Junior’s idea for Vanderbilt community garden takes root

The Vanderbilt Garden Initiative is looking for a few good gardeners this summer and next year.

Ideally, faculty and students staying in Nashville this summer will plant warm weather crops, such as peppers and beans, to sustain the garden until students arrive for the fall semester. After warm crops are harvested in late summer, the garden will open to all undergraduates interested in planting cool weather crops, like broccoli, carrots and potatoes.

The garden is accessible to anyone at Vanderbilt interested in tending to vegetable crops, regardless of experience.

Bruce Spencer

“We’re looking for all the volunteers we can get who want to be a part of a change at Vanderbilt,” said Bruce Spencer, a junior chemical and biomolecular engineering major at the forefront of the Vanderbilt Garden Initiative.

Spencer and more than 40 students and professors met in early April to discuss plans for the Vanderbilt Garden Initiative, a 105- by 30-foot community vegetable garden located off Natchez Trace.

Last summer, Spencer and a handful of McGill Project and Vanderbilt Initiative for Vegetarian Awareness (VIVA) members crafted the idea of a campus garden that would be independently maintained and harvested by Vanderbilt students. Spencer joined forces with Andrea Wall in the Office of the Dean of Students to make the garden a reality. Wall is now the garden’s adviser.

VU Garden

Students from across campus have come together to help Spencer and Wall put the garden initiative into action. VIVA, Students Promoting Environmental Awareness and Responsibility (SPEAR), and the Office of the Dean of Students have worked alongside Spencer this semester to launch the project. SPEAR and the Dean of Students office successfully raised and allocated enough money to supply the garden with a shed, gardening tools and enough seed for a season of planting.

As crops are harvested in the autumn and spring seasons, all community gardeners will have access to the ripe vegetables, but in the true spirit of a community garden, extra crops will be donated to Nashville Mobile Market, a community initiative which provides fresh fruits and vegetables in food deserts throughout urban Nashville.

The garden initiative already has plans for expansion and improvement. Leadership positions within the garden project will become available in fall 2011 when the project expects to hold regular meetings. Additionally, students and faculty have discussed the creation of an internship opportunity in conjunction with the garden, with credit awarded for various related majors such as Earth and Environmental Sciences and Medicine, Health and Society.

Many Vanderbilt students see the garden as one manifestation of the green-friendly attitude growing on campus. This semester, while the community garden initiative flourished, Vanderbilt Green Fund gained $75,000 in grants to award to campus sustainability projects, and Vanderbilt took its first steps toward a major in sustainability within the College of Arts and Science.

Katie Ullmann, co-president of SPEAR, believes the garden stands as proof that Vanderbilt students have the power to initiate environmentally friendly change on campus.

“Students need to keep talking about sustainability and need to support the growth of these projects. The administration will respond,” Ullmann said.

If you’re interested in getting involved with the community vegetable garden, contact Bruce Spencer at bruce.e.spencer@vanderbilt.edu or visit the Vanderbilt Garden Initiative page on Facebook.

garden map