In spring of 2021, the Office of Sustainability will be kicking off with a new project: Garden Plots.
Julie Whitaker, the Energy and Sustainability coordinator, is the head of this endeavor hoping to foster more opportunities for Valpo to get involved in sustainability.
Whitaker explained that there’s always been questions and interest in a garden or farm on campus, which sparked the idea for the garden.
“Something that I think people match sustainability with is gardening and it’s always something that I think people have been interested in,” said Whitaker. “So we just decided to come up with the proposal to see if the university was willing to advance this idea. Now it’s coming to unfold in the spring of 2021.”
The garden will be located near the former law school building.
“A lot of people question it being too far ‘off-campus,’ but you really can’t have a full-fledged garden in the middle of campus, so it’s really not that far off of campus. Really, I think it’s a great opportunity to bring the community back to the old campus,” Whitaker said.
The first half of the garden will consist of sections that groups or individuals can purchase for their own use.
“Half of the garden is going to be plots that people can purchase. So the idea is that someone’s gonna come and they’re going to be able to purchase their own... and then they can plant whatever they want in their own plot. So they can do flowers, they can do vegetables, fruits, whatever they decide is most interesting to them,” Whitaker said.
Whitaker went on to explain that the other half will be a ‘Healing Medicine Garden,’ which will be filled with plants that have useful properties.
“That is going to be future plans to make that an area that students and faculty can teach classes in, go and hang out [in], have a yoga class, sit and study,” Whitaker said. “That area will be filled with plants that can be healing- we can have lavender, that helps with stress and sleep, or you can have mint that awakens you and helps when you’re sick. So all of those types of herbs will be in the healing gardens that will be open for the whole community to enjoy.”
Purchasing plots, which are available in different sizes, is one way that interested students and staff can get involved.
“They can purchase a plot [by themselves], or they can also get together with their friends, or their clubs, or organizations and get a plot together and share,” Whitaker said. “It might be a lot of work for one student to take care of a plot, but if they’re in Greek life, they might have whole sorority that would want to take care of that garden plot. Or there might be the whole environmental club that wants to take care of a garden plot.”
The garden may also be a place for students to find community service opportunities.
“We’re going to have mini community service days- we’re going to be building a fence, that’s going to be a great opportunity for students to maybe get outside and have some community service opportunities,” Whitaker said.
Another way to get involved is through workshops Whitaker is hoping to host at the garden.
“We’re also going to have a lot of educational workshops once the garden gets going. Some of the classes/workshops that I have [in mind] are tea making class, so we’ll be able to get some of those medicinal plants and then make teas with them and also just workshops on what good soil is, how you take care of a garden, all of those type of things will be available for students to get involved in,” Whitaker said.
Though the garden was originally planned to be built last year, Whitaker expresses optimism that it will be successful this spring, despite delays.
“Due to covid, [the garden building] was supposed to happen last year, so we’re just going to be starting it back up again. We really just need people that are going to be interested in purchasing these plots and getting involved... We’re really hoping that once we break ground, people are going to want to find ways to get involved and really get their hands dirty and participate in the garden,” Whitaker said.