Melissa Nunn for TRW
Breaking Ground’s Garden project launches volunteer planting and details further expansion
Summary: The Garden welcomes volunteers to work towards sustainability and a stronger community. Jack Neumeier explains his vision for the project and how it will impact campus life.
On the surface it may seem ordinary, but there’s more to the Garden than what it grows. Groups of volunteers are currently working on a daily basis towards a wide range of goals that address everything from health to interdisciplinary research.
The Garden has been growing as an idea for over a year, but has only begun its realization in recent months. The project stems from the Breaking Ground initiative, a campus-wide collaborative working to bring community engagement to the higher education experience.
“We’re taking the ideas of Breaking Ground and making them real,” said Jack Neumeier, a senior interdisciplinary and civic studies major, “Food is just the medium.”
The Garden will eventually contribute to the dining hall on a consistent basis and produce an estimated $39,000 of food a year. In addition to the 3,000 square feet of boxed plotting by the police station, there is a food forest in the works that will span 8,000 square feet.
“The idea is if nature were to grow the food, how would nature do it?” Neumeier said.
In addition to realizing Neumeier’s original vision for a sustainable and lucrative community garden, the collaborators hope to get UMBC to commit a percentage of the food to being locally and sustainably grown. However, it’s not a simple request for a campus that relies heavily on corporate chains to feed thousands. Last year John Hopkins pledged to 35 percent local sustainable food purchases by 2020.
“We want to beat John Hopkins,” Neumeier said, “we’re shooting for 40 percent.”
Because there is so much room for expansion, there is still a great deal of work to be done. The project may be accredited as a lab in the future to provide more collaborative research opportunities for students who want to serve their community.
“Research is important, but it should also be relevant.” Neumeier says. “Students have a unique opportunity to point what they’re already doing towards the world’s problems.”
Already the Garden is bringing interdisciplinary activism to the narrow academic pathways students typically follow to graduation. Participants are encouraged to seize this opportunity by bringing their specializations to the process.
“Volunteers are co-creators. We always ask, what do you think? What needs to be different?” Neumeier says. “So many of our talented students don’t have a place to show how great they are.”
Whether your major is civil engineering or theater, that place might just be across the parking lot from the Performing Arts & Humanities building. Everybody has a seat at the table, which means everybody is a part of the solution.
Neumeier makes a compelling argument for those still on the fence: “Who would you rather support, the CEO of Monsanto or the farmer who lives across the street?”