Let's Talk UNLV

Did you know you can have your own garden here on campus? Tune in to learn more about UNLV's Community Garden, and how students like Tara Pike-Nordstrom and Andie Davis are serving the community of Las Vegas.

Andie Davis has a passion for plants that can be traced back to early high school. Now, her passion has carried into college, inspiring the sophomore to join the UNLV Community Garden as an intern in 2019 and work her way up to the community garden coordinator just a year later.

She knew the garden was a wonderful opportunity to bring campus closer together, so she set off on a mission to make this happen when in-person classes resumed in 2021.

“With relaunching the community garden, my goal was to bring the word ‘community’ back into the name.” 
The UNLV Campus Community Garden is made up of 41 garden beds open to anyone in groups of four on campus, from registered student organizations to faculty, for the school year. The garden welcomes everyone — even those who lack a “green thumb” — as each group is provided with the information needed to make their gardens grow. The members are then welcome to take their food home and enjoy their hard work once the plants are grown.

Description: The facilities management department consists of multiple sections that are devoted to protecting and preserving state supported facilities, equipment and assets. These consist of some 69 buildings covering nearly 3.9 million square feet and 360 acres over the Maryland (332), Paradise (10) and Shadow Lane (18) campuses. Sections include work management, facilities maintenance, landscape and grounds, energy management, custodial services, Rebel Recycling and finance and business operations.

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Rebels, tune in to 'Let's Talk UNLV' with Dr. Tanya Crabb and Dr. Sammie Scales. Your express pass to everything UNLV — campus highlights, programs, and the latest buzz. Join us weekly as we chat with student leaders, administrators, and faculty, diving into the core of what makes us Rebels.

The program brings guests from different areas of UNLV every week to discuss campus highlights, programs and services, research interests that are essential to being a Rebel. Let’s Talk UNLV places its emphasis on connecting with student leaders who represent the voice of students on our campus. Guests also include administrators, faculty and staff responsible for upholding the mission of the university, which is teaching, research and scholarship.

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You're listening to locally produced programming created in KUNV Studios on public radio. KUNV 91.5

All right, welcome to another segment of Let's Talk UNRV on KUNV. You with co-host Keith and Tonya. Tonya, how was your weekend? You know, my weekend was pretty good. Pretty good. I spent it with friends. I hung out. We had some people over for dinner, which was nice. And by dinner, I mean pizza. And I remember the place that I went to this time. It was like Bonano's.

And they love-

And what do they know? What type of pizza are they known for? Oh, New York style pizza, which is the only pizza that matters. I just need to put that out there. I'm so sorry, Chicago deep dish folks. Chicago deep dish is basically lasagna called pizza. I just need y'all to know that. What did you do for your weekend? Super Bowl. Oh yeah. Yeah, so I got to, you know, some family came over and we ate lots of unhealthy food and drinks and just enjoyed the game. It was a great game up until that questionable call at the end that robbed us of this thrilling end to the game. Either way, but you know, both were my backup team, so I was not committed to either team winning. I just wanted to see a great game, which we got a great game for like up until the last like minute and 45 seconds-ish. the performance or like her serious chill vibe like I could do this all day with my belly well I tell you watching her up on that center stage that was floating that was that was impressive mm-hmm that was impressive yeah I was I was impressed that her waist could move so well with the baby bump I was like I can't do that without a baby bump like how are you just like rotating yeah that's the thing that's so impressive with the performance like the synchronization oh yeah of all the moves and the dancers across all the different levels of the platforms and beautiful yeah and she was seeing and then she would just get right into the rhythm with them and then she was just phased out and seeing and I mean it was yeah it was it was very and they say more people

tuned in during halftime for her performance than during the game.

That would explain why my cable went out and I missed the first 10 minutes. They overwhelmed my network. Yeah, I had to go back and watch it on YouTube. Yeah, she did her thing. She did. Yeah. I wish her all the best with the new baby. I know she don't know me personally, but I'm rooting for you, Riri. Well, it seemed like that became most of the conversation, right? People were like, oh, I didn't know she was expecting again. And is she expecting? No, she's certainly...

