Garden Commons, a 6,000-square-foot triangle of land just east of UofL’s Cultural Center on Belknap Campus, will quadruple its capabilities this summer, thanks to $26,000 in private and grant money. What’s more, a rising number of UofL students and employees soon will be able to sample its harvest.
Volunteers gathered June 25 to start work. They built additional raised plant beds, filled them with soil and planted them, and laid pervious paving stones to create a gathering spot with benches. The pavers will allow water to drain through to the soil and help cut down the risk of flooding in heavy rain. The expansion also will include a new greenhouse, compost bins, rain barrels and bike racks.
“The support we’ve received for this project has been overwhelming,” said Paige Battcher, a former UofL Fulbright scholar who helped start the garden. “It’s incredible how many people have gotten on board with this.”
Among the volunteers were employees of AkzoNobel, a global manufacturer of paint, coatings and specialty chemicals whose wood finishes and adhesive business is based in Louisville. The company, which gave a $13,500 grant for the expansion, has taken on Garden Commons as an annual community service project.
Garden Commons began to take shape in March 2010 when Battcher, UofL’s Cultural Center and Louisville Grows, a nonprofit group that promotes sustainability, teamed up to launch the project. Student volunteers raised broccoli, kohlrabi, cauliflower, tomatoes and basil the first growing season.
Those who tended the garden took some of the produce home and gave the rest to the Center for Women and Families, a local nonprofit group that helps abuse survivors.
In August, Garden Commons became a recognized UofL student organization.
“I’m a city guy,” said Michael Anthony, who directs the Cultural Center and is now faculty adviser for Garden Commons. “It’s really been something to see this happen in an urban environment. I’m humbled by the power of collaboration.”
Campus-grown produce should start showing up in UofL restaurants this fall, said Bess McLaughlin, outgoing Garden Commons president. She is working with Sodexo, UofL’s food service company, to coordinate the foods planted with the foods Sodexo chefs use in their recipes.
The garden also will supply produce for the occasional cooking demonstrations Campus Health Initiatives offers at UofL to entice students to fix healthier meals.
Chloe Crabtree, a rising junior from Tompkinsville, Ky., is taking over as Garden Commons president this fall. Working at the garden, she said, has given her a new sense of purpose.
“It’s reconnected me with the earth,” Crabtree said. “I feel pride when I grow my own food and cook it. It’s become my passion.”