Campus garden reaps harvest

Its roots may be humble but the legacy of the University of Lethbridge's first campus garden is truly grand.

An initiative with community in mind, the garden enjoyed its first harvest this fall. There should be many more to come.

"For a first year, I think we did really well," Stephen McGlenn, president of the Campus Roots Garden Cooperative, says. "We weren't expecting an incredibly huge garden because the first year takes a lot of work and a lot of co-ordinating of volunteers. It was challenging at times but in the end, everyone felt really good about it, especially the community building aspects of what making a garden is all about."

Located near the Parkway Service Complex, the fenced facility consisted of nine private plots (each 144 square feet) and a large communal plot. McGlenn estimates some 35 people were directly involved in renting and planting the plots but at any given time, with the involvement of family members, more than 60 people contributed to the garden's success.

Challenges were what you'd expect from a typical garden, including the co-ordination of volunteer weeding efforts. One unique difficulty was a lack of water available to the gardeners due to construction activities on campus.

"Water conservation was a huge challenge. With the area construction, our water was turned off for the better part of three weeks, and it forced us how to learn to use water effectively," says McGlenn, a fourth-year Native American Studies major.

Learning, it would turn out, proved to be a common theme throughout the summer.

"The cross-generational learning from the veteran gardeners, their experience and their love of gardening, really translated to the younger students who maybe didn't have that knowledge but really wanted to learn," says McGlenn. "That sharing of knowledge really got people excited about the project."

Students, staff, faculty and extended family members all had a hand in maintaining the garden and in the end, reaped benefits from its harvest. All extra produce was earmarked for local food banks.

Plans for next year's garden include planting specific plots for different campus departments.

"We're going to try and have a plot specifically for the daycare, one for the Native Studies Department and so on so that departments can hold events using food that they've grown on campus," says McGlenn.

It doesn't stop there, as the group submitted a proposal to the City of Lethbridge's Plan Your City project about incorporating the community garden concept into the city plan.

"Our proposal talked about how beneficial these gardens are, not only for healthy eating, community building and active living, but also for lessening our dependence on fossil fuels and promoting sustainable technologies."


• The garden featured a variety of vegetables, including potatoes, peas, beans, carrots, varieties of lettuce and selected herbs.

• The communal plot included companion plants like marigolds to attract certain predators that would aid in the control of pests.

• Student Kyle Robinson initiated the community garden project before McGlenn took over. Following his graduation in Apr. 2010, a new executive will be created. "For me, it's almost been the climax of my undergraduate degree. Putting something together and having something tangible that I can point to in the future and say, "We put that together," is pretty fulfilling," says McGlenn.