That was her reveal?

Yeah, and I saw her in an interview just before that, and I was suspicious because her coat looked kind of big. But it is winter, so I was not that suspicious. But yeah, she... Like, that was like, ta-da! Shock and awe. Good job. Keep minding your business till they need to know. There you go. Well, any who. Well, I'm excited. We have our guest today. We have Andy Davis with Facilities Management. Andy, welcome to the show. Hi. Thank you for having me. And we're going to be talking about the university community garden. So, Andy, could you. We always ask our guests. The first question is just sort of your origin story in terms of, you know, how you got into this work and into the position that you are in presently at UNIV.

You got to be careful because there's a long story behind it.

I like stories. Let's go. Nancy, if you were in a suit, I'd usually see Tanya lighting up right now.

So I started as a student in 2018 and

originally, I was in the biology program, a biology major, and I didn't have many hard classes at the time. So I immersed myself in a bunch of different student-led organizations on campus. And one of the first organizations that I joined as a student was Rebel Roots Garden Club and participated in that for about a year. And then the previous president of Garden Club was graduating. No one was stepping up. So I took it upon myself to assume the role as president of Garden Club, just because I really didn't want to see a club that had brought me such joy and stress relief in my first year of college, you know, just vanish. And I was doing president of Garden Club for about a year. And then, you know, life as we know it changed drastically and COVID happened. So the garden kind of took a hiatus for two years while, you know, pandemic was going on, campus was closed. And the previous garden manager, her name was Sabina Malik, she actually graduated with her PhD, and she was the previous, you know, garden coordinator. So there was a vacancy in the position as well as a vacancy in the garden as a whole. And I was, I've been told that I'm an extra. And so I was already doing way more work than I should have. You know, it started out with, I wanted to make like a newsletter for the garden and, you know, get people talking because in my first year participating at the community garden, I found that there wasn't a lot of collaboration or camaraderie. I didn't mind gardening by myself, but I wanted to see something be made of the space there and really have a community blend together. So in 2022, when campus returned back on campus, or sorry, when people returned back on campus, I got offered the job for the garden coordinator position, since I was already kind of doing it. But now it's great because I get paid for it under facilities management. So it all worked out well. And, you know, I'm on my second year now of managing the garden. And it's been lovely.

Wow, that sounds wonderful. So what I hear you saying is that you were an unofficial member of the DTM club, doing the most, doing too much. And that was what sort of drew me. I'm curious though, why plants? Like, what started your love? Was it the garden club that inspired you? Did you already have some sort of a green thumb situation happening for you before. What is it about gardening that

really drew you to it? You know, I grew up experiencing the outdoors a lot and so I always, you know, had a love for the outdoors and being outside in nature and I'm sure my mom would love me saying this story, but the reason I got into plants actually was because one Christmas, I think I was 16, my mom bought me a flower press, which is a little device, which is two pieces of wood with holes drilled on each of the corners. And if you tighten up the planks really tight, you can preserve flowers in them and it presses out all the water. So I had just started collecting flowers and cutting flowers, pressing them, preserving them, hanging them on my walls. And so I got into plants that way and that slowly morphed into houseplants. I was quite the houseplant freak. I had like 30 at one time. And then I graduated high school and then came to UNLV, which I've made the most of going to UNLV, but it was not my first choice because I wanted to study plant science and I wanted to be a botanist and there's not really a program for that here. When I joined UNLV, the UNLV family, I was like, well, what are the outdoorsy nature plant groups that I can join? And I joined all of them, Garden Club being one of them. There was a hiking and camping club, Student Sustainability Council. And that's kind of how I got into gardening. But I didn't even start gardening until I started at the community garden.

