04/06/2015 05:00 pm ET Updated Jun 06, 2015

Grow What Matters: A SDSU Community Reinvented

Most of us know the reputation that San Diego State has lived with for years. The term 'party school' gets thrown our way constantly. However, as students, most of us recognize our university as completely underrated. We see SDSU as an opportunity to make a change through rallies, marches, forums and debates.

Even those within our administration work tirelessly to rebuild rapport with our surrounding community, but how many of us actually hear about it?

Professionals not directly affiliated with San Diego State recognized our goal to contribute to the community. This recognition helped spark what is called the College Area Community Garden.

That's right, a garden.

Not a small garden either. This garden covers nearly three-quarters of an acre where any student or community member can grow their own fruits and vegetables.

Most of us look at the idea of a garden and picture our grandmothers moving slowly around their backyards. Many don't realize the popularity boom that urban gardening has gained in the past few years. As an increasingly environmentally aware generation, the demand for organic produce is on the rise. The benefits of growing your own food are exponential. With the establishment of this new community garden the opportunity for San Diego State students to get involved in this movement is right at the tip of their green thumbs.

I spent a Saturday morning volunteering at the College Area Community Garden in hopes of learning more about what potential this project has. As a community-based member-supported organic garden, they hold quite a strong mission.

"The relationship between San Diego State and the surrounding community hasn't always been perfect, so one of our goals is to help change that," CACG's president Henry Bertram positively stated. It's easy to tell how much heart has been put into this project over the past few years. Henry informed me that his late father was an organic gardener beginning in his twenties. He wished to continue the legacy and said, "It's important for me, personally, to show people how to grow and also eat good, quality food."

An executive team and hundreds of volunteers have dedicated hours of work into creating the best possible gardening environment for members of the community and students of San Diego State. Like Henry, many other experienced gardeners are there to help educate community members and students about how to grow your own food and tend to your garden.

Around 30 other students were volunteering with me that morning, some without a garden who were just there to lend a helping hand. SDSU student Brigid Moore noted, "Today we're just volunteering. I'm pulling weeds, we have some other members putting soil in plots." The working was non-stop that morning. Brigid also explained, "It's a humbling feeling to give back sometimes, to volunteer, and also to be active in your community."

Other student organizations have recognized this garden as an important outlet for bridging the community and the university together. Campus groups like the Enviro-Business Society (e3), Greenlove and Slo-Foods have their own plots for members to expand their gardening skills.

The accessibility of this garden makes it even easier to give back. As students, we struggle to find balance in our hectic schedules. The College Area Community Garden is conveniently located next to the SDSU Children's Center, where they hope to implement programs that involve children learning the ABC's of gardening. The potential for new programs between the garden and the University seems endless.

The simple joy of pulling weeds and planting some seeds with other students and residents of the community brought to light how effective this project is in improving the college area community. After a long day in the sun, president Henry Bertram might send you home with some nice fresh herbs and lettuce, but not without smiling and saying, "it doesn't get any better than coming right out of the garden and straight to your table."