An educational plot: Emory's gardens produce fresh, free food

By Leslie King | Emory Report | Jan. 6, 2016

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Emory's five educational gardens grow a variety of vegetables and fruits with help from student, faculty and staff volunteers. Emory Photo/Video

Want to make 2016 a year of growth? Come to a dinner event for a free meal and information on how to volunteer in Emory's educational gardens.

The spring kick-off dinner will be Wednesday, Jan. 13, from 6 to 7:30 p.m. in the Cox Hall ballroom. Online registration is underway.

Sam Boring, Emory Educational Gardens coordinator, and Hannah Ebling-Artz, the garden intern, will talk about the five educational gardens at Emory and how you can volunteer to help maintain them — and get rewarded for your efforts.

"All of the produce that we grow goes to the people who work in the gardens. This includes Emory students, faculty and staff. Generally, volunteers show up for a work day, do some garden activities, and leave with a handful of freshly harvested vegetables," Boring says.

Three of the gardens are adjacent to professional schools: the School of Medicine, Rollins School of Public Health and Candler School of Theology.

A fourth garden is on Asbury Circle at the intersection of the Cox Hall Bridge, across from the back of Emory University Hospital, and the fifth garden is by The Depot.

"Each garden has a leader or leadership team. These leaders post when workdays will happen at each garden. How many volunteers show up varies by garden, season and day. Anywhere from a few people to over 20 will show up for work days," says Boring.

Starter plants and seedlings often come from the organic farm at Oxford College.

What do the gardens grow?

Emory's educational gardens feature a variety of vegetables and fruit, with kale — "lots of kale!" says Boring — collard greens, bok choi, turnips, radishes, broccoli, cilantro, basil, eggplant, tomatoes, peppers, melons, watermelons, beans, squash, corn, potatoes, sweet potatoes, strawberries and blueberries.

Swiss chard, lettuces, carrots, kale and spinach are growing now in the cool weather, and asparagus is planted in several gardens but takes a long time to produce.

There's kolrabi in The Depot and Rollins gardens for an exotic but healthful flair, and the School of Medicine garden has an apple tree and a fig tree. The Depot garden yielded a big sweet potato crop during the summer growing season.

All of the gardens grow herbs, including sage, rosemary, thyme and more. The theology garden grows several varieties of peppers, and also includes catnip, making it an attractive place for cats in the neighborhood to nap.

"We plant both seeds and veggie transplants," Boring says. "While planting is ongoing throughout the year, we generally plant things for three different seasons — spring, summer and fall. We are lucky here in Georgia that we can grow things for nine to 10 months of the year."

Spring vegetables will be planted around March, with summer crops planted in April and May, and fall and winter crops planted in August and September.

Garden events

At two years old, the theology school garden, off Dickey Drive, is the most recently created. It was originally placed in front of the Candler school but moved with the construction of the Center for Ethics building.

Ebling-Artz says events are often held in the garden.

"Our annual Theology Garden events occur in the fall and spring," she says, explaining that they give tours and pass out samples of growing greens and fresh herbs. "In the fall, we host a hot cocoa party to introduce new students to the garden, as well as to celebrate all the hands that have dug in the earth to help grow our fall crops and prepare our winter crops.

"In the spring, when everything is big and so full of life, we like to host a Wrap Party where we provide some of the binding materials like pita or tortillas and hummus, and invite Candler students to come out to the garden to make a wrap for lunch using the produce growing in the garden," she says.

These events typically draw 70-90 attendees, Ebling-Artz says.

Volunteers welcome

Anyone in the Emory community can get involved in any of the gardens.

"If people are interested, they can send an email to gardens@emory.edu and I will add them to our listserv," says Boring. "The listserv is how all of our announcements are made, such as announcements for the kick-off dinner and for work days."

Boring also adds that each garden has room to expand or contract depending on the interest of garden leaders and volunteers, and that Emory is looking to add a sixth garden in the future.

"If a garden gets lots of interest, we can create more space to grow more things," he says.