Campus Garden Still Growing after 12 Years

Posted June 17, 2024, 11:06AM

At the west end of the garden between the Mary M. Townes Science Building and Biomanufacturing Research Institute and Technology Enterprise (BRITE) building, two students pull weeds from a raised bed. One pulls up a plant with a white liquid seeping out. 

“That’s milkweed,” says Bonisha Staton, a student majoring in social work. “They bring butterflies.” 

“And they help with pollination,” said Amari Foreman, who majors in psychology. 

The campus garden has gathered attention both on and off campus. In the last year, it has attracted members of the Women’s Center, TRIO, Kids Group Special Field Trip, the National Council of Negro Woman, NCCU softball team, Lady Eagle Development and Annie Day Shepard Scholars. 

There are also periodic events such as Wellness Wednesday, pumpkin painting prior to Halloween and – looking way too well dressed for gardening – Mr. and Miss Senior at the Garden. 

Students at North Carolina Central University (NCCU) help either because they enjoy gardening or to earn community service hours, a graduation requirement. 

This spring, NCCU students, alumni and members of the nonprofit Inter-Faith Food Shuttle built wooden frames for 20 raised beds. It takes 25 wheelbarrow loads of dirt to fill one raised bed. Ahmed Finoh, a senior in the environmental,earth and geospatialsciences department, is doing his part by shoveling from a pile of dirt into a wheelbarrow. 

It is June 8, which is the first of the Summer Community Garden Days. Though he appears to be working up a sweat, Finoh describes his activity as therapeutic. 

“I really like gardening,” Finoh said. “It’s really peaceful and giving back to nature and the earth.” 

He also approves of diversifying the campus grounds. “It is one thing to have manicured lawns,” he said. “It is another to have flowers and fruit-bearing plants and vegetables.” 

What is grown from season to season varies. At the moment a visitor could see cilantro, strawberries, blueberries, eggplants, basil, Red Okra, cucumbers, Azaleas and tomatoes among the beds. 

“After we harvest, we do a giveaway,” said Anaia Clyburn, a senior in public health who is president of the Campus Garden Committee, a student organization that manages the garden. Giveaways take place during the 10:40 break for students and at the Mary Townes building for community residents. 

The Campus Garden Committee started in early 2018, although the garden itself dates back to 2012. It was initiated by a female student who came from a family with health issues, said Calleen Herbert, director of community engagement and services. “One of the ways to remedy health issues is to have better access to food,” Herbert said. 

Campus entities got involved, including the then director of community engagement and services, facilities management, department of food and nutrition and the NCCU Alumni Association Inc. 

Off campus entities also helped, Herbert said. A class at North Carolina State University drew the design for the garden. Habitat for Humanity taught volunteers how to put up raised beds. Hillside High School – which had its original building on the site – presented rose bushes.  

The public is invited to attend:

  • Summer Community Garden Days, 10 a.m.-12 p.m., Sat., July 13.  
  • Summer Community Garden Days, 10 a.m.-12 p.m., Sat., Aug. 3. 
  • Garden Festival, 11 a.m. - 4 p.m., Sat., Aug. 17. 

The Campus Garden Committee will supply tools, gloves and bottled water to participants. It is free. 

 For more information, contact Tamette Farrington at[email protected] 

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