Growing interest in community garden

With the growing season coming to an end, St. Thomas students, faculty and neighbors are harvesting some of the last crops from the UST Stewardship Garden

<p>The Community Garden's growing season is almost over. (Jessica Barton/TommieMedia)</p>
The garden’s growing season is almost over. (Jessica Barton/TommieMedia)

The garden moved to a new, larger location behind Brady Educational Center last April. This location has allowed the project to expand and include more students and community members.

The goal of the garden is to combine experimental research, education and community service. Adam Kay, the project adviser and a biology professor, presented results from the garden project at the Ecological Society of America Annual Meeting during the summer.

“The research was well received, and people were pretty excited about it because of its integrative nature,” Kay said.

Several classes have already used the garden for hands-on research and experiments. A summer health and human performance class included a project where students worked in the garden and explored the nutritional qualities of the crops.

The Reaching Excellence Academics and Leadership program helped plant crops, build an herb garden and held workshops about food justice issues.

This semester, several science, theology and English classes have plans to spend time in the garden and incorporate experiences and research into class projects. Student organizer Aaron Hays said he hopes students will realize world hunger issues by studying the garden.

“Our overall goal with this type of engagement is to provide a concrete example of a solution to the many social, health and environmental problems surrounding food,” Hays said.

Student organizer Ashela Richardson said a plant biology class has plans to come in and help remove some of the plants to take to the lab and weigh plant mass in the next few weeks. A medical geology class is also visiting the garden to take soil samples.

Along with providing research opportunities for St. Thomas students, the garden donates its produce to the Dorothy Day Center in downtown St. Paul. Kay said 800 pounds have been donated so far this year, and the garden is expected to contribute another 200 pounds by the end of the growing season on Oct. 1.

“Those donations get such warm reception because almost everything donated there is canned products so getting fresh produce is really appreciated,” Kay said.

The garden has also enhanced community engagement. Kay said neighbors are encouraged to come by the garden or chat with students.

“We have neighbors coming by all of the time that are talking with the students on the project and sharing ideas about gardening and food justice issues,” Kay said.

The produce was featured at the Grill in late August and according to Kay, was well received.

No plans to expand the garden exist now, but there are plans to extend the garden’s volunteer base. There is now a place for volunteers to sign up on St. Thomas’ Community Engagement Network Web page.

Kay’s future goal is to expand to local community groups and other educational institutions to create a network of garden projects. By doing this, the garden could compare research and pool the produce to donate.

Jessica Barton can be reached at