The Gift of Gardens

By Kierra Sondereker

It’s that time of year again. Cold winds are, hopefully, giving way to warm breezes, clouds are trading their snow for rain and birds are singing their way back into our lives. It’s spring. And with this change of season comes the renewal of a personal activity that is very dear to my heart: gardening.

Growing up in rural Rootstown, Ohio, gardens were a standard among households and my home was no exception. We grew everything from asparagus, to peonies, to thyme. The herbs were always my favorite; my mom would use them in just about every dish she cooked. They were a necessity, a way of life, and not just in cooking. I remember running my hands through the sprigs of rosemary every summer so that unique fragrance would stay with me throughout the day. Herbs were special.

For most of us, gardens are a hobby. They’re a pleasant way to spend not-too-hot, not-too-cold spring and summer afternoons. But to others, they can be so much more.

This past semester, Miami University food sustainability and agriculture students have been designing, building and implementing a garden at Parkview Arms, a low-income apartment complex in uptown Oxford.

“With big projects like this, there’s a lot of talk but you don’t actually get anything done because it can take a while with the bureaucracy,” says Marla Guggenheimer, a senior individualized studies and sustainability co-major. “But since it’s just a bunch of students, I mean we only have a semester and we’re just getting it done. So we’ve really been able to deliver on the promises we’ve been making to the community members.”

A drawing of the design for the Parkview Arms community garden by Miami University food sustainability students. Photo by Mickey Myers.

The garden will feature a fusion of herbs and vegetables, as well as a compost pile to provide rich soil to be used for future gardening. Kids living at PVA can sign up for a four-by-four garden plot and pick what they want to grow. The two most popular choices seem to be pumpkins and strawberries.

The students’ goal is to provide a sustainable source of food for those living at Parkview Arms, while at the same time teaching them the values of gardening and healthy lifestyles. But my personal hope is that these kids will grow up and be able to look back on gardening with as much fondness happiness and affection as I have. I hope they come to truly recognize what a gift gardens can be.

Edited by Allison Jones

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