by Faith Rouillard, Contributing Writer
Yellow, pink, red, and purple… the colors of the UMF campus garden have begun to emerge. In the Fall of 2019, a construction crew made their way onto the UMF campus. Questions filled the air, “Why are they taking down the creative writing house?” and, “What will take its place?” The old, disheveled building was leveled and grass was planted in its absence. Luckily, this space didn’t remain empty for long.
Students on campus have spent many hours in the garden making it what it is today. Some classes have been planting flowers. Jessie Minior’s ‘Field Methods’ class has been studying the microclimate of the garden; whereas other courses such as, ‘Dig It: Gardening for a Change,’ goes to the garden once a week for experiential learning. Gretchen Legler, Assistant Professor of Creative Writing, applied for the grant that funds the garden.“Students are learning about things they’ve never learned before,” said Legler. “It has provided an experiential way for students to learn about sustainability. It has been really wonderful.”
In summer 2020, work initiative students, Sara Taylor and James Cooke, spent their time building the garden beds, filling them with soil, planting, and harvesting once a week. They filled the beds with parsley, sage, onions, lettuce, arugula, beets, radishes, tomatoes, squash and more.
The garden operates with many important goals: “Producing food for the community, providing classroom space, providing an aesthetically pleasing space on campus, providing flowers and herbs as a home for pollinators, and overall excitement for the community,” said Legler. “A big success has been a bridge between the campus and the community. One way to gauge its success is it’s providing a space for happiness, hope, and delight in a time that is incredibly hard on people.”
At the end of the growing season, the campus garden will have made eight donations of food to the Farmington community. The garden has donated over 100 pounds of food to St. Joseph’s Church, Old South Church, Wilton Food Bank, Fairbanks Food Pantry, and the UMF community. “It has been a terrific and unexpected success,” said Legler.
“My impression is that students are very excited about the garden,” said Legler. ‘Dig It’ student, Sava Nappi, said, “Every school I have been to has had a garden. This is something I assumed would already be here, so I have really enjoyed it.” The students aren’t the only ones who enjoy the garden though. “I am nearing the end of my teaching career, and this garden breeds new life into my job, so it is very meaningful to me,” said Legler.
The garden provides a welcoming space for all. It includes an accessible elevated garden bed for individuals who may not be able to bend over or those who may be in a wheelchair. There will be an open house for the garden on Tuesday, October 27th from 12 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. for UMF community members.