Toni Chan




United States


Packaging Design



By Toni Chan

Home Away From Home: Garden Plot #54A

“You have less than a year! Don’t follow the throng: decide on the right opportunities for you.”

Given that Oxford’s program is only a year long, FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) was something I felt strongly starting from Day 1 at Oxford Saïd. FOMO was what made Dean Tufano’s advice stick out and catch me off guard during Launch. I turned the statement over in my head and let it percolate throughout my first few weeks at Saïd Business School.

I’d left a lot of my previous life back in Portland, Oregon when I came here to the UK. Some parts of me I was okay with packing up and placing into storage along with my physical belongings. Other parts of me I wanted to bring with me across the ocean.

One of them—maybe the most important one—was my love of food. I like eating food; growing, cooking, and sharing it with others. Portland is a foodie town, and asking for a restaurant recommendation or discussing the current state of one’s tomato patch is a common way of starting a conversation with a complete stranger. I hoped finding the right opportunities would also involve feeding my passion for food (in more ways than one!) here at Oxford.

One day, while jogging along the canal off Abbey Road, I saw a man working in his garden on the opposite bank; surrounded by a halo of rainbow-colored dahlias. I slowed down and shouted across the water, “Is that a community garden? Are there any lots open?”

“Come around to the allotment shop, love. It’s through the black gates on Botley Road. Gus is in there, he’ll set you up.”

Before I knew it, I’d become the newest member of Osney Allotments at Twenty Pound Meadow.


Plot #54A: BEFORE

As with many events at Oxford Said, a new Telegram group was formed and the following Saturday, four of my classmates joined me at the head of Plot #54A with gardening gloves and trowels in hand. Over the course of the next hour, Niyati, Rebecca, Tookie, Kate, and I peeled back the tall grass, the long vines, and the yellowed stalks of weeds run wild to reveal the rich, dark earth of our new garden. In the process, we uncovered some hardy rosemary, mint, chives, Swiss chard, a blueberry bush, and green cabbages left behind by the previous owner. Day One, and we already had a harvest!


Plot#54A: AFTER

While eating lunch at Currydor a short while later, we chatted excitedly about our plans for the next spring. We could reach out to the head chef at Rewley Kitchen to collaborate on a lunch dish made with produce from our garden. (Sagar had mentioned that Chef Wren was eager to work with students.1) We could pass the garden onto next year’s class after graduation, and Plot #54A could become an Oxford Saïd legacy garden. We could plant corn, potatoes, carrots, lettuce, spinach, raspberries… the garden plot was large, and the possibilities were endless.

In the weeks since our first trip to the garden, several other classmates have stopped by, some simply to say hello, and some to join us in the weeding and planting of the garden beds. I hope more people come. I hope all of those things we discussed that first day happen next year once the winter rains stop. Most of all, I hope Plot #54A becomes a retreat for all of us: a quiet oasis five minutes’ walk from Oxford Saïd but worlds away from the hustle and bustle of classes, schoolwork, and networking events—a place to rest our minds and feed our souls.

Our first seedlings!

Our first seedlings!



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