August 1, 2016
LEWISTON, Idaho - Work Scholar Doug Koch returned to school to advance his career after over 20 years of electrical power work. Koch is completing degrees in Interdisciplinary Studies and Technical Engineering. As a Work Scholar, the senior works in the LC Learning Garden on the east side of campus, and after one year, the organic garden is growing an abundance of food.
During a GIS class, Professor Jeanette Gara-Betzold and Koch began talking about building spiral planters in the garden. “I built one,” Koch says, “just to see how it worked out. And the garden just snowballed from there.” After talking with Professor and Teaching and Learning Center Director Rachel Jameton, the trio created a sustainable campus garden. Their goal, according to Koch, “was not only showing sustainable garden practices, but also an interactive way to get students and faculty to get involved in the garden.”
The garden is made largely from recycled or reused materials. During Spring 2016, the Physical Plant donated materials to build a green house. The Physical Plant has also donated irrigation supplies and building materials. “Without the Physical Plant a lot of [the garden] would not and could not have happened. It isn’t just an ‘us.’ It’s a ‘we’ project. We are doing this,” Koch emphasized. He invites input from all parts of campus to improve the garden.
Koch’s efforts have been noted by both professors. “With Doug leading and completing several construction projects, applying for grants, and installing an automated irrigation system, the LC Learning Garden is now a campus facility capable of operating as an outdoor classroom. It also serves as a sustainability demonstration area and productive garden for our community in need,” Gara-Betzold raved of Koch’s accomplishments in the garden. “The garden is thriving thanks to Doug’s hard work and creativity,” Jameton reports.
Humbled by Gara-Betzold’s and Jameton’s praise, Koch emphasizes that they are instrumental to the past, present, and future of the garden. “They tell me what they want, and that’s what I do. I’m just a tool,” Koch says of everyone’s role in the garden. Gara-Betzold and Jameton have been influential in obtaining funding for the garden to start and continue the garden.
"It isn’t just an ‘us.’ It’s a ‘we’ project. We are doing this.”
Produce from the garden is either donated to students on campus, harvested by individuals, or donated to local foodbanks. In the future, Koch hopes more people will use the garden as a place to learn, be inspired, and relax. The Learning Garden is also looking to install solar power grids to charge laptops and is expanding wifi for classrooms to use. Koch is optimistic about the sustainability of the garden because of the resources on campus. “We have the means on this campus to build [everything needed for the garden]. We have a welding shop, a CAD program that can be used to design projects, and the building skills needed on campus. The garden is made by students for students for the college.” These resources mean students can learn new skills while working on a community project and further connect learning to life.
Outside of Work Scholars, Koch is also involved on campus working at the Physical Plant, where he was named the 2014-2015 Student Employee of the Year. He is an active stained-glass artist, with pieces throughout the Valley, including two in the President’s House, as well as in southern Idaho and Seattle.
After completing his degrees in Spring 2017, Koch either hopes to continue his education, learning more about renewable energy sources, or re-enter the work field designing power grids. “It’s a field that’s really starting to open up. There’s more and more opportunities,” says Koch.
For more information, comments, or suggestions regarding the LC Learning Garden, please contact Prof. Rachel Jameton or Prof. Jeanette Gara-Betzold. For further information about the LC Work Scholars Program, contact Coordinator Erin Cassetto at (208) 792-2084 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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