At Messiah College, a group of students is working hard on the Grantham Community Garden, whose mission statement calls it “a student-inspired, student-led effort to demonstrate and promote real-life concepts of sustainable agriculture - a necessary dimension of holistic Christian stewardship. The garden initiative is a means to educate students, faculty, and the broader community about the environmental, social, nutritional, and spiritual benefits of sustainable farming.”
Many students have joined the cause over the ten years of the garden being active. With under one acre, they produce a variety of crops, including tomatoes, peas, kale, raspberries, peaches, and broccoli. They also raise chickens and have an apiary.
Students working there have learned how to deal with pests such as groundhogs, squash bugs, and Colorado potato beetles using organic methods. Fighting these pests without advanced chemicals is very challenging to accomplish, thus the students are pushed to find different solutions to growing their food. It’s a unique experience, working on a project like this.
Madilyn joined the garden looking to learn how to grow her own food while working outside. After she joined the team of workers she learned that “it becomes so much more than that. You gain a real appreciation for the blood, sweat, and tears that goes into producing food. You become much more mindful of food waste and the working conditions of agricultural workers.” Working on the garden has given Madi and many other students a fresh set of college experiences. It’s also become an experience for the college community. The garden is now a campus staple and a visual landmark for the community. The college president periodically visits the garden to buy produce. Their campus’s Oakes Museum of Natural History often brings kids into the garden. The garden has set its foot deep into the campus’s culture and is bound to remain embedded for years to come.
This fall, the garden will be hosting its ten-year reunion. The original workers that started the garden are invited to come back and share a meal from the garden with current student workers. Madi says, “I know that this land holds a special place in all of our hearts and I am so excited to meet the people that quite literally broke the dirt and turned a patch of grass and weeds into a garden. Each team of gardeners has worked hard to maintain and expand the garden. It is more than just a patch of land. It is a now an integral part of our college that all of us have had a hand in.”