A student-run community garden will be sprouting up at Wittenberg in the next few months if senior Eric Roberts has anything to say about it. Roberts is organizing the garden after his work with Gateway Greening in Saint Louis and an internship with the Clark County Extension Office, where Roberts worked under master gardeners.
“I wanted to see people see gardening as more than just a leisure activity,” Roberts said. “Gardening can have a lot of benefits.”
Roberts is currently writing his thesis on community gardens and the impact they can have.
“You’re creating networks that can be called upon; you’re creating networks in communities where people will trust each other more and that is a type of capital,” Roberts said.
The garden would be located at the corner of Woodlawn and West College, in an empty lot on the south side of the intersection. Roberts plans to have a soil test done there before moving forward with any plans. His next steps include setting up a garden club, continuing research for the project, and maybe even starting to grow plants in the green house in the Science Center. That way, they could start planting in mid-February, instead of having to wait until later months. Roberts is currently working out how to create a self-sustaining garden that is open to all students.
“My biggest concern is exclusion,” he said. “If we put a fence and lock on it, that’s gonna make some people feel marginalized, as if they don’t have access to it. The other thing is I wanna make sure that it’s not the garden club’s thing.”
Roberts’ goal is to create something that everyone in the Wittenberg community can participate in and benefit from. Although he is a senior, he is also trying to set up the framework for the garden to carry on long after his graduation. The garden would need to be tended to over the summer, as well as during the school year, and Roberts wouldn’t want all of that responsibility to fall on the garden club.
He is looking into an adopt-a-plot program, where different departments and organizations could adopt a plot of the garden and use it for what they want. He has also talked with Bob Welker and Ken Irwin about working with The Promise Neighborhood and The Wittenberg Co-op, respectively. The garden could offer locally grown food for both organizations, something they have lacked connections to in the past.
“In 1900, 50 percent or Americans were farmers. In 2000, less than one percent are,” Roberts said. “What does that tell you about people’s connection to our planet? I think that means we’re losing touch with the very planet that gives us life.”
The garden would allow students to see the stages of plant growth and understand the process that brings vegetables and other foods from the fields to the grocery store. They would also get to enjoy the fruits of their labor.
“The great thing about this garden is that we can put in the labor and see the fruits right here in our own community,” Roberts said.