Tuesday, May 03, 2016

Leadership lived: Students help build a community garden at UIS

When Erica Peak-Nordstrom and Rachel Wilham were assigned a group project in their Introduction to Sustainability class they came up with the idea of building a community garden on the University of Illinois Springfield campus.

“We just thought it would be great to have a garden and we actually made it a reality this semester,” said Wilham, a junior environmental studies major.

The pair started fundraising and with the help of Megan Styles, UIS assistant professor of environmental studies, they secured campus funding and support.

“We got donations from the Chancellor. She gave us the deer fence,” said Wilham. “We’ve had a lot of help from the grounds crew, especially Brian and Terry.”

Liz Rupel, a senior environmental studies major, heard about the project and got involved as part of the leadership team.

“It’s important for me to teach people that full circle effect, that you can start something from a seed and watch it grow into a plant and later eat it,” said Rupel. “You don’t need to just be a grocery store shopper and rely on others to do the work for you.”

The 20-foot by 20-foot community garden, located just north of the historic Strawbridge-Shepherd House at UIS, will provide locally grown food to the campus community. Students are welcome to take produce home and some food may be provided to campus dining centers.

“Obviously volunteers and people who have worked on the garden will have first dibs, but there’s no such thing as stealing from this garden. This is truly for the community,” said Peak-Nordstrom, a senior English major.

The students hope to expand the community garden in the future by adding a greenhouse and a brick pizza oven to cook produce.

“We have a lot of dream projects that we hope we’ll eventually be able to get started,” said Peak-Nordstrom.

The three say they are thankful for the opportunity they’ve been given to make their idea a reality.

“It’s just wonderful that we’ve been able to have this project and it’s just gone so much smoother than we ever could have hoped,” said Peak-Nordstrom.

If you would like to make a donation in support the community garden, volunteers have set up a Go Fund Me page.

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