(11/02/21) BATON ROUGE, La. — A community garden located in the heart of LSU’s main campus is growing diversity in diet, education and stress relief.
The Hill Farm Teaching Facility and University Gardens, located across from the Lod Cook Alumni Center, now houses 20 raised container beds for community gardening. LSU AgCenter School of Plant, Environmental and Soil Sciences associate professor Kiki Fontenot and professor Ed Bush are overseeing the gardens.
Fontenot was able to begin the community garden program after receiving the Student Government sustainability grant. The grant helped fund the supplies, and horticulture students helped build the containers for the garden.
The community garden strives to keep costs at a minimum for students. The vegetables and herbs planted in the garden were donated to each of the gardeners at the beginning of the semester. The containers came pre-filled with a fertilizer mix, and Bush built a plumbing system that automatically waters the beds three times a week. The goal is for students to have to invest only their time in the gardens.
The community garden welcomes students outside of the College of Agriculture. Kim Diep, a political science major, became interested in the community garden after taking Agronomy 1001 as a general elective. The course has even influenced what trajectory she wants to take with her career.
“I want to go to law school, and before I took this course, I knew about personal injury and family law, but I didn’t know about how agriculture impacts us all,” Diep said. “Now I know what kind of law I want to practice, and I want to focus on agricultural law.”
The garden is even helping elementary education students learn how to teach science in the classroom. Pam Blanchard, associate professor in the School of Education, uses the garden for a hands-on application of science to teach her students how to make the classroom a place for experiential learning. She has 22 students in her education course maintaining two large raised beds in the garden.
Kaylee Deynzer, a graduate student in horticulture, says there are more benefits to gardening than just fresh vegetables. As a horticulturist, Deynzer has had the opportunity to help others grow gardens through teaching and community service, but had never raised a garden on her own until the community garden.
In addition to adding healthy foods to her diet, the solo gardening experience has opened her up to a new way to relieve stress without any pressure.
“Gardening is personal, and there are a thousand ways to do it and no way is wrong,” Deynzer said. “It encourages people to get out, and it has way more benefits than just the vegetables. When you encourage others to garden, it adds to the diversity of their diet, education and recreation.”
“All gardens are good with reducing stress,” she continued. “I feel that it is a great way to participate in recreation and relax, not feel under pressure.”
There are about 40 students involved with the community garden this semester, and Fontenot has hopes to expand the garden and offer it to more students and faculty for teaching. She was intentional with designing the garden to be accessible to all students on campus.
Students and faculty interested in the community garden can contact Fontenot at firstname.lastname@example.org or 225-235-9968.
Kim Diep, political science major, works in the community garden at the Hill Farm Teaching Facility. Being hands-on with gardening has influenced Diep to pursue a career in agricultural law. Photo by Annabelle Stokes Lang/LSU College of Agriculture
LSU School of Plant, Environmental and Soil Sciences associate professor Kiki Fontenot and professor Ed Bush lead the community garden effort on the LSU campus. Photo by Annabelle Stokes Lang/LSU College of Agriculture