Why have a garden plot on a college campus? Just ask the faculty, staff, student workers, and community members engaged in gardening at the College of Menominee Nation (CMN). They’ll be the first to say that it’s more about just growing food. Campus gardens provide an outdoor classroom for sharing experiences, exchanging knowledge, and nurturing agriculture awareness.
The garden plots and greenhouse at CMN provide improved nutrition options for community members and opportunities for participants to engage in constructive activities, contribute to the community, and develop relationships and interpersonal skills. Involved youth—both college- age and younger—learn work skills such as analytical thinking, communication, leadership, and teamwork. For community families, the gardening experience provides access to a healthier lifestyle through opportunities to grow-your-own or buy-local produce.
Students, faculty and staff, professionals, and community members work sideby- side to learn about plant species, food production, pollination, climate change impacts on agriculture, and a variety of other related topics. It is common to see youth working with elders and students who are devoted to taking care of their plants. Students learn and develop skills as they interact with members of the community. They hear traditional plant stories and experience learning through direct interaction with the land. Discussion on climate change and its impacts, forest agriculture, or stories about the garden snake, can be heard as students pull weeds. Laughter is often a part of conversations, and participants have a feeling of accomplishment.
The college currently has a nearly halfacre picekaenon monahekan (vegetable garden), maehkaehnah monahekan (turtle garden), and waqsahkonawaet monahekan (flower garden). It is expanding its food sovereignty initiative by adding a winaemaehkwan monahekan (pumpkin garden), pallet salsa garden, and two herb gardens. CMN’s Sustainable Development Institute (SDI) continues to support the gardening project for the Menom 4-H Club and interested community members. The 4-H Club members, their parents, and master gardeners- in-training planted 60 pumpkin plants that were started in the campus greenhouse in mid-May. SDI staff and volunteers assist the club members and their families in maintaining the garden. To promote the importance of pumpkins as a staple food choice, SDI is planning a fall pumpkin festival. The event will provide a format for club members and other gardeners to share their gardening experiences and best practices with the community.
The pallet salsa garden project is overseen by Jessica Buettner, youth service librarian at the college’s S. Verna Fowler Academic Library/Menominee Public Library. This project began as part of the library’s Planterspace initiative to educate young people about gardening practices and growing their own healthy food, and to introduce sustainability and create projects in the garden. The youth learn about responsibility, commitment, and develop gardening skills through this project. Salsa making is planned in the fall.
The gardens are partially supported through CMN’s work with both the Network for Sustainable Climate Risk Management and the Department of Interior Northeast Climate Science Center.