Could you discuss the campus arboretum proposal?

One of Grow’s goals is working towards making Chris Johnson's proposal for an arboretum on our campus a reality. We have made steady progress in spreading the word and gaining people's interest and enthusiasm in the project, largely because it would contribute to addressing many of campus’ existing sustainability challenges. The arboretum would consist of a food forest, which would allow us to supply more healthy fruits and vegetables to food insecure individuals on our campus and in our community. It would also contain a composting center, which would contribute enormously to the Zero Waste and Carbon Neutrality Initiatives, as well as educate and promote sustainability on campus. Furthermore, our arboretum would include opportunities for recreation, education and research while contributing resources to Landscape Services that the university would otherwise purchase. We are very excited to promote this project and hope we can work to see it become a reality.

What are some of the sustainable practices Ellie's Garden implements?

Ellie's Garden works towards sustainability whenever it can. We grow organic food that is available to anyone in the community and helps to feed our food insecure students through donations to the Triton Food Pantry. We compost an estimated seven tons of food and green waste each year, which we then use as soil to help our plants grow stronger and produce more food. We also share our extra compost with the other gardens when they need it. When we host student events, such as our free three-course homemade meals at our quarterly Harvest Days, we serve the food on reusable plates with reusable silverware, to minimize waste production. Ellie's Garden is committed to sustainable gardening that serves the whole community.

What are some things you hope to see happen with Ellie's Garden and/or Grow in the future?

In the future, I would love to see more student involvement and awareness for both Ellie's Garden and Grow at UC San Diego because ultimately, these organizations exist to serve the community and give students a chance to enjoy themselves in a great environment, as well as grow as individuals. I would like to see more collaboration with other gardens, UC San Diego departments and other campus organizations, sustainability or otherwise. I would also like more people to view Grow as a resource for students, faculty, staff and community members if ever they need assistance or advice with a project or problem. Finally, I would like to see Grow implement more projects, such as tree plantings or compost collections, in addition to more educational events.

Have you previously been or are currently involved with any other sustainability organizations projects and if so, could you talk about your role?

Besides acting as co-chair for Ellie's Garden and Secretary for Grow at UC San Diego, I also volunteer with the Food Recovery Network when I can and I attend ISC meetings to stay up to date with everything sustainability-related that’s happening on campus. I'm very passionate about the future of sustainability at UC San Diego and I hope I can help it reach its full potential.