What is sustainability at Millersville? Is it just a buzzword plastered all over campus in green lettering in an earthy font calculated to pique the interest prospective students and their parents?
Not if Dr. Nadine Garner has anything to say about it. Dr Garner, associate professor of psychology and the director of the Center for Sustainability Education at MU, is working with staff, students and graduate assistants to make sure that students are able to participate in projects that incorporate the U.N.’s three pillars of sustainability: economic justice, social equity, and environmental protection. “In a large university, communication is always a problem,” she acknowledged. “That’s why I created the Center for Sustainability.”
The center exists so that anyone who wants to make MU more sustainable has a place to come and share their ideas. The Center’s new organic garden, which is behind Huntingdon House (across from the Student Memorial Center), looks like the hope for a good future that can be so hard to find in our complex and imperiled world.
On a chilly morning last week, students bustled around campus while the young kale, frilly galactic lettuce, chard, and cabbage plants glowed in the sunlight, carrying on their business of growing.
Multicolored leaves stuck out at the ends of their gangly branches, angled up and
out like the arms of a jubilant toddler. The garden, whose raised beds make it accessible to those of many different abilities, will be a USDA certified “People’s Garden,” which means that a portion of its fruits will go to those in need. It will also be a food source for students.
“One of my goals is for students to be able to grow their own food here,” said Dr. Garner. The garden’s neat, colorful plantings belie the fact that it hasn’t been a totally smooth journey. Dr. Garner originally planted from seed, only to realize that the baby lettuces were too much temptation for a hungry flotilla of caterpillars to bear. Luckily, Ken’s Gardens was able to donate most of the young plants that Garner needed to replace the ones that have been munched on. In the spring, she plans to add more raised beds for herbs and flowers. Milkweeds, Black-Eyed Susans and cardinal flowers will attract Monarchs to a way station for journeying butterflies.
The garden was Dr. Garner’s idea, but she received funding for supplies from the University, donated materials from several local nurseries, and help from fellow professors, a fireman, her psychology students, graduate assistants, some of the Civic and Community Engagement Research Project (CCERP) office staff, and her four-year-old daughter, Ruby. “She’s an incredible gardener,” said Garner. Ruby left her mark in the form of a dozen or so pebbles lined up on the wall of one of the beds: she didn’t want them to bother the plants.
Dr. Garner also received help from President Anderson. “He told me he had a black thumb,” she said of Anderson. But when, one Sunday, Dr. Garner was in the process of planting and invited the president to help her, he rode his bike over to Huntingdon House and rolled up his sleeves. “He did a great job,” said Garner.
President Anderson has been supportive of the Center’s efforts and has indicated that he wants to make sustainability a priority at Millersville. On Oct. 8, Anderson signed the American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment, which is a statement that the University will make a concerted effort to become carbon-neutral by a certain point in time.
President Anderson will take part in the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the garden, which will happen on Thursday, Oct. 24 in the ‘Ville-age Garden. The “ribbon” will be unusually crunchy—a chain of dried cornstalks—and President Anderson will be given a pair of gardening shears to carry out his symbolic gesture.