Students demonstrate culinary prowess at Robb Garden event

Shazza Lyons '25 holding rhubarb cake

Shazza Lyons ’25 holds a tray of rhubarb cake, made using her great-great grandmother’s recipe.

Pumpkin samosas with mint chutney, wildflower salad and brownies made with chocolate mint were some of the tempting selections made by students with ingredients from the Ted and Chris Robb Garden at the recent “Feeding the Village” event.

Hosted by Pacific’s Garden program, the event happens once a semester and is designed to spread awareness about sustainable gardening and demonstrate the types of creative dishes that can be made using commonly grown produce.

“Rhubarb, strawberries, cherries, mint, cabbage, radish, beans—every dish has something that we’re growing here,” said Garden Coordinator Janice Setser. ”For example, we experimented and came up with a Thai-peanut cabbage coleslaw that’s wrapped with chard because many people don’t know how to use chard.” 

Bean salad and tamale pie

Bean salad and tamale pie.

Thai-peanut slaw wrapped in chard

Thai-peanut slaw wrapped in chard.

The Ted and Chris Robb Garden was made possible by a gift from former Pacific Regent Walter Robb, then-CEO of Whole Foods, whose vision was to promote growing food using organic, biointensive methods by creating a campus garden. The first phase of the garden, which is named after Robb's two sons, both alumni, was completed in fall 2012.

Robb made a second gift in 2014 that doubled the size of the garden, provided support for operational costs and internships for students and funded the construction of a plaza between the Robb Garden and Geosciences Center named after his daughter, Abigail.

“The garden is an invaluable resource for the university and our surrounding communities,” said President Christopher Callahan. “Walter had the remarkable vision and foresight more than a decade ago to create a space where students can become environmental stewards who will build a sustainable future.” 

Walter Robb with garden team

Walter Robb poses with the garden team during a visit in 2021. Left to right: Garden Coordinator Janice Setser, Sustainability Director Jessica Bilecki, Samuel Gomez, Kate Bolin, Nicole Ikeda, Former Regent Walter Robb, Jewel Saunders, President Christopher Callahan, Vice President for Development and Alumni Relations Scott Biedermann.

Since its inception, students from varying disciplines have found their calling in the garden. “I do harvesting for the food pantry every Monday, which is my favorite day because I get to pick everything that’s ready and deliver it for students in need,” said Shazza Lyons, a freshman music therapy major.

The garden is operated by the Office of Sustainability and supplies up to 100 pounds of produce to Pacific’s Food Pantry every semester. Students can pick up one full grocery bag of fresh produce every week at no charge. Garden Markets also take place on site every Tuesday from 9:30–11:30 a.m., where students and community members can purchase fruits, vegetables, herbs and flowers for a small donation.

Students served food in Robb Garden
Plate of appetizers from Feeding the Village

“There’s no economy that’s not tied to an ecology,” said Setser. “We eat every day and what we eat comes from Mother Nature, so I always look for the ways to tie people back to the things that sustain us and this garden is just an awesome example of that.”

Pacific is a national leader in sustainability. The university’s food and dining programs that incorporate sustainable practices, including the Robb Garden, catapulted Pacific into the top 10 in the world for sustainable food and dining practices on college campuses according to the 2021 Sustainable Campus Index published by the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education. The university recently launched new solar arrays and electric vehicle parking stations making Pacific the No. 1 private university for on-campus renewable energy.

Learn more about sustainability at Pacific.