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The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

Community Garden spreads its roots

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SJU Community Garden volunteers joined to celebrate the garden’s third birthday. PHOTO: LILY STEELE ’22/THE HAWK

SJU Community Garden kicked off its Earth Month and birthday celebration with an afternoon of cupcakes, pot painting, balloon art and planting on May 1.

Over two dozen people turned out to celebrate the third birthday of the community garden.

Julia Holz ’23 attended the event and helped to plant radishes, beets and spinach. 

“I heard there was a birthday celebration going on for the community garden, and I wanted to join the fun,” Holz said.

Located behind Merion Hall, the current iteration of the community garden broke ground in April 2019. Previous versions of the garden existed since 2012 in other locations on campus.

Alexander Manduca ’22 said everything the garden grows is donated. 

“Its primary goal is to provide some support in terms of fighting food insecurity on campus and off campus,” Manduca said. “We donate all of our produce, whatever it is that we harvest.”

In three years, the garden has donated over 930 pounds of produce to local organizations, including the Narberth Community Food Bank and HawkHUB, St. Joe’s food and basic needs and resource center. 

At the May 1 event, members of HawkHUB were on hand to receive a bag of freshly picked lettuce. Members of SJU Green Fund and SJ Brew also had tables at the event. 

In addition to helping people, Elizabeth Wash ’22, who has been a member of the garden since 2019, said she enjoys getting her hands in the dirt.

“I never really gardened much before I joined the garden,” Wash said. “Just to see how reasonable it is to do it has been really cool, and I think it’s inspired a lot of people to grow their own food.”

Manduca has found a way to incorporate his major and outside extracurriculars to his participation in the garden.

“I’m a physics major and the head of another club called the Society of Physics, and I started a collaboration between the two clubs to bring little computers into the garden with sensors associated with them,” Manduca said. “Those computers and sensors work in the garden to basically detect the properties of targeted environments.”

Bill Wolff, Ph.D., associate professor of communication and media studies and director of the community garden, said the project is in the “prototype stage.”

“This is going to be a real benefit for us,” Wolff said. “Different crops require different amounts of pH, different levels of nitrogen in the soil and so on, so these little computers will best benefit the crops.”

Wolff said such collaborations are an important part of the garden’s mission. Right now, the club is working on a project with Steven Rossi, assistant professor of art and art history, to build trellis sculptures. 

“The art department has been doing a wonderful job at creating sculptures that students have been placing in the garden,” Wolff said. “It’s really nice to have it be an educational space as well.”

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