Garden project at Brandon University will provide healthy food for students, community

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BRANDON, Man. – Volunteers are digging deep at Brandon University (BU) to grow fruits and vegetables that will help feed students and provide affordable, healthy food for members of the community.

Green Futures BU, a collaboration of students, faculty and staff, held a planting blitz this week at the university’s expanded community gardens, weeding the beds and introducing seeds and seedlings. The volunteers will grow produce for BU’s student food bank and Brandon’s Good Food Box program, which sells boxes of fruits and vegetables at cost to members of the community.

Enactus Brandon, a group of student leaders committed to empowering people to improve their livelihoods through entrepreneurship, and Dr. Serena Petrella of BU’s Department of Sociology are getting the project off the ground by organizing volunteers and seeking out funding opportunities. On Tuesday the Brandon Neighbourhood Renewal Corporation approved a $2,000 grant for the project.

“This is an excellent poverty reduction initiative for the community,” said Enactus Brandon President Geoffrey Cruse.

“It makes locally grown and organic food available to families and students that would otherwise not be able to afford it. And the gardens also provide new teaching and research opportunities for our university.”

The community garden at BU was spearheaded in 2014 by Karli Maduke, a student at the time, in conjunction with Healthy Brandon and the Brandon Community Garden Network. Green Futures BU coordinator Serena Petrella oversaw the garden last year, and the project has grown considerably this spring, with about 35 volunteers signing up.

Retired biology professor Bill Paton tested the soil, helping Green Futures BU choose which plants would grow best in the garden.

A mixture of shade- and sun-loving crops will be introduced in the new gardens. Volunteers will grow salad greens, peas, spinach and Swiss chard in the shadier boxes; a selection of root crops, including beets, potatoes and carrots, will be planted in sunnier areas. The beds in full sun will grow a selection of cucumbers, tomatoes, zucchini and bush beans.

“It’s exciting to see how many people from all across the campus have jumped on board with this project,” said Petrella, who has been researching food insecurity and community gardening as a practice of social resilience in the community. “We have so many experts on campus that we believe we can really continue to develop this concept in the future. We will even have the campers at Mini-University helping out in the gardens this summer, as they learn about sustainable food production in a community garden setting.”


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