June 29, 2016
Everything may not be coming up roses at Susquehanna University's campus garden, but it is coming up lettuce, broccoli, watermelons and more!
The garden, located near the Freshwater Research Initiative lab building on Sassafras Street, is just beginning to bear the fruits (and vegetables) of student labor. In an effort led by AmeriCorps*VISTA volunteer Natalie Siedhof, the garden has tripled in size in the past year, providing fresh produce for children and senior citizens throughout Snyder County.
"This has been a big learning experience for me," Siedhof said. "But I love it."
That's because Siedhof's background is in volunteer mobilization, not gardening. In this she has demonstrated great success by recruiting student employees like David Huntzberry, a sophomore ecology major from Glen Burnie, Md.
Huntzberry easily identifies plants and insects as he wanders through the garden, pointing out collard greens, kale, cucumbers, asparagus and cauliflower. He can be found here most days, pulling weeds or oversampling carrots.
"He's the worst pest we have in the garden," Siedhof teased.
A plot of wildflowers anchors the garden at its center and attracts honey bees to promote pollination. Beside the greenhouse is a small herb garden that holds dill and basil, while inside the greenhouse raspberry plants are ready for planting.
Gardening, Huntzberry said, appeals to his independent nature.
"I just like being outside," he said. "You can get away from everything."
Huntzberry is one of six students Siedhof hired to manage the garden, with salaries paid by the Johnson Center for Civic Engagement and the Department of Biology. Kathy Straub, professor of earth and environmental sciences, and Alissa Packer, associate professor of biology, serve as faculty advisors.
Over the past three years, 1,146 pounds of food has been harvested from the garden, all of which has been donated locally, to the Selinsgrove Senior Center and to Meals for Seals, a program that provides children with meals, snacks and drinks each weekend during the summer.
Huntzberry and Siedhof hope plans for a fall pumpkin patch will encourage more student interest.
"We've grown so much over the past year," Siedhof said. "We hope to maintain the garden for years to come."