Love of gardening can bring campus closer to community

The University’s campus community garden project is a way to close a gap between the campus community and the surrounding neighbourhoods, says its founder.

Rita Haase, a sessional instructor in women’s studies, helped to get the garden—located on California Avenue behind the education building— running in the spring of 2010. She said its 200 volunteers encompass UWindsor students and employees as well as about 30 members of the broader community.

“If we share the food and love of gardening, it can bring people together,” she says.

She says that despite the large agricultural industries in the surrounding county, many people in the city do not have access to fresh healthy food.

“These are known as desert areas,” Dr. Haase says. “Usually poor areas where you cannot get fresh produce. There are convenience stores everywhere but they do not supply residents with healthy options.”

The garden was set up to empower people in the community to work together and support each other, and she says the University has provided help beyond the donation of the actual site.

“We had a lot of in kind support from the University when starting the project,” she says. “A garden is the most sustainable way to have a green space.”

Food Services has delivered scraps to the garden for composting, and ground services provides the garden with topsoil.

Dave McEwen, head of Food Services, says his department would like to offer more local produce, but there are complicating logistics.

“The school year runs outside of when the growing season is,” he says. “We are in business from September to April, and everything grows in the summer months.”

He adds that the although the University’s operations are large, they do not offer the economies of scale necessary for industrial farming.

“We have been in touch with a couple of local greenhouses trying to get them to do business with the university, but our volumes are so small compared to what they are accustomed to dealing with, it’s not cost effective for them to stop a truck here,” says McEwen. “They would rather stock a transport truck of tomatoes that they can ship down to Mexico or put on a plane and ship to Russia or Japan.”

— by Jess Craymer