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Get to know the new Forge Garden and BUG program staff

Meet Katharine Rondthaler, the new face of The Forge Garden!    




Tell us about yourself and your gardening experience.
I became interested in sustainable farming while an undergraduate at University of California Santa Cruz where I was studying Environmental Studies and Biology. I had the opportunity to teach outdoor education to elementary school students at UCSC's Lab Garden Classroom. I developed farming skills while completing courses through the Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems. I learned that farming should not only provide food for the local community but also provide an ecosystem for plant and animal communities to thrive. After graduating I began working for The HEAL Project at Hatch Elementary School in Half Moon Bay where I managed the school garden and taught nutrition, agriculture, and sustainability and lead the bi-weekly farmers market. I improved my sustainable farming skills while working at Full Circle Farm in Sunnyvale. Most recently, I taught outdoor science education at Education Outside at Dr. George Washington Carver in Bayview Hunters-Point. While working at Carver, I grew the garden from a 900-square foot space to an engaging 10,000-square foot outdoor classroom and developed Education Outside's curriculum in compliance with Next Generation Science Standards. I am ecstatic work at The Forge and to be a part of the SCU community!

What is your favorite part of gardening?
I love to watch the garden change throughout the seasons. It never ceases to amaze me when the seedlings emerge from the soil after a heavy rainfall or when the first melon ripens in the summer. The garden is a home for many animals as well. Through the seasons, I love to watch all the different critters visit the garden. Most recently, I have been observing the Monarch butterflies mate in the garden.

Have you cooked with veggies from the garden? If so, do you have any recommendations for recipes/fun ideas?
Of course! I recently made pizza and piled all the late summer veggies on top. Another favorite of mine is Baba Ghanoush, a Mediterranean eggplant dip. Here is a simple recipe I use:

  • 2 to 3 medium eggplants (about 3 pounds total)
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/3 cup tahini
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
  • Juice of 2 lemons (about 1/2 cup)
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 450°F. Rub the outside of the eggplants with olive oil and place them in a roasting plan. Roast the eggplant until the skin has charred and the interior is tender, 15 to 20 minutes. Using a fork mash up the flesh of the eggplant. Add tahini, garlic, lemon juice, and some salt. Enjoy with sliced cucumbers, carrots, and pita.

If you were a veggie what would you be?
Hmm tough question! I think I would be a sweet pea (technically a fruit). They grow best with their leaves in full sun, but their roots in cool moist soil, they have beautiful flowers and they give back to the soil by fixing nitrogen in their roots. Plus they are a delicious spring and fall treat!

What is an essential piece of advice for new gardeners?
Don't be afraid to jump in and make mistakes. The only way to learn is to do it. Often first time gardeners are fearful of making mistakes or they giving up if a plant dies. If a plant dies, plant a new one! If you don't get the best crop this season, there is always next season. Also, check out The Forge fall workshops!

What is one thing you want everyone to know about the Forge?
The Forge is a great place to hold an event, learn about gardening, get fresh local vegetables, or just sit and watch the hummingbirds. Stop by and say hi!

And now, meet Lisa Martinez, our new BUG garden educator.


Tell us a little bit about where you're coming from.
I was born and raised in San Jose, and I am the oldest of many children. I graduated from Santa Clara University, and I ended up staying in the neighborhood, to eventually starting my own family in Santa Clara.

What experiences have you had that led you to an interest in environmental education?
Growing up in my family, education has always deeply valued and to my family and myself. Having children significantly change the way I viewed the world. I began to think about the earth my girls would inherit and ways that I could live a more sustainable life.

What prominent issues do you see trending in the local community/area regarding sustainability and justice?
I believe that young people and families face the very serious reality of not being able to carve out as safe, certain place for themselves. Housing affordability is a complex issue that has a real impact on how we live in our day to day, impacting everything to where we shop and what we do after work and school. As housing prices skyrocket in certain neighborhoods, it raises issues around diversity and access to resources. As young people, our teachers, those in the trades, families etc. are pushed out, we see our neighborhoods lose their character and spirit, and we see our neighbors lose their sense of place. In the end the high cost of housing is not a sustainable to the average family, which means the most vulnerable in our communities truly suffer.

What's your favorite thing about working out in the (school) gardens?
People are inherently connected to the earth, and I get to witness the strength of that connection everyday. I love seeing how children and families smile as they join BUG in the garden.

What are your hopes for this year?
My hope is to grow a strong garden club program with opportunities for everyone in the community to get involved. Also, I look forward to getting to know the people I work with. The Forge is such a special place, and the people on the Sustainability team are all so kind.

Why do you think it's important for the University to have a sustainability outreach program such as BUG?
There are many aspects to living and working sustainably. It's a big concept, with a far reach. An outreach program such as BUG breaks that concept down, making it meaningful in our day to day existence. BUG brings everyday, practical knowledge and skills directly to the community; moreover, it engages the University with its surrounding community. Outreach programs such as BUG serve to create partnerships with mothers, teachers, community leaders and kids. This is truly powerful experience, where the benefits multiply all around.

To learn more about Katharine and Lisa’s programs, please visit our website:
Bronco Urban Gardens (BUG)
The Forge Garden

Compiled by Alec Kwo ’16, Sustainability Intern for Student Engagement

Forge Garden,Profiles