Educational Garden Project Grows, Connecting More Campus and Community Groups

By: Claire Dakhlia Intern, Office of Sustainability Initiatives

As volunteers harvested greens, herbs and eggplant at a workday at the Cox Hall Educational Garden, a young boy and his dad walking by stopped to take a look at the garden. Within seconds, frequent volunteer Jamie Nadler (19C) invited them to tour the garden and gave the boy some dinosaur kale, much to his amazement. His wonder was not so different from the reactions of the Emory faculty, staff and students as they walk by the gardens, often starting conversations about seasonality, troubleshooting their crops at home, or getting involved.  

Elise Kulers (20C) has taken the lead at the Cox Hall Educational Garden this semester. She uses her farming experience and connections to the student groups Emory Food Chain and Slow Food Emory to inspire engagement in the garden. Students in the Emory Food Chain group use what is grown in the Garden, in addition to food collected from the Emory Dining halls and area grocery stores, to provide meals to area food shelters and pantries.  

“Gardening makes me happy. Not only do I love growing food, but I love the community aspect as well,” Kulers says. “We grow vegetables for Emory Food Chain, which allows a more direct means of food delivery, instead of relying solely on leftovers from the DUC-ling. There’s something beautifully exciting about engaging with plants, Emory, and the greater Atlanta community, all through the educational gardens.” 

The Cox Hall garden is just one of the eight Emory Educational Gardens on campus. Each plot is funded and run by the Office of Sustainability Initiatives and led by different campus and community groups under the supervision of the Educational Garden Coordinator, Lauren Ladov.  At the beginning of the semester, these groups came together at the Depot Garden on Eagle Row for a kick-off interest meeting and training, where participants enjoyed garden-fresh pesto, tomatoes, and tea, learned how to read seed packets, and made a plan for the fall crops. As volunteers from previous years shared notes on their gardens, new volunteers were able to meet the groups running the gardens that interested them.

Current Gardens include:

  • School of Nursing Medicinal Garden 
  • Rollins School of Public Health Garden
  • School of Medicine Garden
  • Depot Garden 
  • Candler School of Theology Garden 
  • Eagle Row Garden 
  • Clairmont Campus Garden 
  • Cox Hall Garden 

Most gardens have different campus student groups, classes or departments who lead work in the gardens, but they are open to all in the Emory community who are interested in signing up to volunteer. Most of the yield in the gardens is harvested by volunteers. In the School of Nursing Garden, however, volunteers grow medicinal plants, which are mostly delivered to Herbalista, a health network that provides affordable botanical medicine to the Atlanta community through their mobile Herb Bus and Harriet Tubman Foot Care Clinic.  In summer of 2018, the Educational Garden Project was able to provide enough organic calendula flowers to treat over 30 patients at the Foot Care Clinic.  

The most recent addition to the Educational Garden Project is the Clairmont Campus Garden, currently run for the Garden Theme Hall of one of the residence halls. The raised bed gardens were installed over the summer and are now thriving under the stewardship of two floors of the Undergraduate Residential Center (URC). This project was spearheaded by Faculty in Residence and Director of the ESL Program Levin Arnsperger.  

“I first had the idea of having the garden and then had the idea of the Theme Hall,” says Arnsperger. “Students and staff use these facilities; wouldn’t it be good to have a garden that everyone could see and use? The question was, who would take care of it long-term? I created the Theme Hall because we wanted to make sure that there was a group of students that felt responsible for the garden long-term.” As the semester has progressed members of the larger Clairmont community have become involved and helped the garden grow, whether stopping by for fresh rosemary or participating at a workday. 

Those interested in volunteering in one of the Educational Gardens should email gardens@emory.edu to join the Gardens listserv.  

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