MEDIA, Pa. — A $9,750 grant, funded by the Office of the Vice President for Commonwealth Campuses, will allow for enhancements to Penn State Brandywine's campus garden as part of a new "Leading Practices" showcase inspired by Penn State President Neeli Bendapudi's listening tour of the Commonwealth Campuses in spring 2022. Plans are for the garden — which opened in 2014 for students to engage in hands-on learning — to expand from 2,500 square feet to 3,600 square feet and add an indoor garden system that is hydroponic, self-fertilizing and vertical growing.
"I am grateful to President Bendapudi for her recognition of the excellent work of the Commonwealth Campuses in support of Penn State's land-grant mission and our strategic plan," Brandywine Chancellor Marilyn J. Wells said.
The campus garden is a space at Brandywine between the Vairo Library and Orchard Hall where students, faculty and staff can connect with nature, whether it is through learning about how plants grow, picking vegetables, or using it as a spot for peacefulness and relaxation.
Christine Brown, interim Rosenberg director of the Center for Social Impact, said the opportunity means not only expanding in size, but expanding in the variety of crops, volunteer opportunities and partnerships.
“The grant will allow the garden to expand which will allow for some more room for experimentation,” Brown said. “That will be a way that we can introduce native plants, such as blueberries, asters and honeysuckle plants to the campus.”
Everyone in the Brandywine community can volunteer at the campus garden. While the Center for Social Impact hosts garden harvest volunteer days on Wednesdays, people can go to the garden any day of the week. Brown hopes that everyone feels comfortable heading over to the garden whenever they want to.
“The grant will allow the garden to expand which will allow for some more room for experimentation."
—Christine Brown , Interim Rosenberg director of the Center for Social Impact
“We will be starting seeds indoors in a few weeks,” Brown said. “There will soon be volunteer opportunities to get the garden beds ready for the seedlings, some of which can go into the ground in March. After the planting in the garden there will be a need for helpers to weed and then harvest.”
The Center for Social Impact is working to get shade for those working in and harvesting in the garden. Brown said the center is hopeful to get sail cloth and attach it to poles in one corner of the garden so people can sit in the area without being in the direct sunlight.
Through the grant, the Center for Social Impact also plans to foster local community connections through a planned "Agripreneurs" Panel Series where leaders involved in sustainable farming practices or improving access to nourishing food will share their ideas with the campus and local community. The first panel is planned for Apr. 18.
Emily Dozor, campus garden manager, says that the support the center has received is not only helping increase education and outreach opportunities, but productivity as well.
“The increased productivity in the garden will allow more of what we grow to be offered to students through the campus food pantry,” Dozor said.
“The increased productivity in the garden will allow more of what we grow to be offered to students through the campus food pantry."
—Emily Dozor , Garden manager of the Center for Social Impact
Brown also hopes for the campus to strengthen key partnerships with other community gardens in the area.
“We hope to both learn from and work with the great many community gardens in the local area where we can share ideas and learn from each other about best practices," noted Brown.
The campus garden expansion is scheduled to be completed in June 2023.