With the right prep work in creating good soil – and then some hard work planting and weeding and harvesting – you have something special. You have a place where students’ knowledge grows, just as the tomatoes and cucumbers do.
Many hundreds of Spartans have invested their time in the UNCG Gardens, making the plots at 123 McIver St. remarkably sustainable and productive for the past five years. The garden is truly a gift that keeps giving. It’s not just providing organic produce, it’s enriching the educational experience of many Spartans. As they graduate, they take that appreciation for growing organic food with them.
Guy Sanders and Seth Rumbley, Junior Anthropolgy major and student garden manager, both see practical knowledge as one of the greatest benefits of the campus garden. “Students gain practical knowledge that they can use in their own lives and foundational knowledge that will help them make good choices in the future,” Sanders said.
Students use the knowledge they inherit through gardening to help them in the many endeavors. “I see the garden in terms of sustainability,” Rumbley said. “Not necessarily a way to feed yourself, but a way to supplement things, and I can take the practices I’ve learned here back home (in Asheboro). That is sustainability.”
The purpose of the garden is to create an environment where people come together, learn to garden and work together with patience. Further, it offers a place for current students and alumni to stay connected and connect with others they may otherwise never speak to.
For example, Jason Needham and Glenn Woerndle, both Biology master’s students, have plots in the garden and convinced an alumnus to purchase one as well. Now, they all have dinners together using the produce harvested from the garden.
Needham values the bond gardening creates between strangers. “While you may not know anything about the gardener a plot over,” he said, “it’s easy to commiserate over a wilting green, or rejoice in truly succulent strawberries.”
The organic garden is arranged in 50 separate raised-bed plots. A host of campus groups and classes maintain four-by-eight-foot plots in the campus garden, including the UNCG Libraries, the Biology Department and UNCG chefs. Chefs in Dining Services grow a variety of crops, including broccoli, eggplant, tomatoes, peppers, watermelon, beets and parsnips, to name a few. The majority of their harvest is used for catering special events and for special offerings for students.
Guy Sanders and Susan Andreatta co-ordinate the volunteer work days at the garden each semester, a large collective effort. Andreatta connects the peace she finds in a garden to sustainability because the therapy people get from gardening helps sustain a positive outlook.
“There are people who eat lunch here because it’s peaceful”, says Andreatta. “If you sit in the garden long enough you forget the noise and you start to hear the birds, crickets and cicadas. As a society it seems like we don’t take time to do that anymore.”
Plots are $10 per semester for personal use. If the plot is used for a class then it is free, after the class syllabus is submitted to Andreatta. For applications and more information, visit www.uncg.edu/aas/uncg_gardens/ or call Andreatta directly at (336) 334-5132.
Story by Natasha Williams, contributor
Photography by Martin W. Kane, UNCG University Relations