And, you know, I was stuck when you said that when I started as a biology major, the classes weren't difficult or challenging.

And so then you join all these groups.

To pass the time

That's impressive. You're not an unchartered member. You like you are on the board of the DTM committee Like, you know Yeah, you know 30 plants, you know, my mind went to poison ivy But I'm sure that you're not using plants for harming people. But one of my now one of my questions about that, you know those those That takes a lot of effort and energy. And I noticed, you know, one of the things that you mentioned is to be part of this garden group, you don't have to necessarily have a green thumb to do it, which really appeals to me,

because I think I've put cactus-

I've harmed quite a few plants. Oh my gosh, I put cactus in danger.

I guess so.

So I love this-

You know what, me too, it's okay. We all have our strengths in specific plants. Some, honestly, like no matter how many times I try growing them or cultivating them, they're just not, they're not it for me and that's okay. So share a little bit more about this

community garden. Is it, you said that groups of four can participate? Tell me how that works.

So there are many different ways to participate at the garden. There are 41 raised garden plots and they can be reserved by, you know, students, staff, faculty, departments, you know, as long as there are four members, you're from UNLV, you can have a plot. At this point in time, we are not charging folks to rent them. We have been requiring service hours in lieu of charging for beds. But, you know, you could even just be a group of four friends and start a garden plot. We actually have a few groups at the garden that, you know, are just a group of friends and they come up with their own really cool names since, you know, they're not a part of an organization or a department. But that is one way to be involved at the garden. The other way is through the student organization Rebel Roots Garden Club. Garden Club has five of those 41 garden beds. So if you don't have three other people to sign up with to rent your own plot, you can join Garden Club. And I pride myself on the fact that you don't have to have any experience at all to join. You don't need to have any resources. We have seeds, gloves, tools, all available for use at the community garden. Um, we also offer a multitude of different events that are, you know, open to the public, um, volunteer days, workshops. Um, so even if someone did not want to rent a rented garden plot and plant themselves, but they still wanted to be active at the community garden, um, they could do so. Um, so it's as crazy as you want to get with the garden.

So if you could share with our listeners, where is the community garden located? It's kind of hard to describe, just because, you know, UNLV, all UNLV buildings have one singular

address. But we're located kind of in the annex on campus. If you look it up on Google Maps, it'll pop up that we are the Boys and Girls Club, which is not true. But we're right by the Stan Fulton International Gaming Institute building, and we're right next to the Rebel Recycling Center. So, you know, if you're driving down Flamingo right before you hit Claremont, we're on that little corner there, you know, by the preschool, the Boys and Girls Club. So whenever I tell people where it is, I have to use lots of landmarks. Because it's kind of hard to stay where we are otherwise.

Now I know you mentioned that there are 41 garden beds available. Could you talk about, from your experience, what's been some of the most interesting plants or projects that have been there in your tenure?

The first thing that came to mind actually, have you or Tanya ever heard of this vegetable called kohlrabi? No, no, I can't say that I have. Where does it originate?

Oh, good question.

Not in grocery stores, I will say that, because I had never seen it in a grocery store before. had tried growing it at the community garden. And it looks almost like an alien vegetable, but it's in the brassica family, so it's in the same family as like broccoli, cabbage, and it oddly tastes like a mix between a parsnip and a cabbage. But I think that that is what popped into my head at the first time, because there's so much food that, you know, we just don't know exist because it's not found in grocery stores or not part of our culture to grow. And I would have never discovered that vegetable had I not, had we not had the seeds available at the garden to plant that. Just because there's such a wide array of food that we're just not exposed to on a day-to-day basis. And that's something I'm very grateful for at the community garden. It's definitely, you know, we can expand not only our palates, but also, you know, our thinking and our knowledge and have experiences that we would probably not, you know, have otherwise. Also, too, I'm really thankful for just the community that I found and that I've been able to build. And since the start of my position, one of the main goals for bringing the garden back to life after COVID was forming a partnership with the UNLV food pantry. And so a lot of the food that we grow, if folks garden and they don't want to take what they produce, we've donated it to the food pantry. And because we've also had so much food to donate, that I would also find different places in the community to give food away to. And just that sure fact of sharing food, sharing knowledge, is what has allowed me to meet so many great people that I wouldn't have otherwise. So there's lots of special things about the garden.

