UGArden Club President: Small Changes Can Have a Big Impact to Sustain the Future

Liora McElvaney, a fourth-year environmental health major at the University of Georgia, serves as the president of UGArden Club, a student organization and community farm that grows crops to alleviate food insecurity throughout Athens.

Q: You are also an intern at the UGA Office of Sustainability. How does that impact your role with UGArden?

The office runs about 30 internships. Each intern kind of manages their own project, and a lot of our interns report to UGArden. The garden is home to things like Concrete Jungle, which is a nonprofit that gleans fruit from trees that aren’t being used. I think of a pecan tree, if it’s in their yard and they aren’t using it. They’ll go and take us pecans and then give them back out in the community. It’s also home to Campus Kitchen, which we have an intern for, who cooks a lot of meals to feed food insecure families. Shell to Shore is based out of the garden now. They go around the Athens and Atlanta communities and collect used oyster shells and take them back to the shore. We have an intern for that. So I just think the knowledge I’ve been able to gain from knowing about the garden and also being an intern. There’s a ton of connections and I have a pretty good memory so at club, I’m like, if you guys are interested in this, you can apply for the internship and things like that.

Q: In what ways are you able to see that tangible impact on food insecurity in Athens?

All the food we grow goes back into the community. With the club specifically, one of our tasks for the past couple of years has been to grow and maintain the collards for Campus Kitchen’s Turkeypalooza, which is their large Thanksgiving event. So we’ve been able to produce over 400 pounds each year. So that’s just like a great example of how the club can really help with that and have a more direct impact. It’s been really special. 

Q: What is something you have learned about farming that many would probably not realize?

The different irrigation techniques. UGArden tries to be super sustainable, so there’s center pivots and things like that. We have drip irrigation, so I think there are rows of crops and in the middle of the rows there’s a tube that drips out the water directly to them. There’s no loss. If you think of spraying, the water doesn’t actually go where it needs to but the drip irrigation helps.

Q: What does sustainability mean to you personally?

(Sustainability) is so interconnected. I think it’s kind of whatever you want to make it. You don’t always have to start with the biggest, most insane thing. You can always start small, like attending UGArden or bringing your own bag to the grocery store. And then just keeping that mindset going that even in such a big space, you can still make little changes that have a broader impact on the community. Again, you might just be one person coming to club, but that one plot you helpedintern maintain is helping to feed the Athens community. (It’s) making sure we are able to sustain ourselves, but also sustain the future, too. 

Comments trimmed for length and clarity. 

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  • Ethan

    Wow this is such a great and informative article with amazing writing! I bet the reporter who wrote this article has decades of journalism experience! I yearn for more.

  • Ethan

    Wow this is such a great and informative article with amazing writing! I bet the reporter who wrote this article has decades of journalism experience! I yearn for more!

  • Carter

    This is a great piece!!!

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