Plant sciences student finds new ways to cultivate goodwill in her community

Kelly Jedrzejewski
June 08, 2020

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — For Amanda Grube, quarantining at her family’s farm in Manheim, Pennsylvania, gave her a lot of time to think about past summers and how this year’s coronavirus would impact her community. To ease the strain a little for her friends and neighbors, Grube has started an informal community garden and a free library, all while completing a virtual internship and staying in touch with her sorority sisters.

“It all started with a little bit of boredom and a desire to do something useful with my time,” Grube said. “I was thinking about the things I'm missing the most from having to stay home, and the ideas grew from there.”

A rising senior majoring in plant sciences, agroecology option, in Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences, Grube also has minors in plant pathology and agronomy as well as a certificate in agricultural stewardship and conservation. Fittingly, her first initiative was starting an informal, community-supported agriculture garden. Grube said her family has always had a “kitchen garden,” but felt that it was a good time to share considering the pandemic.

Grube took suggestions of vegetables her friends and family wanted and started the seeds along with purchasing some other plants. The first wave of vegetables — including lettuce, spinach, arugula and radishes — is almost ready to be harvested and delivered. 

While doing some cleaning and organizing, Grube found several boxes of books from her and her sisters’ childhood, sparking some happy memories and another idea. "Besides going to the pool, going to the library with my mom or my grandma was one of the things we most looked forward to in the summer. I know how disappointed I would have been not to be able to check out new books every week,” she said.

Grube texted a group of high school friends to see if anyone else was interested in starting up a mini-library in their neighborhood. Several people were, and two mini-libraries have been built and stocked so far. Since Grube’s family farm is a bit farther out of town, her library will be set up at her church, which is situated in a larger neighborhood. 

Amanda Grube

Amanda Grube, a student in Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences, started a community garden and a free library to help her community during quarantine. 

IMAGE: Amanda Grube

“It’s something good for the community, especially the kids,” Grube said. "Originally, it started with just younger-grade chapter books, but a friend who’s relocating out of state for a job donated a ton of adult books to the project, which will allow the libraries to serve even more members of the community.”

Health and safety are at the forefront of Grube’s mind when it comes to the libraries. She plans to place a return cooler with the library so the returned books can be sanitized before they are placed back on library shelves.

Grube’s summer internship with the Penn State Agriculture and Environment Center also is allowing her to serve her community. The internship focuses on outreach concerning the Chesapeake Bay watershed. There is a strong focus on working with farmers on ways to implement different environmentally friendly practices to support the watershed.

Despite an already packed schedule, Grube is staying in touch with her Penn State community. She is a member of the professional agricultural sorority, Sigma Alpha. The members have been participating in fitness challenges, book clubs, remote community service and even yoga Zoom sessions. “We wanted to stay in touch so our sisters still had a support network, even if we couldn’t be together physically,” she noted.

“I hope that all these things — the gardens, the library and even the interactions with my sorority — can give someone something to look forward to,” Grube said. “It’s a stressful time, and everyone is struggling in their own way. I hope that what I’m doing can help take someone’s mind off their problems, even if it’s just for a little while.”

“We Are” stories

The “We Are” spirit is perhaps more important than ever before, and Penn Staters everywhere are coming together in new and amazing ways. During these challenging times, our community is continuing to realize Penn State’s commitment to excellence through acts of collaboration, thoughtfulness and kindness. As President Eric Barron has written on Digging Deeper, this truly is a “We Are” moment.

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated June 08, 2020