By Richard Zagrzecki
Alex Rogers knows the meaning of roughing it.
When the sophomore nursing and anthropology major was 16, she met her survivalist father for the first time and moved in with him in the small northeast Texas town of Daingerfield.
It took a while for her to get used to his way of living, which, among other things, includes growing and hunting his own food.
“He didn’t even have hot water when I moved in. We had to make some compromises, so now we have a shower in the house, but we still do not have central heating or a stove. My biggest wish was getting a washer and dryer because he liked to wash his clothes in the creek behind our house and I hated that,” Rogers said.
She got her wish, and in the three short years since then, she and her father have grown close. She’s also learned quite a bit from him and his alternative lifestyle.
“We do a lot of food canning, gardening, and bow hunting. My dad likes guns as well, but I do not,” she said. “My dad’s also an animal trapper and bee keeper. He has 17 hives. I really enjoy beekeeping with him, he teaches me so much.”
Her father’s love of the outdoors has been passed down to her. Not only does she like to do a lot of running – she’s completed eight or nine marathons by her own estimate – but she’s really big into gardening.
It’s that love and knowledge of growing plants and vegetables that led her to eventually apply for and be hired as one of two garden assistants for UH’s community garden, which sits adjacent to Cougar Woods Dining Hall near the intersection of Wheeler and Cullen. She’s held the part-time student worker position since February after finding out about it from a fellow member of the UH Horticulture Society.
The multi-bed garden, which is overseen by the Office of Sustainability, grows organic vegetables and herbs that are donated to Manna House, which is a local food bank, and Star of Hope, a women’s shelter.
Fall crops are about to be planted, including beets, carrots, turnips, collard greens, mustard greens, lentils, arugula, kale and cauliflower.
One of the biggest challenges with the garden, she said, is the constant battle with fire ants. Because all the food grown there is organic, only natural methods are utilized to keep the fierce little insects out of the garden beds. The arsenal includes used coffee grounds, mint plants and cinnamon. Another method is mixing powdered sugar with baking soda – something her father taught her.
After she graduates, she hopes to use her degrees to become a nurse practitioner specializing in the varying approaches that different cultures take toward medicine and health care. That career path was, in part, shaped by a situation experienced by her father a few years ago. He needed to have surgery, but his Jewish faith conflicted with the physician’s recommendation that the procedure involve using a pig’s valve. The doctor refused to do it any other way.
“We ended up going to another doctor, who completed the procedure using a cow’s valve,” Rogers said. “A one size fits all treatment plan doesn’t work for everyone. I want to be able to help bridge that gap.”
Rogers herself has quite a varied ethnic background. Part of her family originates from Poland, as well as from the Native American Chickasaw tribe.
When she was in high school, Rogers originally had her mind set on attending Portland State University. But after moving in with her father, she didn’t want to attend a school too far away. UH, which is only about a five-hour drive from Daingerfield, turned out to be the perfect choice.
“There are so many things I love about UH,” she said. “It’s great that it is so diverse and I am being exposed to a wide mix of cultures and ethnicities. We have a really great rec center. There’s also a lot of clubs on campus. There’s something for everyone, I found my people here.”