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New student garden at Columbia College grows food for the community

Zoe Davis always had a garden growing up. Now a junior at Columbia College, she is helping cultivate a garden with 18 tomato plants and 10 pepper plants.

The garden started in July through the college’s Science Club and has grown over three bucketfuls of tomatoes and peppers and donated them to the Food Bank for Central and Northeast Missouri.

“(Making the garden) was my biggest goal before I graduated, and the college took it super seriously and did everything in their power to support me,” Davis, the president of Science Club, said. “We got this started as early as possible, so I’m just so grateful for a college that supports me and lets me make a difference.”

The garden, about 10 feet by 12 feet, sits just off Eighth Street in a patch of grass behind Columbia College’s Practice Hall parking lot. The college’s Plant and Facilities Operations Office donated a blue shed they keep next to the garden for storing equipment.

In the future, the club hopes to expand the garden into a larger area of grass behind the shed. Members are also designing a mural, and they plan to have art students paint on the street-facing side of the shed.

Davis got the idea for the garden last fall after Tara Martin, one of the Science Club’s faculty advisers, mentioned students gardening on campus in the past. The club worked with Cliff Jarvis, the college’s vice president for Facilities Operations, and the facilities crew to find a space they could use. In July, the facilities crew tilled the soil when it was finally dry enough.

Davis wanted to turn her gardening hobby into a club project that could provide produce for the food bank. She read online that food banks normally get canned fruits and vegetables, and Davis believes everyone deserves to have fresh produce.

After Davis shared her idea for the garden, her mom planted pepper seeds and grew the plants in her home until the garden was ready. Davis’ parents also donated the tomato starter plants, with the rest of the materials funded by the Science Club.

Davis’ dad acts as a gardening expert for the Science Club, which Davis said has over 100 members. Officers, like secretary Kristin Kelly, a junior, take turns maintaining the garden for a week. Now with the help of other club members, they remove weeds, hill the soil, water the plants, then pick the produce and deliver it to the food bank.

“This is completely nonprofit. We’re just giving (the produce) back, and we’re really happy to do so, we’re really proud,” Kelly said. “Also, we can learn from this and try to apply our science skills to the garden.”

The club started out simple with just tomatoes and peppers, but they want to try out more plants if the garden goes well. They expect to have tomatoes and peppers until mid-October, and then plant kale or other plants better suited for colder weather.

“We’re hoping to grow our own mini farm and try to get more things,” Davis said. “We’re looking to grow mushrooms and just all kinds of different plants.”

Martin, an associate professor of biological sciences, said the garden gives students more opportunities than just in-class labs to see biology topics they learn about in action.

“They get the experience of how to plant and care for the plants, make sure they’re watered, harvesting it — and what we’re really excited about is them getting involved, not only with the college but also with the community,” Martin said. “That’s one thing that’s super important because science impacts everyone, and I really like that they’re getting that message out there and showing that science is for the betterment of everyone.”

Ellie Lin is a senior Journalism student at the University of Missouri. She’s studying Cross-Platform Editing and Production with an emphasis in Multimedia, UX and UI Design.
The Columbia Missourian is a community news organization managed by professional editors and staffed by Missouri School of Journalism students who do the reporting, design, copy editing, information graphics, photography and multimedia.