Getting the Garden Going, One Baby-Step at a Time

[Cross-posted to In Medias Res]

This academic year Friends University found itself wondering what to do with a plot of land, directly beside and behind some student dormitories. Through a fortuitous combination of variables (the discovery of some left-over money in an otherwise cash-strapped university, the arrival of new university president and spouse who are fans of gardening and Wendell Berry, and some hard work by various students and faculty to get the Friends community to start thinking more about recycling, sustainability, and local economy), we are now embarked on the project of slowly, bit by bit, creating a community garden. And I seem to be the one in charge. Lucky me! Not that I don’t have our own family garden to care for. (Just put our tomatoes, peppers, string beans, and cucumbers in on Saturday.)

This week, I’m occupied with finding out just which student, staff, and faculty individuals and groups are committed to maintaining a garden plot over the summer months. There’s no money for a full-time gardener, so this is going to be run solely on a volunteer basis, and it was decided at an earlier meeting that, at this point, the best way to get the garden going would be to appeal to entrepreneurial opportunities and individual stewardships; to use the land as a space where anyone here at Friends interested in raising some tomatoes, onions, lettuce, herbs, or anything else could set up some rain gutters or raised beds or just put stuff directly in the ground and take ownership what whatever they raise, to eat or sell at one of our local Wichita farmers markets or donate to The Lord’s Diner or another local homeless shelter, or just give it away (give it back, in a sense) to the Friends community. We’ve got some big hopes for this garden: that perhaps we’ll find a way to integrate what we’re doing with the Delano neighborhood (where the university is located) and their already thriving community garden; that we’ll be able to get more classes involved, with students seeing tending the garden as an opportunity to further their own studies in plant biology or health science or social work; that maybe someday Friends own garden will be supplier–perhaps even the primary supplier–of our university’s cafeteria. But for now, I have to get those volunteers, and find some time to get us together with the soil and the basic supplies. There’s already been some sharp discussions over how “green” we want the garden to be (imagine: professional groundskeepers and interested-but-inexperienced students and faculty activists may all see things differently!), and I’m sure there will be a lot more negotiating to come. But getting something in the ground is the first step, and a baby-step at that.

Page 1 of 3 | Next page