Community Garden cultivates new season of hands-on learning

 Courtesy Photo / GVSU Community Garden

Courtesy Photo / GVSU Community Garden

With the days growing longer and warmer, students working in the Grand Valley State University Community Garden are gearing up for the 2010 growing season.

The garden was established as a student project in 2008 to create a sustainable local food source and to teach students about agricultural practices and organic foods. It functions as an outdoor classroom, providing a better learning experience for students and community members who want to learn how to become better connected with the earth.

“Five years ago, I didn’t know many people that were our age that were interested in gardens, and now I feel like it’s rampant,” said Levi Gardner, operations manager of the Community Garden. “Nearly everyone is trying to learn it. This year there has been a lot of interest in the garden from a lot of different parties, so we have been trying to figure out how to delegate the plots between students, faculty and the community members who want to get involved.”

Edwin Joseph, an associate professor at GVSU and a member of the Community Garden Committee, is offering a practicum course this summer in Global Sustainable Agriculture that will feature the Community Garden as teaching tool.

“Agricultural education in the U.S. is certainly diminishing,” Joseph said. “For many people, agriculture does not seem to be economically attractive or socially rewarding. Many people are also ‘disconnected’ from the foods we consume. Agricultural awareness is more than understanding the science of raising crops and livestock. It is also about understanding the importance of community relationships and local food systems.”

The university is currently working on developing an agricultural partnership with Michigan State University, Gardner said.

“For GVSU to develop an agricultural program is quite a tenacious step,” Gardner said. “I definitely hope that we continue to grow.”

A Community Garden kickoff event will take place on April 13 from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. in the Multipurpose Room at the Neimeyer Living and Learning Center on the Allendale campus. The event will include presentations on the garden, information about registering for a garden plot, a tour of the garden and possibly samplings of local Michigan food, said Kendall Gilbert, outreach and community relations for the garden.

“After staring at PowerPoint presentations and computer screens all day, it’s nice to know you can learn something from spending a few hours with nothing but dirt and plants,” Gilbert said. “It’s also great that the garden is so new and we have a ton of different things we can do with it. I have a good time trying to get people out of the classroom and actually attempting to do the things they talk and theorize about. It’s good to see people not only with a sense of stewardship for the land but a sense of stewardship for their community.”

For more information on how to get involved with the Community Garden, visit the or join the the Facebook GVSU Community Garden group. If you would like to join the community garden council, e-mail Bart Bartels at [email protected] or Kendall Gilbert at [email protected].

[email protected]