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The ABCs of Gardening

STANTON and WILMINGTON - Participation in gardening and recognition of the importance of organic, local food are increasing both in higher education and in society at large. Composting organic material and growing food locally and organically reduces dependence on fossil fuels, reduces carbon footprint and has many beneficial health impacts. In short, it addresses multiple aspects of sustainability.

Delaware Tech’s Stanton and Wilmington Campus’s Electronics, Energy Management and Culinary departments took this philosophy to heart when they applied for and were awarded a multi-departmental compost/garden Student Success Grant. Student Success grants fund innovative faculty/staff projects that promote students’ success and progress to graduation. The garden was officially named the EPICC Community Garden, combining the EPIC Club (Electrical Process Instrumentation Computer) with Culinary. 

Students and faculty developed a plan to recycle the Culinary Department’s organic waste by composting it to create fertilizer to grow food to supply their kitchens. The composting began in January, and the garden was officially “revealed” at the Stanton Campus’s Earth Day celebration on April 22, 2013.

During construction of the garden, the local Home Depot donated nearly $300 of materials to build a fence around the garden.

Students like Lauren Silva, an Energy Management student, assisted with the project. Lauren is the president of the EPIC Club and said the garden project appeals to her passion for sustainability. “I absolutely love the garden; it’s a great learning tool and a great investment for the school,” Lauren said. “So many students of different majors can get together in one place with a shared interest in gardening and being environmentally conscious.”

The garden has been and will continue to be a useful learning tool for students. Culinary students purchased scrap bins for compostable waste and taught students about their proper use. They will harvest the produce for use in their cooking classes. Energy Management and Electronic students helped to determine the sites for the compost piles and garden.

Project evaluation at the end of the 2013 growing season will determine if the project can be expanded to include a greenhouse for which Electronics students will use programmable logic controllers (PLCs) to control ventilation, moisture and humidity.

The project provides a strong visual representation of Delaware Tech’s commitment to sustainability, student engagement and inter-departmental cooperation, and addresses its mission of providing practical, topical education and fostering student success by engaging students outside the classroom in an inter-departmental manner.

Dan Kasper, the Energy Management instructor who is heading up the garden, has been promoting organic gardening for years. “Community gardens are a great way to build community, whether in a neighborhood or on a college campus,” Kasper said. “In addition to serving the obvious function of providing healthy, safe food, they provide a central location where ideas are exchanged and camaraderie built.” 

Kasper notes that one of the benefits of Delaware Tech’s community garden is that it will offer the opportunity for many different departments to collaborate, and in fact already has. “Being able to collaborate with folks that have diverse backgrounds and expertise is an essential skill in today’s working and academic worlds, and the garden will do just that,” according to Kasper.