You know, that makes my soul so happy to hear all of that.

Like the DTM in me sees the DTM in you, and now I'm like what can I grow that's exotic and probably way out of my league. But I love it. I will say that we're still accepting plot applications. So if KUND wants a plot, it's open. Hey there's a whole plot. So um what's your vision for the future of the community garden? How do you see it evolving or

changing or being different or even some parts that are going to remain the same going down the road?

I think in the future, I definitely would like to still see engagement, you know, stay constant with the garden. I think we're looking for long-term goals, like we're trying to get a mural painted on our shed at the community garden. haven't gotten successful in that endeavor yet, but we're slowly adding new improvements. We got approved for a shade structure finally, a permanent one, so we can help ease the heat effect at the garden when people decide to visit in the hotter months. Also, I think what I'm starting to see now that I'm really excited for, is that there are not just the UNLV garden, but there are so many community gardens that are popping up, you know, all over the city as well as even, you know, at UNLV. You know, there's talks of building another community garden at the architecture school or the School of Architecture, you know, for the landscape architecture students as well as the architecture ones. And I know I applied for a grant a few months ago with UNR to try and create another community garden on campus. So I think I'd overall just like to see more people involved with plants and nature, because, you know, there's, there's so many benefits to it. But of course, you know, I'd like to keep the community that we have going. And just, you know, make sure everyone knows about us. Cause I, I've heard such a common story that people will go their entire degree at UNLV and never even know that we have a community garden. So for me, it's just about getting the word out, getting people involved, and teaching folks how to garden. But they, too, can grow their own produce.

And then what are some of the types of produce that have been grown in the garden?

So each season is different, and people love to say that Las Vegas has four seasons, which I think is false. I feel like there's only two. There's only summer and winter. So right now we're just on the cusp actually of being able to plant stuff for spring and summer. But right now, over these past few months for winter, it's been lots of leafy greens so kale, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, lettuce, spinach, arugula, and then for more spring and summer that'll be basil, watermelons, cucumber, squash, tomatoes. Yeah, that's off the top of my head but there's there's so much that we can grow and you know it's funny because most people don't think that you can grow as much as we can because you know we're located in a desert, but it's beautiful once you hook up irrigation, make sure that plants are watered, that you know we have quite the temperate climate most of the year and we can grow so many great things.

Now I love kiwi. Is that possible to grow kiwi? That's more of a tropical fruit, I'm afraid,

but we do have fruit trees of the garden, such as pear, plum, apricot, apples. And also if you've ever had the ability to check out Gilcrease Orchard, it's located up in Centennial Hills. And they have a few acres up there with a bunch of fruit trees and, you know, vegetables and all that stuff there. But different types of fruit. You know, one fruit that I discovered quite accidentally when we were in Hawaii was sumo


So, and I've seen them in the supermarket. So it'd be lovely if they existed in other places. What do they taste like? They're very sweet and they're sort of weird in that they have a lot of skin and like a lump on the top but that means that they peel so easily and they don't typically

I argue those are the best oranges. Oh they are. That's the best orange I've ever had.

Yeah sumo oranges are amazing. Okay, okay I have to try that. I love that you're starting what feels like a movement around building these gardens and I also love the idea that these gardens are more than just food. The way that you describe it, that there are a lot of benefits to being part of this garden to include connections. If you were to tell someone why they should participate in this, what would you say to them?

