From left to right: Morgan Cusick, Quinn Rhodes, Maya (the garden mascot), Madi Laughlin and Ryne Carballo working in the garden before social distancing measures we put in place.
The seeds were sown for a community garden during a brainstorming session at a Student Government Association (SGA) retreat. Now it’s taking root on the Wichita State campus.
The community garden is a plot of land located northeast of Ahlberg Hall. Students, faculty and staff will be able to grow and harvest crops. The garden will be run by volunteers and will be completed by late summer.
Madi Laughlin, president of the Green Group, serves as the supervisor for the community garden. Her passion to make the garden a reality started her sophomore year and was reinvigorated her junior year.
“I had grown close to the international students on campus,” said Madi, a junior in engineering. “A lot of them were frustrated they didn’t have access to fresh produce on campus.”
Students in the Wichita community experience food insecurity, Madi said. She wants to alleviate this problem by providing easier access to fresh produce.
“I want to create a space where students can have access to healthy, locally grown produce,” Madi said.
Many staff and faculty are also contributing to the community garden. Wichita State Facilities Services, Carpenter and Plumbing Shops and the Landscape Services Department have all made significant contributions. Kristin Beal is one person Madi reached out to.
Beal, the placemaking coordinator for the Office of Strategic Communications at Wichita State, was responsible for allocating funds for the garden.
The perimeter of the garden will be lined with long, rectangular beds. Triangle and straight beds will fill the interior with a square bed in the middle of the garden.
“The space is designed to be both aesthetically pleasing and functional,” Madi said.
The garden will include grapes, tomatoes, sugar snap peas, cucumbers and peppers. There will be peach and pear trees near the front of the garden and watermelon and squash toward the back. Students, faculty and staff will be able to plant other crops as they please.
“Students will be able to pick and eat a grape off the vine while they read a book,” Madi said.
The COVID-19 pandemic altered Madi's plans for community garden. Everyone working on the community garden is focused only on creating and sustaining the garden until campus life resumes. The garden will mainly serve as a food source for students living on campus. However, Madi would like the garden to serve many other functions.
president of the Green Group
She hopes that the garden can be used to promote healthful living. In addition to the health benefits of eating fresh produce, working in the dirt is good for your mental health, Madi said.
She also wants to reduce Wichita State’s carbon footprint by using food waste as compost.
“Why not utilize the waste we have and make it into something that can benefit students?” Madi said.
Once schools reopen and it's safe to do so, Madi will encourage local middle schools and high schools to bring students so they can learn how to garden. She also wants it to be an applied learning opportunity for WSU students.
“We would love to see any earth science classes interact with the garden,” Madi said.
The community garden is Madi’s brainchild, but she says everyone is allowed to participate in the garden.
“It belongs to the Wichita State community,” Madi said.