Volume 3: December 2010

Bonner Scholar Pilots Community Garden Programs

written by Nicholas Christensen ’13

Nicholas Christensen and friends break ground for the Sustainability House garden.

As a first-year Bonner Scholar entering the summer semester, I walked into a world of new experiences. My work for the summer was to act as coordinator for the implementation and maintenance of several community gardens at low-income housing neighborhoods in Meadville. I had started this work the previous semester, corresponding with the Housing Authority and Fairview Fairmont to gauge their interest in community gardens, going door-to-door and meeting with resident councils and site supervisors. In order to prepare for the summer season I also had to rototill, lime, fertilize, and supervise gardens at Morgan Village, William Gill Village, and Fairview Fairmont.

Through close collaboration with the ARC of Crawford County, I was also able to give summer students living on campus a chance to garden or simply harvest fresh herbs and produce from the old Allegheny Experimental Garden turned weed patch that was rehabilitated into a full fledged garden again this spring thanks to the efforts of children from Bethesda Home on Global Youth Service Day.

As an employee of the Housing Authority, it was my duty to share my gardening expertise with the children of Section Eight housing by offering gardening and nature classes and a plot of the garden to the children. By working as a volunteer with the free-lunch program at Gill Village I was also able to better understand the relationships and attitudes that are an integral part of the community of a low income housing neighborhood. I learned more about the daily lives and struggles of the people and children who live in these communities, and through my efforts and work in the garden, I became better able to understand how community gardens can strengthen and build a sense of trust and community. In my opinion, there’s no better way to build community than to garden with your neighbors.