Season of Giving: Meet Garden Volunteer Thade Lagrisola

  • Student wearing a hat and wheeling a wheelbarrow among plants in the garden.

    Thade Lagrisola (center), a junior in Microbiology, works in the CSUN Sustainability garden. (Photo by Ringo Chiu / CSUN)

During this “season of giving” we wanted to shine a light on Matadors who regularly donate their time and energy to efforts and causes dear to their hearts, both on and off campus. These students have added regular volunteering to the daily juggle of classes, homework, jobs and family time. We wanted to introduce you to a few of these students and have them share more about what they give and what they get back. 

Meet Thade Lagrisola, Microbiology Major, CSUN Sustainability Garden Employee and Volunteer 

When Thade Lagrisola, 21, isn’t in class, chances are he’s in the Sustainability Garden. The half-acre site is located on the northeast side of campus by the softball and baseball fields. The fenced-off garden plot sits on one side of a large path and fruit trees grow on the other side —— its bounty goes to the CSUN Food Pantry, providing fresh food for students, faculty and staff in need. The garden is managed by the Center for Sustainability to provide healthy food as well as learning opportunities. 

On a recent fall day, Lagrisola shows us around the neatly weeded garden beds. One that he planted contains cabbage, with garlic plants in the center– he explains the garlic serves as a natural deterrent to insects. Lagrisola said he started volunteering at the garden in 2021. 

“I get to practice something I like to do, which is grow food,” he explained. 

It’s hard work, but he said it’s also a great place to relax. “It’s nice, especially in the hot summer, under the walnut tree, it’s like 20 degrees cooler. You can hear the wind and it’s just a nice place to sit and contemplate,” he said. 

Lagrisola said he is now employed as a “garden assistant,” on the clock five hours a week, but continues to give many more hours, to ensure that necessary tasks get done. His work shifts always begin with a tour around the garden beds. 

“I look at anything that seems out of the ordinary, like, if there’s a branch that fell that needs to be cleaned up from the storms. Then I move on to the task of the day,” which he explained could be anything from weeding to planting. From there, he moves on to personal or experimental projects, such as starting new plants, which could include a rare tomato or planting seeds from fruit he just ate. 

Jesse Woltal is a fellow with the California Climate Action Corps and Lagrisola’s supervisor in the garden. Woltal said Lagrisola’s experience has been invaluable. 

“He’s a self-starter,” Woltal said. “He finds things out, out of curiosity and out of interest and care for the space. There’s a dedication there that’s really nice to have on the team.”

Lagrisola is studying microbiology and wants to become a farmer. His dream is to have a farm in Ventura with organic and sustainable growing practices. 

“I just want good quality food, high-quality food as the number one agenda,” he said.

Until then, Lagrisola will continue to till the soil at the Sustainability Garden. 

“I love the garden,” he said. “And everyone [working there] has the same goal in trying to make not only just campus better but make the environment better and make it more sustainably directed.” 

Feeling inspired by Lagrisola‘s work? Find out how you can get involved (No experience is required!) and give back. 

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