VCU opens learning garden to the public

learning garden 1

Sophia Belletti
Staff Writer

Students, staff and faculty visited the new Monroe Park Campus learning garden on April 21 for an open house. The Office of Sustainability opened the garden for anyone to gather information to visitors without having to commit to volunteering.

The learning garden is dedicated to growing produce for RamPantry, a food collection service which provides food for in-need students. The garden also provides for community partners such as the Richmond Center for High Blood Pressure and the New Clay House, which provides housing to formerly homeless adults, while offering volunteer and educational opportunities to for the community.

“We thought if we had space that was entirely donated to growing produce we could serve a lot more people and it could be an educational space to create that long term solution to a problem rather than just donating produce,” said Hannah Wittwer, the learning garden coordinator at VCU’s Office of Sustainability.

Freshman Taylor-Skye Mojica, a member of the class and said she had never gardened until this year.

“I’ve learned a lot from Hannah (Wittwer),” said Mojica. “I would love to continue next semester. They’re really great, they help with RamPantry, they provide produce for students who are lacking and insecure with their food.”

Wittwer said the open house was a way for people to learn about the garden without the pressure of signing up.

“I’m hoping our volunteer pool will be not just students but staff and faculty too,” Wittwer said. “I met a lot of new people and people who are just genuinely interested.”

learning garden 7In January, gardeners built plant beds and placed mulch in the garden. Five months later, the garden is fully functional and all spring crops are planted and growing.

Wittwer said she expects the garden to be fully functional by the end of the summer, as there are still plans to add a wooden boardwalk and table-top style beds that are wheelchair accessible.

“I want to show people there are a lot of things that don’t seem ideal in urban space, but we’re working with our space and we’ve done it with very little money so to show people gardening doesn’t have to be prohibitive,” Wittwer said. “It can be easy, fun and inexpensive. I want to give people a sense of the satisfaction you can get from growing your own food.”

While a majority of the funding for the garden came from the Office of Sustainability’s budget, the garden also received a grant from Council of Community and Engagement and smaller internal grants from local businesses and nurseries, according to Wittwer.

UNIV 112 professor Kristy Byrd’s class has spent the semester potting and creating the learning garden since the project started as part of their service learning unit.

Students can walk through the garden at anytime and sign up to volunteer through the Office of Sustainability’s website or Facebook page.

The Learning Garden is located at 1218 Parkwood Ave. next to the W. Cary St. Parking Deck, the space belongs to VCU Parking and Transportation.

Staff Writer, Sophia Belletti

Sophia Belletti, Photo by Brooke MarshSophia is a sophomore print/online journalism major with a minor in gender, sexuality and women’s studies. She enjoys writing about current events and sports and hopes to one day be a sports reporter, covering soccer, basketball and baseball. You can usually find Sophia drinking way too much coffee and laughing at her own jokes. // Facebook | Twitter | LinkedIn

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