CSI’s Garden Club is Ready to Get Dirty This Semester

Keair Brown, CSI’s Garden Club president, and the rest of the club are ready to bring big changes to CSI this semester, while educating others along the way.

By A. Lopez

Pictured from left to right, Keair Brown, Hector Colon, and Claudia Guzman are working on bringing fresh herbs to students at CSI, such as chives and basil. The plants are being grown in the CSI’s greenhouse.

During the pandemic, Keair Brown, mother of two, was already someone who loved to cook and entertain others.

During our time indoors, Brown and her children experimented with learning how to make many store-bought items from scratch, such as bread, pizza dough and cake. She shared her love of cooking with others, and her friends encouraged her to share her cooking on social media, which eventually led Brown to starting her own catering business: Two Faced Cookery. 

After the campus opened up their doors again, Brown did work study in the school’s library, while going to school part time as a finance major.

While her business had a few catering jobs under its belt and Brown experienced the overshadowing feeling of not knowing what she wants to do after college, she began to ask the bigger questions: how much produce is being wasted? And how can we cook and enjoy food cheaply and healthier, from the comfort of our own home?

”How am I gonna talk about food and teach about food,” said Brown. “If I don’t know how to compost or grow it from scratch?”

Working with CSI’s Office of Sustainability on campus, Brown was elected the Garden Club’s President. As President, Brown says she is only as strong as her fellow members, such as the club’s VP Elina Milimoh, treasurer Claudia Guzman, faculty advisor Nora Santiago, and club member Hector Colon.

Colon was someone interested in learning the art of gardening as well, after purchasing a small plant themselves. They had no experience with gardening prior to becoming an avid club member.

“I’ve learned a lot. There’s so much that goes into taking care of a plant like the type of soil and how much water to give it,” said Colon. “They don’t teach you this when you just buy  a plant from the store.”

Together Brown and the rest of the garden club are experimenting and learning the ins and outs of gardening, and whatever they learn, they’re ready and willing to teach to the students and staff here at CSI.

On February 23, the club held a learning lab in the school’s greenhouse: How to Grow Plants From Bulbs. Students and staff learned how to plant, water, and grow tulip bulbs in a hands-on experience.

The Gardening Club and Office of Sustainability are hosting another learning lab this month: How to Grow Plants From Cuttings. The lab will be held on March 23 from 2:30-4 PM in CSI’s Green House, located in building 6S room 336.

The Gardening Club has a lot planned for this semester.

On March 20, the Club is planning on having a plant sale here on campus, where they will be selling the tulips that students helped grow at the previous learning lab. They will also sell peace lilies, succulents, snake plants, and fresh herbs that they currently have growing in the greenhouse.

Students can look forward to buying fresh produce like lemon, chive, basil, parsley, dill, sage, thyme, and rosemary. They also have hopes of growing more seasonal plants for sale, such as holly bushes in the winter or sunflowers in the summer.

The biggest plan Brown and the others have for this semester is having a full garden here on campus, outside of 1C. Much work is being done towards this project, particularly management around their biggest issue: the wild deer and groundhogs on campus, who they have dubbed Bambi and Chuck.

Brown is currently working on growing and planting natural deterrents around the garden, such as dandelions, deer ear, and foxgloves to try and deal with the campus’ wildlife.

Students can help contribute to this garden through composting. On Mondays at 12 PM-1 PM, Brown works outside of 1C, accepting food scraps from any staff or student.

The Office of Sustainability partnered with CSI’s dining services, who have agreed to organize and donate their food scraps to the project. Just last month, dining services donated over 450 pounds of scrap towards the project.

However, the process has slowed due to the cold weather and snow the past month.

Students can learn about upcoming events or more ways to get involved by contacting the Office of Sustainability over the phone during their remote office hours of 8 AM-4 PM, Monday through Friday.

Brown and the rest of the club members are determined to have the garden ready in time for the spring, as well as host more events throughout the semester and those to come after.

Brown is always welcoming new members, and ready and willing to share all the knowledge she knows. She makes sure that the garden club is always ready to teach, and that the students and staff at CSI are ready to learn.

“Next semester, I will be here,” said Brown. “Whether as an elected officer or a student, I will be here to keep it all rolling.”

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