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On a warm morning, students traded their backpacks and books for gardening gloves, rakes and clippers to clean up and nurture Fresno State’s certified organic herb garden. They trimmed plants back, weeded the area and worked on a mulch project in the garden.

Culinology students work with campus herb garden


Shea Kilby is one of many Fresno State students who work on
cleaning up the herb garden, which has been around since 2008.
Esteban Cortez / The Collegian

On a warm morning, students traded their backpacks and books for gardening gloves, rakes and clippers to clean up and nurture Fresno State’s certified organic herb garden. They trimmed plants back, weeded the area and worked on a mulch project in the garden.

The 38 students enrolled in the introduction to food systems management class layered recycled newspapers on the soil and applied mulch, which was generated from Fresno State tree clippings.

The garden serves as a hands on application for what students taking culinology classes learn in the classroom.

“This is something I can’t teach,” Klaus Tenbergen, culinology program director and assistant professor said. “How food grows and the hands on experience is something every student should have, respect for where food is grown and how it applies to their major.”

The garden gives students an opportunity to work with and appreciate herbs in a garden setting as well as the ability to harvest farm fresh herbs.

“[Working in the garden] gives us more of an idea of the labor, what goes into growing them and an appreciation for the herbs,” Claudia Sandoval, a Fresno State junior studying dietetics said.

In addition to the benefit of learning about the plants which provide the flavor for culinary creations there are economic advantages of an on-campus garden.

“Monetarily this garden allows us to get an abundance of herbs without the expense because they are normally very expensive,” food and nutritional sciences junior Shea Kilby said, “We can see firsthand how they actually grow, what they look like. We can see them fresh as opposed to just dry as we would see them in the store.”

The herb garden was established in fall 2008 with the assistance of a grant from the California Department of Education’s Home Economics Careers and Technology (HECT) Education Programs through collaboration with University High School and the culinology department of Fresno State. The original goal was to create an educational school garden that the two schools, as well as other organizations, could benefit from.

This project evolved into a certified organic herb garden. Located along East Barstow Avenue, adjacent to the Ornamental Horticulture Nursery, the garden now has over 20 different varieties of herbs including lavender, oregano, bay, rosemary, mint, lemongrass and thyme.

Tenbergen emphasized the importance of being able to work in the garden as a way to enhance the educational experience of his students. He explained that sometimes the students he least expects to appreciate the gardening project are the ones who embrace the experience the most.

“It nurtures a passion and provides unexpected learning,” he said.

The garden provides an opportunity for university students and community members who contribute toward the maintenance to benefit from use of the garden. Culinology students, entomology students, nursery technicians, elementary schools, farm tours and various high school groups benefit from the herbs grown. In addition fresh herbs are packaged and sold at the Farm Market.

This physical interaction and application as part of the learning process can have a lasting effect on students.

“When we go back and talk to alumni they always emphasize how much they appreciate the hands-on experience the farm provided,” Tenbergen said.

  • The more people growing herbs the better! I wish more people did it, it’s an easy healthy choice to make.