Little lettuce heads, pumpkins and peas are sprouting in the corners of Inver Hills Community College classrooms.
“They’re all over this building,” Prof. Barbara Curchack said, “if you know where to look.”
Instructors and students are antsy to plant those seedlings in the community garden they first tilled, tended and harvested last year. In a talk Wednesday on campus, Curchack and August Hoffman, a Metropolitan State University psychology professor, looked back on the teaching garden’s beginnings and previewed plans for this season.
Despite a snow-covered “garden orientation,” work has begun. Students borrowed grow lights from the biology department to germinate seeds. One class has been studying which type of soil is best. More than 30 general psychology students took advantage of weekend sunshine to plant peas, beets and lettuce.
Last year, the garden yielded 1,511 pounds of produce, donated to area food shelves.
But the professors’ goals for the garden go beyond service.
The garden has changed this commuter campus’ culture, students said Wednesday. Jasmine Littlefield used to go to class, then scurry home. “Now I stay here,” said Littlefield, a first-year student. “I look at the plants and talk to them.”
She talks to other gardeners, too. That kind of conversation, which crosses cultures and generations, improves interethnic relationships and breaks stereotypes, Hoffman said.
Jenny Carpenter, 38, came back to college last summer and enrolled in Curchack’s class. For it, she worked in the garden, bringing along her son, Ryan.
Ryan was excited to help deliver produce to a food shelf. But after exploring, Ryan “got very somber,” Carpenter told the group as Ryan, sitting beside her, pulled up the collar of his T-shirt to hide his tears.
Before Ryan’s eighth birthday, he announced that instead of getting presents, he wanted to donate food, Carpenter continued. He collected more than 100 pounds. “It’s just impacted our lives so tremendously,” she said.