Cassie Labay/The JTAC
Originally known as Tarleton State University’s Community Garden the new and improved TSU Environmental Alliance Garden, is working hard to provide fresh fruits and vegetables to the Purple Pantry so that students in need have access to a supply of fresh and healthy foods.
The effects caused by COVID-19 have impacted many students, faculty and staff, either directly or indirectly. The TSU Alliance Garden is dedicated to providing aid to those students, faculty and staff, via providing TSU’s Purple Pantry with a steady supply of fresh produce.
The switch from the Community Garden to the Alliance Garden occurred over the summer, as TSU’s Agriculture Department shifted it’s focus to bigger projects. Following this shift TSU’s Department of Chemistry, Geo sciences, & Physics approached the Agriculture Department in order to take over the Community Garden.
While the transfer was finished over the summer, currently the Alliance Garden is in the process of shifting focus and shifting produce planted in the garden.
“Because we are in transition, what we are doing now and what we plan on doing is different. Some of the things in the garden were inherited, like some herbs, and some things were planted by us,” Assistant Professor & Director of the Center for Environmental Science, Dr. Anne Egelston, said.
Currently in the garden there is a wide variety of produce, including green beans, cantaloupe, peppers, tomatoes, strawberries and some herbs, such as mint. Also grown in the Garden are some decorative plants such as sunflowers and morning-glories. The sunflowers can be seen standing tall inside the garden and the morning-glories are a part of the beautiful arch way that leads to the garden. According to Egelston, the morning-glories are expected to flower soon.
The main purpose of this garden is to provided fresh produce to students in need through the Purple Pantry, while also being as natural and sustainable as possible. In order to achieve this no pesticides are used; only regular fertilizer and the occasional use of miracle grow, if a plant is in desperate need of it.
“We avoid pesticide use as much as possible and try to find natural solutions. We have ladybugs, who moved into the cantaloupe [area], and those ladybugs actually saved the cantaloupes,” Assistant Professor and Department Head of Chemistry, Geo Sciences and Physics, Dr. Ryan Morgan, said. “We only apply the miracle grow right at the roots of the plant, in order to avoid any unnecessary run-off.”
While most of the fruits and vegetables grown in the garden are taken to the Purple Pantry, students are allowed to take any herbs they want directly from the garden.
“We ask that students don’t take from the garden, as we want the fruits and vegetables to go to those who need it. When we have a few fruits or vegetables go missing we assume it goes to someone who needs it, however, most of the time people will came here hoping to find stuff, while at the Purple Pantry you’ll actually find the fruits and vegetables we took there during the day,” Morgan said.
The garden is able to provide plenty of produce, as of two weeks ago, they were able to take 97 green beans, three cantaloupe and over two dozen peppers.
Students interested in helping out, who are able to are encouraged to volunteer at the garden. Volunteer hours begin on Fridays from 8:30 a.m. to 10 a.m. Those who volunteer are able to bring their own garden tools or use the tools that are provided. All those who work in the garden are required to wear a mask, as well as follow all other university guidelines regarding COVID-19. Only ten people are allowed to be in the garden at one time, so students interested in volunteering should coordinate with Morgan and Egelston.
While COVID-19 has affected many parts of campus, some parts worse than others, thankfully the garden and those who are working in the garden, have not been terribly effected, as most of their work is low contact. All food delivered to the Purple Pantry is properly stored, sanitized and handled with care in order to maximize safety and ensure the maximum amount of aid can be provided.
“The demand for outdoor spaces has increased all across campus due to COVID-19 and we are fortunate enough to have a wonderful space for the garden. It has made us more motivated to make sure everything in the garden gets eaten,” Egelston said.
The Alliance Garden proves that despite COVID-19, dedicated members of TSU’s faculty, staff and student body are working hard to ensure the TSU community is taken care of in these hard times. The Alliance Garden and those working in the garden embody the core value of service.