Penn State Community Garden Wraps Up Its First Season

Posted: November 25, 2009

As winter settles in over Happy Valley, the PSU Community Garden is wrapping up its first and very successful season. Located on the grounds of the Center for Sustainability (CFS), the garden has been a joint project of the CFS and College of Agriculture student volunteers. The garden is now a permanent part of the CFS masterplan and will compliment the MorningStar solar home as a show piece for sustainability on the PSU campus.
Penn State's community garden in July.

Penn State's community garden in July.

Spanning a ΒΌ acre field, the garden includes 98 10 ft. by 15 ft. plots that members use to produce a variety of fruits, vegetables, and ornamentals.  The site includes facilities for an enjoyable gardening experience, including a tool shed fully equipped with many hand tools, water for irrigation, and a sunny picnic table area complete with a stunning view of Mt. Nittany.  Initially conceived as an activity of the Sustainable Agriculture undergraduate club, plans for the garden were first launched by undergraduates Jackie Yenerall (’09) and Claire Wagner (’08).  College of Ag Dean of Undergraduate Education Dr. Marcos Fernandez gave the garden a big boost with a start up grant in 2008 that was used to fund initial site preparation and equipment.  These funds also supported an internship program; Seth Bombgardener (’11, Ag Engineering) served as the intern in 2009 and helped gardeners with questions and practical problems.  The garden has since evolved into a diverse organization bringing together graduate and undergraduate students, PSU faculty and staff, and State College area residents.

In addition to providing members with land and facilities to grow some of their own produce, the Community Garden is also developing into a thriving social and community organization.   During monthly workdays, gardeners cooperated in garden maintenance and enjoyed doing fun chores together like weeding, spreading mulch, and turning compost piles.  Two educational workshops were organized over the season, one on organic insect management led by Entomology Professor Dr. Mary Barbercheck, and one on canning and food preservation led by Cooperative Extension Associate Charlie White.  The garden was also featured as a stop on the Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture summer farm tour, and members had a chance to show off their plots to interested visitors.  Towards the end of August, gardeners held an outdoor potluck dinner at the garden to celebrate the bounty of the season.

About 50 plots will be available for new members in the 2010 season, and the garden will be gearing up to accept applications in mid-January.  If you are interested in participating, keep an eye out for advertisements in the Collegian and Center Daily times early in the new year.  The Community Garden is a great way to enjoy fresh, local produce as well as spend time outdoors with friends and family.

By J. Franklin Egan (President, PSU Community Garden)