On a lazy Tuesday evening, after a potluck of colorful carrots, cucumber salad, cantaloupe and chili, students gathered around under the shadow of an old plum tree. Vicki Watson, a spry woman with an earthy touch, pointed out the knotted hammock underneath the tree, with several ripe plums scattered beneath it.
“They should really put a sheet on it to catch all those plums,” Watson mused as she spat out a watermelon seed. “Those holes just let them all fall through.”
Eventually finishing their meals and making sure no food goes to waste, students began to introduce one another, as two groups joined together.
The student communities of UM Forum for Living with Appropriate Technology (FLAT) and 1000 New Gardens are partnering together to achieve similar goals of environmentally-conscious living.
“A lot of the things that FLATmates are working towards are very similar to what the 1000 New Gardens is working towards,” 1000 New Gardens Co-President Maggie Gammons said at the UM FLAT kick-off potluck on Tuesday.
UM FLAT, a living-learning community located to the north of campus that specializes in sustainability, has students living in a campus-owned house rent-free in exchange for working on the FLAT’s upkeep. Such activities involve maintaining a vegetable garden, taking care of chickens, and implementing projects like hosting workshops that help reduce ecological harm.
1000 New Gardens, a UM student group that helps plant food gardens in the Missoula community, has been around for over a decade, planting approximately 330 gardens in 12 years, according to the club’s records. Like UM FLAT, workshops are another primary focus for the group, though the priority is more on food and gardening.
As a UM FLAT resident, Gammons found that the two groups often cross paths, with the FLATmates often being involved in 1000 New Gardens and vice versa.
“We’re sharing numbers. There’s a good overlap there,” Gammons said.
In the past, the FLAT would ask the student group to help plant garden beds and in return, FLATmates would help 1000 New Gardens on one of their “Dig Days,” when they plant one of their food gardens.
The partnership also developed because of the good location that UM FLAT provides for 1000 New Gardens to operate. In the past, finding meeting spaces was often hectic and chaotic. The club sometimes met out of a living room, other times in the basement of the Davidson Honors College. As key members of the club live on the UM FLAT, the space feels appropriate for 1000 New Gardens.
“It seemed like a perfect combination,” Madeline Broom, a UM journalism student and co-president of 1000 New Gardens, said. “There’s a little more of an atmosphere that works well for the club.”