Community garden tended by Project Grow, volunteers

Project Grow Fellows Thomas Murphy (left), of Louisville, Mary Anne Fox of Lexington, Nate McClendon of Louisville and Sierra Morris, of Sarasota, Fla. tend to the garden behind the Office of Sustainability on Friday, Aug. 26. “I’ve been a Fellow for one week and I enjoy it because I get to work more in a community setting,” Murphy said. The food that is grown in the garden is used by the Fresh Food Company. Ebony Cox/HERALD

Kylie Carlson


When the WKU Office of Sustainability was planning to move out of its office space in 2013, the search for a new home centered around the land on which it was built.

Christian Ryan, Office of Sustainability coordinator, said the Office of Sustainability bought a house specifically to have space for a community garden.

Now, throughout the week, students, faculty and members of the community volunteer to work in the garden, planting fruits, vegetables and more. The volunteer efforts are a part of the newly-created Project Grow Fellowship.

The Project Grow Fellowship is a one-year program requiring students to work at least five hours each week in the garden. People working in the garden assist the Office of Sustainability in bringing fresh food to the community.

Students, faculty and community members can work on Project Grow volunteer days which are Fridays from 1-3 p.m. There is plenty to do for everyone, from cutting grass to pulling weeds to replanting the beds.

Several of the project volunteers came out last Friday for Project Grow’s first work day of the semester to prepare the garden for a fall harvest. Brothers Bryan and Sean Nelson, juniors from Evansville, Indiana, cut the grass around the garden and pulled weeds in the afternoon sun while other volunteers replanted garden plots.

Sean Nelson is a first year fellow this semester and said he enjoys the way the garden adds some much needed outside time to his school schedule.

“It definitely brings that organic lifestyle that I believe in, and I love being outdoors.” Sean Nelson said.

Along with caring for the community garden, students can also rent a plot to grow their own food. Ryan said the Office of Sustainability refers to it as renting, but growing a plot in the garden is free as long as the gardener volunteers in the garden.

There is nothing in the garden that cannot be eaten. Within the front of the garden, wild wood sorrel, wine grapes, table grapes and more grow in abundance. The garden expands into the backyard with a variety of fruits such as raspberries, blueberries, blackberries and apple and peach trees. Carrots, spinach, hops and more herbs can also be found in the garden.

“This is definitely a fun experimental garden,” Ryan said as she pointed out which plants have worked and which haven’t done as well. “We get to do lots of research. We make sure to label the different types of plants to see which do better and when. We are always trying to see what works.”

For Mary Anne Fox, a second year Project Grow fellow from Bowling Green, the garden is a way to gain experience in her field.

“I am very interested in food production and seeing how to grow in the safest ways to not hurt the earth that is growing my food,” Fox said. “I am a horticulture major, so I get classroom experience, and then I get to come out here and get the real experience.”

Ryan said the community garden connects people who might not have met otherwise.

“There are all walks of life here,” Ryan said. “Everyone has a different major and is from a different part of the world. The garden creates a community of people that would have never crossed paths before.”

Food from the garden is also donated to the food pantry that the Office of Sustainability runs, Ryan said.

Students and faculty can join the Project Grow fellows in the garden behind the Office of Sustainability on Regents Avenue at their work day events every Friday from 1-3 p.m.

Reporter Kylie Carlson can be reached at 270-745-6011 and [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter at @kentuckylie.