When conversations arose in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Ball State University Student Government Association (SGA) formed the idea of a community garden.
SGA Advisor and Director of the Office of Student Life Abby Haworth said a group of students took initiative and did research to get started in the fall of 2021. They came up with designs and different possible locations for the garden, with help from James Lowe, associate vice president for facilities planning and management at Ball State.
Lowe said there were a couple of spots they had in mind; however, there was always the constant goal of having it be accessible and close for students.
“[SGA is] working with us to install signs off of Worthen Drive, or the east side of the arena parking, to direct people that Cardinal Street is the access to get back to the garden,” Lowe said. “It just worked out, and I'm encouraged because they've been very active. They are moving on and launching the project. Hopefully they can find some means to sustain this and make it sustainable for years to come, [and] I think that location will give them that opportunity.”
The garden is just behind Worthen Arena; it’s the first house on West Cardinal Street.
SGA’s Community and Enviromental (C&E) Affairs Committe Chair Sarah Owens, Teacher’s College Collegiate Caucus representative, took charge of the community garden. The C&E Affairs Committee’s goal is to pursue environmental efforts on Ball State’s campus that encourage a community based around sustainability.
“I really hope that this can be a place where Ball State students feel welcome to do many different types of activities,” Owens said. “I want it to be a place of community, a place where both students can come together, get to know each other and really rally around the fact that sustainability is important to us as Cardinals.”
There are over 15 items being planted; some of those are Genovese basil, golden acre cabbage, honeydew melon, large red cherry tomato and sugar baby watermelon.
Additionally, Owens hopes the food grown there can be efficient enough to be given away to students for free. She said there are five garden beds, so she is not expecting a “Walmart superstore” from it, but hoping for enough to positively benefit students.
Although Owens has fully bought into the garden, she has not always been interested in it. Growing up, she never gardened, but her knowledge grew when she joined C&E, she said. She also said Katrina Lemming, SGA senator for the Collegiate Caucus, has been a big help in the process of setting up the garden.
Owens said a lot of research went into the garden, having to know which plants can be planted next to each other. Because of this, she said there was a lot of collaboration to put the garden together, working with different departments, senators and other people to help things get set up.
“The main thing that we want students to do is become good citizens,” Haworth said. “That's part of why you come to a university to build a sense of community, and we hope that you'll have that community once you leave here. No matter where you end up, you're going to find those communities within your work and areas where you live. The community garden is just an example of how to build a community.”
The word “community” was a staple when talking about the project.
“I'm hoping that it might get bigger and more involved with the community,” Brandith Carr, SGA senator, said. “I want to see more events and more things that we do that connect the Ball State community, along with the Muncie community.”
Since it has been an ongoing project, many budget requests and approvals have taken place to get the garden built, and a large help came from Carr, Lemming and Casey Rockel, SGA senator in the At-Large Caucus.
One of the first budget requests was on Nov. 3, 2021, for $1,200 to start the project.
“I helped the community garden with supplies, and we passed a budget request that was just on materials,” Carr said. “For the community garden, we supplied things like fire pits, wheelbarrows and [we had] volunteers and things.”
There will be more to offer than just the garden. For events held at the garden, there will be a portable fire pit that will be locked in one of the sheds at the garden while not in use.
Owens is hopeful that other organizations, including environmental organizations, feel comfortable having events at the garden. As of right now, there is not a ‘reserve a room’ status on the garden but she did say to feel free to text or direct message the community garden Instagram account which is @bsucommunitygarden or reach out to the SGA email email@example.com.
Haworth said this project embodies what SGA is all about: being a voice for the student body and having the student’s interests in mind. She said it is important for SGA to continue to find out what students are wanting to make Ball State more comfortable in whatever space they need.
For students interested in getting involved, there are waivers at the garden to sign up to volunteer. For students wanting volunteer hours as well, they can be verified through SGA with work at the garden. Additionally, if anyone wants to get involved in a larger way, whether it is planning, collaborating with plans or taking care of the space over the summer, contact Sarah Owens at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Although the garden is just breaking ground, Owens is optimistic about the future of the garden, saying she would love it if later on it is as recognizable as a spot like Frog Baby.
“I hope that it has a positive impact on students’ lives, whether that's with food, whether that's with hosting organizations there or anything else,” Owens said. “I just want to see the garden positively impact students’ experience while at Ball State. I love going to Ball State, and I really think this garden has the potential to be something great, so I would love to see that come to fruition.”
There will be a party for the grand opening April 23 in the garden from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Contact Elijah Poe with comments at email@example.com or on Twitter @ElijahPoe4.