Students create an opportunity for community to grow

February 13, 2009

Growing your own organic produce is great way to save money and improve your diet, but for many students, apartment dwellers and others, having a garden is not a viable option. Now, Penn State students have developed an organic community garden that will offer local residents and the University community a chance to harvest their own home-grown bounty.

For a $20 membership fee, aspiring "green thumbs" will be able to nurture a 10-foot-by-15-foot plot in the garden at the Center for Sustainability, off Porter Road near Lubrano Park.

Organic gardening is a healthy, nutritious and environmentally friendly activity that can offer a relaxing source of physical exercise, explained Dave Mortensen, professor in the Department of Crop and Soil Sciences. "This garden will provide a friendly and educational environment for university and local State College growers," he said. "The project was developed by a group of students in the Sustainable Agriculture Club at Penn State after the center approached them last year with the opportunity to develop a piece of land. They were looking for a way to incorporate an agricultural component into the center, but lacked the necessary resources. "

Jackie Yenerall, a senior environmental and renewable resource economics major from Gibsonia and one of the project's student leaders, said that gardening tools, water and compost will be provided to members, along with discounts on gardening workshops that will be offered on location. "We chose a community garden because we believed that students were lacking opportunities to gain hands-on experience with agriculture," she said. "Members will also have access to a network of support, including experienced gardeners and Penn State faculty members."

The project is designed to attract members who may have an interest in gardening but lack any previous experience, Yennerall added. The community garden also will feature educational signs explaining aspects of sustainable and organic agriculture. The organic gardening workshops offered throughout the summer will be open to the public, and registration fees for the workshops will help to support the garden.

"It gives students trapped in apartments a little green space they can call their own," said Yenerall. 

She and fellow club member Clare Wagner, a senior from State College majoring in agroecology, stepped into leadership roles to help the garden project become a reality. The garden is co-sponsored by the College of Agricultural Sciences and the Center for Sustainability. 

Penn State's Organic Community Garden will have its grand opening on Saturday, April 18. Plots will be offered to University and State College community members on a first-come, first-served basis until Saturday, March 7. Membership applications are available online at



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Last Updated May 06, 2010