The Bates Garden is now going to bed for the winter, but when Nimco Jama ’25 of Hargeisa, Somaliland, first set foot in the space last spring, it was just waking up.
Throughout the spring and summer, she watched the college’s organic, no-till garden come to life with vegetables, fruits and flowers, a sign of the hard work that she and fellow students — members of the Bates Garden Club and the EcoReps — were investing.
“I was just super excited to see how this actually turns into a garden, to grow things,” said Jama, who spent the summer at Bates tending the garden, nicknamed the PLOT (“People Learning Outside Together”), along with Hermione Zhou ’22.
The seedlings that she and other students nurtured in the college’s greenhouse atop Carnegie Science Hall grew into plants that yielded produce — varieties of tomatoes and squash, cucumbers, and lots of basil — that Dining Services has served to students throughout the fall. In 2022, the Bates Garden produced about 600 pounds of organic food worth, according to Tom Twist, the college’s sustainability manager.
“When I delivered cherry tomatoes to Commons, and then saw them at the vegan bar, I know exactly what they are and where they came from,” says Jama. “That’s the best part.” (Jama admits with a laugh that she doesn’t actually like tomatoes. “But my friends really enjoy them!”)
Jama started an environmental club at her school in Somaliland when she was in seventh grade, so she’s been gardening since then. She attended high school in California, where she worked in the school garden after classes, “just harvesting and eating the carrots and peas as we washed them to get them ready for the dining hall.”
At Bates, Jama is biochemistry major and, in addition to her work at the garden, is active in the local community as a Community Outreach Fellow for the Harward Center for Community Partnerships.
“Some days you show up and everything you’ve planted has been eaten by groundhogs. That teaches you a lot about facing day-to-day challenges!
Nimco Jama ’25
Jama’s first gardening experience at Bates was at the Harward Center, volunteering to help tend the community garden on Wood Street that the center maintains in cooperation with St. Mary’s Nutrition Center. At the time, she says, “I didn’t know about the Bates Garden at all — I had no idea. But then a student told me that they were looking for students to work at the garden in the summer.”
At first, Jama’s interest was confined to learning basic gardening skills and understanding what it means to have an organic garden on campus. As she got more involved, she learned other skills related to gardening and to life — like how to face setbacks.
“Some days you show up and everything you’ve planted has been eaten by groundhogs. That teaches you a lot about facing day-to-day challenges! You can’t always expect everything to turn out perfect.”
“You learn how to be responsible for the whole farm and take care of everything,” she says. ‘“It’s really cool to have that much responsibility.”