For me, honestly, it's really just the community of it. Being able to participate at the garden in whatever capacity you're able to, you know, just it really shows how interconnected we all are. And you know, to me, it's more about fellowship and it's not just about planting, but it's about planting love and planting caring and sharing and, you know, just trying to make the places where we live, you know, places where we want to live and want to connect with one another, especially because we're in such a small but large city that I feel like we all know each other in some way and we all have similarities more than we have differences. So to join is just to, I guess, be a part of something, something bigger than just gardening is what it feels like to me.

And then Andy, what's the time commitment for those who may have an interest in pursuing this opportunity?

So the time commitment at the garden, it kind of varies because when you, you know, if folks are planting out there, typically the most work will happen when you plant because you've got to, you know, purchase your plants, spend the time sowing them. Um, but once you have your plants planted, really all that we ask is for folks to come at least, you know, once every two to three weeks, just to check on their plants because we have irrigation, you know, we don't need to be out there every single day, hand watering. Um, so really the time commitment is as long as we can tell when you garden that you're weeding and your garden bed looks great, that's all that we ask. Because unfortunately it happens every semester, but groups that will have the best intentions on wanting to participate but cannot make the time requirement to come out once every few weeks and tend to their bed, the garden bed will look like it's not being taken care of. And, you know, that's just, if folks can't do that, it's better that, you know, they let us know so we can give it to another group that would like to participate. Because each semester we have, or every fall semester, we open the whole garden up for registration. And then in the spring semester, we have just a few vacancies for garden beds. But, you know, it is very competitive. There only are 41 garden beds. So, you know, I guess long winded answer for it, just make sure you're weeding and I'm fine.

So don't start a garden if you're not intended to tend to your garden is what I'm hearing. Yeah. Because then it takes up a space that someone else could potentially use. So how does someone connect with you? Do they just show up? Do they call you? Do they email? What's the best way to get involved in the community garden?

Best way to get involved if you have specific questions would be, you know, to contact me. I'm the one that monitors the garden email, so it's just garden at unlv.edu. In terms of events, if you know people want to come out and check out the garden. I do advertise all events on our social media. So we're on both Facebook and Instagram. On Instagram it's at UNLV garden and then Facebook is UNLV community garden and we post all events there and I try to you know put up posters and advertise in other places around campus. But as far as any of the events go, they're open to any member of the public as well as UNLV. So if folks see an event and they want to come out, they're more than welcome to. There's actually an upcoming event that we have that I'm quite excited about. On March 3rd, Friday, March 3rd, from 1 to 2.30 PM, we're having a seed extravaganza, as I call it, at the community garden. We're going to be doing a seed drive and a seed sharing event with the East Las Vegas Seed Share, as well as the Solidarity Community fridge. And it'll be a way, you know, just for folks to trade seeds if they want, you know, to swap seeds with somebody, grow something that they probably wouldn't have been able to grow before, as well as also to donate seeds to both the East Las Vegas Seed Library as well as the UNLV Seed Library. And it'll be more just to like get out in the garden, get talking, get connected, and you know bond over seeds. But that'll be March 3rd at the community garden and I'm already very excited for

it. It's been a long time coming. And then how can the university help bring your vision to fruition?

Definitely visibility. So many folks that run the Instagram account for UNLV, they're great. They always reshare my stuff on social media. But I guess just helping people know that we're here and that, you know, we're a resource that both students and staff, you know, and faculty can use, you know, for – to benefit their mental health as well as, you know, their own education. And of course, you know, funding is always great. Donations are great.

Well, we'll get you out of here on the last word. Is there anything, any question you wish we had asked that we didn't ask? Or are there any other details or information you would like to share

with our listeners? No, actually, I think that you guys covered everything perfectly. So, thank you.

Wonderful. Thank you so much for coming on the show, and thank you so much for sharing. This is a great resource, and I agree that it can be very beneficial for your mental health to spend time in nature and to spend time tending to something. So, I'm glad that this exists for the students, and I hope more students become aware of it as time goes on.

Thank you so much for your time.

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Transcribed with Cockatoo