FEAST hires new members for the semester

FEAST garden
Frankie Vega (first year) waters plants in the FEAST Garden at Occidental College in Los Angeles, CA. March 1, 2022. Kate Bown/The Occidental.

The Food, Energy, and Sustainability Team (FEAST) recently hired 12 individuals with their new hiring process, according to Diego Zapata ‘19, a member of the hiring committee and former FEAST member. FEAST student-employees from last semester stepped down from their roles and decided on a new hiring process for this semester after controversy with hiring and transparency last semester, when previous staff members were not re-hired last semester. Three students who worked at FEAST last semester re-applied and were hired again and while the other nine have not previously worked at FEAST. According to Jakob Barton (junior), the FEAST Garden co-manager, the FEAST staff this semester consists of both individuals who worked there last semester and new employees.

Zapata said the hiring committee consisted of himself, Urban & Environmental Policy (UEP) professor Rosa Romero, economics professor Bevin Ashenmiller and Diversity and Equity Board (DEB) member Audrey Li-Vollmer (first year). Romero is now the faculty advisor for FEAST. Barton said applicants received acceptance letters March 22.

“It was particularly challenging because I don’t think there was one perfect solution to hiring an entire staff of new FEAST employees halfway through the semester,” Zapata said. “After all of the pre-existing FEAST staff members from last semester resigned, they started this process working with SLICE [Student Leadership, Involvement, & Community Engagement] and the broader ASOC [Associated Students of Occidental College] to open up hiring again.”

FEAST garden hens
Three hens at the FEAST Garden at Occidental College in Los Angeles, CA. March 1, 2022. Kate Bown/The Occidental.

For the rest of the semester, in addition to regular duties, FEAST is planning to review and possibly update their structure, including possible factors such as the SLICE office’s role in FEAST, the role of the advisor and the processes for decision making, according to Zapata.

“The overarching goal, given that there are only a few weeks left in the semester, is to have this cross-section of students start wrapping their heads around what we want FEAST to look like going forward,” Zapata said. “There is a new group of students who will start leading the conversations that the whole student body will be involved in, collectively determining what the students of Occidental want FEAST to look like going forward.”

According to Frankie Vega (first year), her position as the sustainability steward at FEAST consists of planning events to increase awareness of the garden. Vega said this semester will be slightly different than the previous semester. Vega also said that there are plans to increase inclusivity at FEAST through future events.

“I’m really trying to work to make this place feel special for everyone. It is a special sanctuary on campus,” Vega said.

FEAST garden
Plants in the sunlight at the FEAST Garden at Occidental College in Los Angeles, CA. March 1, 2022. Kate Bown/The Occidental.

Additionally, the hiring committee from Spring 2022 will not be involved in the hiring for Fall 2022, according to Zapata. The hiring and reapplication process for next semester will begin in the coming weeks.

“I would really like to see FEAST students, staff members and volunteers be involved in the hiring process because that’s how it has been in the past, and that’s really what is most effective,” Zapata said.

Elle Propp (first year), the interpretive gardens manager, is new to FEAST this semester. According to Propp, her responsibilities include caring for various gardens around campus. Propp said she appreciated the new hiring process and values having input from multiple people.

“It was nice having a panel of people, as opposed to just one, because that means that whoever was hired has values that were widely held. That makes it a more collaborative environment, which is important,” Propp said.

Propp said she applied to FEAST because of past experience working on sustainability issues and her passion for the cause.

“I’ve always been surrounded by sustainability,” Propp said. “[My previous experiences] just aligned with FEAST.”

FEAST was founded in 2009 after a group of students petitioned to create an on-site garden. They began with compost, and eventually added plants and chickens. In 2017, FEAST became an ASOC student service. According to Barton, it is a beneficial on-campus resource that creates connections to the natural world.

“It’s a little corner of the school, and the city, where I personally feel very connected to other species and life around me. I’ve learned so much from caring for all these animals and plants in this space,” Barton said.

Vega said the FEAST garden is a special place, and its future is promising.

“I’m excited to build a community, and open up that community,” Vega said. “I spend most of my free time there [the Bruce Steele garden]. Even when I am working it feels like free time.”