With the hustle and bustle that characterizes urban areas, it is tough to imagine how a tiny green sprout could survive a normal city, let alone the environment of Saturday Football on campus. But sure enough, many colleges are cultivating community gardens, teaching not only the basics of gardening, but also many life lessons along the way. While most gardens are seeded in a more suburban setting, urban gardens are beginning to sprout up all over campuses nationwide.
Sustainable agriculture is gaining in popularity in the US, and many college campuses are revamping their dining halls to reflect these changes. These urban farms bring a countryside feel virtually anywhere, from classrooms, to rooftop space, to tiny patches of open city land. In addition to acquiring a green thumb, students are learning how to effectively build solar panels, use compost to generate organic fertilizer, and capture rainwater for use as an irrigation system. Students are also learning the importance of philanthropy, as many campus gardens donate to local food banks.
According to the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education, over 100 higher education institutions have established community gardens on campus—and there’s a reason why. The demand among the current collegiate generation to know exactly where their food is coming from is becoming a social trend. This is known as the “slow food movement”, a dedication to preserving regional cuisine and encourages local farming.
Dining halls across the country are working to provide students with locally grown options, responsibly raised meats, and fair trade products. At the University of Maryland there is a rooftop garden above one dining hall, and an on-campus Farmer’s Market encourages students to buy healthy, local food.
Not only can some campuses boast their delicious, organic produce, they have a reduced carbon footprint to be proud of as well. Growing food or buying locally grown food cuts down fossil fuel emissions that occur when shipping produce from farms to dining halls.
How can you get involved? Contact your campus sustainability council to find out what you can do to help out. Most campus gardens accept volunteers with little to no experience. Be on the lookout for produce grown on campus in your dining hall’s salad bar and give it a try! No garden on your campus yet? Get the ball rolling! Chances are pretty good that an urban garden might already be in the works, as this responsible trend continues to grow in the hearts of college students across America.