Health Science Center community garden expanding

Health Science Center community garden expanding

January 29
19:39 2015

Jordan Ottaway / Staff Writer

The Sustainability Committee plans to add nine new plots to UNT’s Health Science Center’s community garden starting Feb 21.

Approaching its one-year anniversary on Feb. 15, the garden was first suggested by a subcommittee within the larger Sustainability Committee and planned with help from the facilities department in 2012. Built by volunteers on a formerly-vacant lot, the garden is used by students and faculty from various fields of study as well as the surrounding community.

“We have several neighborhoods behind us [the Health Science Center] along with world-renowned museums,” sustainability coordinator Sandy Bauman said. “To hopefully get some of their employees to garden with us strengthens the relationship with our neighbors.”

Senior communications specialist Betsy Friauf, who served as the gardening coordinator until last semester, helped plan and create the garden. She was taught to garden by her parents and grandparents and married a highly trained gardener. She said she saw how valuable it was being able to grow her own food and took it upon herself to help others do the same.

“We on the sustainability committee thought that helping people to grow sustainable food was definitely a way of helping the community,” she said. “That was really my guiding light.”

Gardeners are not restricted to what they plant, but the only requirement is that 25 percent of their produce is donated to the Northside Inter-Community Agency, a local food bank. Last year, NICA donated 60 pounds of produce, giving more than 200 servings of fruit to senior citizens that wouldn’t be able to afford it in a supermarket.

“They [NICA] have a great cause going helping give produce to those who couldn’t afford it,” grounds foreman Dean Conine said. “They help us out by coming in on yield days to pick up the produce we donate.”

The garden isn’t just a place to grow food; it’s also a place to learn. More than 200 elementary school kids come for education tours to learn about organic gardening. The kids received pre- and post-tests on the the tour.

“We actually found that they increased their knowledge about organic gardening,” Friauf said. “So that was very gratifying to do that.”

Since it is still early in the year to plant certain seeds, the center plans to hold a planting day March 28. Participants will go out as a group and plant with a master gardener who will give beginners tips on organic gardening techniques.

Conine said expanding to the community brings high hopes because there have always been people on a waiting list for plots. Even if people have to leave, spots fill up quickly, he said.

“I think we have a good handle on it,” Conine said. “We want to keep making an impact on the community whether it be with food or teaching.”

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