Campus garden provides teaching tools and produce

An expanding campus garden at EMU will soon, for a second season, provide fresh, organic and local food for the cafeteria while giving students a practical exercise in sustainability.

The garden includes a plot between Brunk House and Martin House on campus and an area across the street at the corner of Mt. Clinton Pike and College Avenue. The garden is being expanded both in square footage and in involvement from students and community members, including university classes that are participating in the project.

Already this spring, “Relating to the Land,” a senior seminar class taught by Steven D. Johnson, associate professor of visual and communication arts, and Tara L. Kishbaugh, associate professor of chemistry, planted spring oats in the garden while learning the multi-faceted benefits of a cover crop.

Harvest of campus garden

Grapes were just part of the summer harvest of the campus garden in 2009.

EMU student at work in campus garden

Hands-on experience in sustainable agriculture was one of many outcomes Peter Dula, assistant professor of Bible and culture, had in mind when he began the initiative. Pictured above is student Nautica Coleman during a day of work outside.

Flowers bloom in campus garden

Flowers add color during hot summer months. Below, Juan Perez and Heidi Hershberger worked in the EMU garden as members of the “Relating to the Land” senior seminar class.

EMU students at work in campus garden

New course to utilize garden

Doug Graber Neufeld, professor of biology, is teaching a new class, “Sustainable Agriculture,” throughout the fall 2009 semester that will utilize the garden as part of the curriculum. The upper level biology course will cover a range of agricultural topics, such as soil science and crop production, from a sustainable perspective.

“We hope to use the garden as a test plot,” said Graber Neufeld, “by actually trying out different ideas in the garden.”

Trials could include measuring the effect of compost on vegetable production or more experimental additions to the soil, such as charcoal. (The fall 2008 sustainability course focused on composting on campus.)

“Our plan to involve students in the garden while using sustainable techniques,” added Graber Neufeld.

‘Grass roots’ effort included students

Peter Dula, assistant professor of Bible and culture, was the driving force behind the creation of the garden last spring. As a member of the food procurement sub-group of EMU’s Creation Care Council, Dr. Dula realized that a garden was the most affordable and efficient way to supply the cafeteria with locally grown food.

Several students volunteered to help, brought their friends, and began the process of turning a section of campus lawn into a garden.

Abigail Spurrier, a junior culture, religion and mission major, has been part of the project since the beginning and helped over the summer, weeding and harvesting the garden.

“It’s really exciting to see the garden grow and know it’s a team effort,” Spurrier said. “I’ve found it’s a good place to meet new people and have conversations with professors outside of the classroom.”

Exciting results

Last summer, the garden supplied enough lettuce and spinach to stock the cafeteria’s salad bar during the Summer Peacebuilding Institute. Dula and the students also planted and harvested tomatoes, peppers, butternut squash, radishes and grapes.

“We never really knew how much he was bringing,” said dining hall director Bruce Emmerson, “but, we got creative, and we’re definitely glad to have it.”

Though the food grown in the garden may be the most visible crop, Dula believes that there is a greater harvest.

“I’m interested in encouraging students to have a garden of their own once they graduate,” said Dula, “and I’m hoping that working on the garden is cultivating and instilling sustainable habits among students.”