Needed change for AQ community garden

The Aquinas College Community Garden between the Academic Building and Holmdene.

Story by Zach Avery, Editor-in-Chief

Photos courtesy of Zach Avery

Of the many idyllic and photogenic locales on the Aquinas College campus, there is perhaps no spot with quite as much potential or possibility for positive community impact than our very own community garden.

“In 2013, we moved the garden to where it is now,” said Jessica Bowen, director of sustainability at Aquinas. “Which is nice, since it is the center of campus and is much more visible.”

The AQ Community Garden lends a unique opportunity for students to contribute toward a shared garden, and to cultivate fresh fruits and vegetables from right here on campus. Other city-wide locations may charge for every plot you reserve, such as the Hillcrest and Perkins community gardens, which rent out 4 feet by 2 feet garden boxes at around the $50 dollar range. Some local projects have attempted “sharing garden” models, similar to Aquinas College. Anyone in the area can contribute to the plot’s cultivation and take their personal portion once the crop is grown.

The grounds around our community garden, with Our Lady Seat of Wisdom in background.

However, two of our Grand Rapids open-access community gardens, the Treehouse Community Garden in the Baxter neighborhood and Urban Roots garden on the southeast side, have since closed down in the past few years. This is, invariably, a direct result of the global COVID-19 pandemic and its effect on person-to-person interactions.

While those programs around town may have permanently ended, our campus community can still hold onto the plot of land we have dedicated toward the communal, egalitarian practice of growing and tending a garden as a group. In fact, we Saints should be celebrating it.

“One of the most compelling points of the garden is that we are teaching students how to grow local food,” Bowen said. “We are providing organic, fresh local food to anyone on campus who wants to pick from the garden.”

The volunteering supplies trunk at the community garden.

As restrictions on social distancing, mask-wearing and group events slowly dwindle and fade into the background, Aquinas College must lead the way in providing local community gardens a place in our transformed society. Can you think of a better way to bring divergent folks together into one, beautiful outdoor space than a spring and summertime community garden? The space around our existing space is wide open, leaving room for plenty of improvements and renovations. Build a fully-functioning greenhouse, and now we are not limited to strict seasonal schedules. Plant down a dozen more garden boxes, and now more students than ever can contribute their own seeds and watch a kaleidoscope of produce grow and thrive all in one place. We can work harder together to make our future both safe and bright, and a new growth initiative for the AQ community garden will shine that guiding light.

Categories: Opinion, The Saint