Tomatoes and cucumbers are ripening in gardens across Michigan, including a new plot on East Quad’s grounds.
Residential College faculty and students gathered outside the residence hall Friday afternoon to celebrate the official opening of the RC Garden, an endeavor jointly led by students and faculty to bring fresh, organic produce to campus.
The Eco Club and Food Forum, two RC groups created to maintain the garden, have more than 30 members each and say interest is growing.
Though the garden’s concept originated within the RC, all University students may care for it and harvest produce.
The garden is currently growing chives, sweet basil, tomatoes, cucumbers, fruit trees, kale, corn and miniature watermelons, among other vegetables and plants.
The garden was built and developed by the East Quad Garden Committee, comprised of staff from LSA facilities and housing, the University’s Landscape Architecture unit, East Quad staff and students from the RC.
“There was so much interest,” said Kenn Rapp, a University landscape architect and committee member. “It was such an enthusiastic project to work on with a large committee of people that worked for almost three years.”
Rapp said the committee was tasked with creating a vision outlined by the RC, which included an emphasis on sustainability and the physical capability to add to the garden in the future.
To incorporate sustainability into the design, several species of flowers were planted within and surrounding the garden to attract natural pollinators, including bees and butterflies.
Pollinators can lay eggs in designated stations called “pollinator habitats” which are located within close proximity to the garden. The aim is to encourage future plant growth by creating a stable environment for pollinators.
“It’s its own little ecosystem,” Rapp said.
RC Lecturer Virginia Murphy, a Program in the Environment faculty member, helped oversee the project’s completion and said the garden is meant to show students that healthy food isn’t hard to find.
“We can grow healthy food in an urban setting,” she said. “Even in the middle of a major university campus.”
She said students were a major driving force to see the garden come to life, and that there have already been several courses designed to engage RC students with the garden.
Murphy said there are plans to offer all University students the same learning experience in the future.
“The RC is inclusive; I think the garden wants to be inclusive as well,” she said.
Murphy said the garden will soon feature signs to indicate which plants are ready to pick versus plants that will need additional growing time. Another sign will let people know that any leftover food will be donated to the Back Door Food Pantry of Ann Arbor.
LSA senior Emma McKenzie said she is excited to see a unique student-run garden on campus.
She said she hopes more people will take an interest in gardening and that they will care about where their food is coming from.
“That’s better for the Earth if we’re transporting less food farther distances,” she said. “I’m hoping that people start taking an interest in more locally grown food.”