If there was a way for Pierce students to improve their mood, develop the community and enhance their individual health, shouldn’t the school jump at the chance?
Well there is, and they should.
Pierce should start an organic community garden somewhere on its 426 acres of land. The campus already has an area dedicated as farmland, with cows and goats grazing the pasture. A community garden would fit right in and offer students and neighboring members the chance to come together for a common goal.
The garden could sit near the Equestrian Center where unused planters already exist.
According to the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE), more than 100 post secondary institutions have a community garden on their campuses.
Riverside Community College (RCC) has one that “intends to make healthy, sustainable food available to [their] community through education and practice,” according to their website rcc.edu.
RCC’s garden is run by volunteers. Pierce could mirror that strategy and have a few staff members train willing students or community members in maintaining the garden. In turn, volunteers would then be able to train new workers and the garden would become self-sustainable.
A garden also provides an opportunity for people to socialize outdoors while getting exercise.
According to Lamar.edu, a recent study shows that residents who live in areas closer to community gardens are more likely to interact with their neighbors. Community gardens offer a place for people from different generations, cultures and ethnicities to come together and create relationships.
Aside from strengthening community ties, a garden would help students lower their stress levels.
College students can have incredibly taxing lives filled with academic, financial and social strains. Having an easy way to reduce stress on campus would be beneficial to Pierce’s students.
According to a research paper published in the Journal of Health Psychology titled “Gardening Promotes Neuroendocrine and Affective Restoration from Stress”, gardening has been proven to relieve acute stress.
Sciencedaily.com reports that there was a correlation between college students’ use of their campus’ green spaces, such as community gardens, and how they perceived the quality of their lives to be. The more frequently they used these green spaces, the more positive they felt their lives were.
And these are only the the benefits associated with tending to the garden. We haven’t even touched on the advantages that come after the food is grown.
Once the garden is flourishing with fruits and vegetables, there are different things the school could do with the produce.
The school could open its garden on a certain day of the week and invite the public to come and buy food for a reasonable price. Students and local families would have access to organic food at a fraction of the cost. This would promote healthy lives and would especially benefit those who normally have to choose between healthy food and saving their money because they are living on a low income.
According to a research paper published in Public Health Nutrition titled “Low income consumers’ attitude and behaviour towards access, availability and motivation to eat fruit and vegetables,” cost and availability are two common obstacles that prevent families from consuming fruits and vegetables. Those are two barriers that could easily be solved through the creation of a community garden.
Alternatively, the school could donate the food to its students by partnering with the Students Against Student Hunger (St.A.S.H) club and provide fresh, healthy food with those in need.
It’s obvious that from start to finish, anyone participating in the organic community garden would benefit tremendously. It’s time for Pierce to plant the seeds for its future.