Mississippi State University Senior Web Designer David Fulton, right, demonstrates one of two "Farmbots" in the MSU community garden on Monday. The garden has two bots, which can be operated from a computer or phone to water plants in a five-foot by 10-foot bed. Photo by: Alex Holloway/Dispatch Staff
Mississippi State University Assistant Professor of Plant and Soil Sciences Tongyin Li, left, works with Assistant Professor of Philosophy Alicia Hall in one of the planters in MSU's new community garden. The university held a ribbon cutting for the garden on Monday.
Photo by: Alex Holloway/Dispatch Staff
October 16, 2018 10:43:00 AM
Mississippi State University kicked off Green Week on Monday with a grand opening of its community garden.
The garden, located off Stone Boulevard behind the MAFES sales store and the Newell-Grissom Building, is home to 19 large planters and eight accessible planters. University students, faculty and staff can use the garden to grow produce, and all of the beds have been reserved for the garden's first season. Two of the beds boast robotic "Farmbot" caretakers that are operated by the Students for a Sustainable Campus organization. The farmbots, which water plants in five-foot by 10-foot beds, can be operated remotely from a computer or phone app.
The garden also has a compost, which is collected from dining halls and Campus Landscape and two 2,000-gallon cisterns that gather rainwater and condensation from an air conditioning unit.
About 50 students, faculty and staff were selected for the first gardeners, on a first-come, first-served basis earlier this fall, and began growing produce in September.
MSU Associate Professor of Landscape Architecture Cory Gallo said the garden, which can also be used for classes and research, took about three years to build.
University President Mark Keenum said the garden is an example of urban gardening, which is a growing trend in communities around the world. He said urban gardening is becoming increasingly important as a way to help combat hunger and noted that one in four Mississippians don't get enough food, according to the Mississippi Food Network.
Keenum recalled growing up in a family that grew a garden every year. He said that taught him lessons that he's carried through to today, including to respect the -- literal -- fruits of the earth.
"It's a lot different than when you go to the grocery store and buy that food," he said. "You've actually grown it. You've actually produced it. A lot of our students who come to Mississippi State -- they didn't grow up in families that have gardens or agriculture. This is a new phenomenon.
"I was told earlier there's a waiting list of students who want to be part of this, and that's a great thing -- to give them a chance to learn about gardening, to learn about planting and harvesting and nurturing your crops," he said. "That's a valuable lesson for our students to learn for the rest of their lives."
Keenum also said that the global population is expected to grow from 7.5 billion now to more than 10 billion people within the next 30 years. That will present new challenges for fighting hunger, and he said even small steps like the community garden can make an impact.
"Things like this are going to make a difference, in small ways, but every little bit helps to address challenges we all are facing in the future," Keenum said. "...This is something that's really a showpiece for us and something for us all to take great pride in."
MSU Student Association President Myah Emerson said the garden is the result of a student, Eddie White, who approached the Student Association three years ago to lobby for the project. She said it was thanks to his work that the garden came to fruition.
"You all are standing in the middle of a student-led initiative," Emerson said. "A student submitted their idea for this community garden, and now we're here today."
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