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A New Garden Grows Challenge, Engagement and Produce at TAMIU Posted: 4/27/16

A New Garden Grows Challenge, Engagement and Produce at TAMIU

 

Globe at TAMIU Entrance
Gardening makes sustainable sense at TAMIU.  

Exploring sustainability, food consumption and conservation has taken on a real hands-on dimension, springing to life in a dedicated on-campus garden for 147 Texas A&M International University  (TAMIU) students enrolled in service-learning courses.

The TAMIU Garden is part of freshman-level UNIV 1102 service-learning courses focused on the powerful use of green spaces to grow and harvest fresh produce to promote civic engagement and responsibility.

On Wednesday, May 4 from 9 – 10:30 a.m., class members will gather for a team harvest of the Garden’s produce, which will be donated to local food banks, incorporated in menu offerings by Aramark, the on-campus food services provider, and shared with fellow students in on-the-spot tasting opportunities.

The effort is directed by TAMIU’s Service-Learning Center, which supports the development and implementation of service-learning courses, providing guidance and resources to TAMIU faculty.

Service-learning is an experience-based teaching method used in TAMIU credit courses that engage students in relevant community service. An average of 13 TAMIU service-learning courses are offered during Fall and Spring semesters and involve 20-plus Laredo non-profit organizations.

Dr. Marcela Uribe, director of service-learning, community-based research and faculty initiatives, said the student experience is fertile in many ways.

“This is a dynamic opportunity for students to truly ‘grow roots’ with their community, to strengthen academic learning, to nourish non-profit organizations, to cultivate career experiences, and to plant the seeds for a community that is more engaged,” Dr. Uribe said.

Instructor Monica Thorpe has led students in six UNIV courses this Spring semester in the creation of the Garden from scratch. Students have helped clear the land, build the garden beds, plant, grow and harvest the produce.  The University’s Physical Plant staff, SSC Services for Education, helped fence the area and provides critical support.

Freshman student Shane Luke, a Psychology major, said the Garden has provided him with insight into the importance of sustainability.

“I learned about the process of sustainability and how it influences our daily lives through what we do – and planting/maintaining a garden just so happened to create a micro-sustainable cycle within ourselves,” Luke explained.

Primary support for the initiative was provided by a Title V, Focus on Student Success Grant, and augmented by local donors, including GEO Mortgage, Inc., Yusen Logistics, Logicorp Enterprises LLC and Rail Link de México provided vital components such as pallets used to create beds and fencing. The Garden is fairly bursting with crops including turnips, beets, Swiss chard, and lettuce, and melons, among others.

It’s a healthy Garden, but some challenges have presented themselves, Thorpe observed.

“We are on a 300-acre campus that is home to a variety of wildlife and insects, so we’ve had to develop natural responses and barriers to monitor and protect the Garden. This has also been an unusually wet Spring, so that has also presented some challenges as well,” Thorpe explained.

Luke said he struggled initially, fearing his non-green thumb might hamper progress.

“I struggled at the start of the project – which consisted of nurturing seeds until they sprouted. It took time and a lot of dedication…I remember I set an alarm just to remind me that the seeds needed watering. Afterwards, we planted them in the garden beds. I was lucky enough to keep watering them after they were planted, so I watched them grow into full on vegetables,” he recalled.

And still bigger news is growing on the horizon for TAMIU’s Garden, Uribe said.

“This first year was our prototype garden and because of our campus’ growth, the TAMIU Garden is being relocated to a larger area behind the Rec Center which will enable us to have larger beds, greater produce variety and involve more people in our effort.  We are truly growing together,” she observed.

Student gardener Luke said he’s sold on gardening.

“Gardening is a process that makes your household more sustainable and it opens doors for personal growth in well-being, economy, society, and nature. I hope that TAMIU expands on this project and inspires more people to plant their own garden and become more sustainable,” he concluded.

For additional information on Service-Learning at TAMIU, call 956.326.2132, visit the Service-Learning Center online at http://www.tamiu.edu/uc/slc/, email servicelearning@tamiu.edu, or stop by offices in the Senator Judith Zaffirini Student Success Center, suite 223.

You can't 'beet' that -- a garden at TAMIU!

You can't  'beet' that -- a garden grows at TAMIU!

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