UCO Garden Being Prepped to Sprout

Students at the University of Central Oklahoma recently cleared the Rankin YMCA community garden in preparation for a fall harvest that is intended to supply the UCO Central Pantry with fresh food.

The Office of Sustainability is in charge of the three community gardens owned by UCO. The location of the gardens are the Nigh University Center rooftop, the University Suites courtyard and the Rankin YMCA.

Eric Hemphill, manager of Sustainability and Alternative Transportation, said the community gardens were opened on campus after the Sustainability Living Learning Community from the University Suites helped build the garden in the courtyard.

“We had some first-year students that took a class together and then they also volunteered at the garden,” Hemphill said.

All gardens are maintained by volunteers and the Office of Sustainability allows for individuals at UCO and within the community to grow produce.

“Between classes and individuals wanting to get involved, we will probably have 20-30 [volunteers per] year,” Hemphill said.

A lot of community members from Edmond also volunteer at the Rankin YMCA garden, according to Hemphill.

The YMCA garden is located one mile away from UCO’s campus on South Rankin Street between 15th Street and Ninth Street, close to Broadway Extension. It was established in 2007, but in 2014 the institution allowed UCO to take over maintaining it.

“They had some staff changes, they opened the YMCA on Mitch Park and so they kind of stopped being able to take care of that garden,” Hemphill said. “They were very willing to let us take over the actual maintenance part of the garden.”

Kimberly Martin, professor of Kinesiology and Health Studies, brings her students from her Community Gardening class to help out during the summer intersessions.

“My classes help maintain the YMCA garden,” Martin said. “Last year we went over there and redid all of the flower beds. Every year we go out there and clean it out.”

Martin’s class is an elective open to all UCO students, but most of the class is made up of kinesiology majors. Her objective with teaching these classes is to show that locally grown food is cheaper and more nutritious.

“The Community Gardening class visits gardens and farms in Oklahoma, so they can learn the basics of what can be grown locally,” Martin said.

All of the food produced by these gardens is donated to UCO’s Central Pantry located in the Nigh University Center.

“For the most part, it is enough during the spring and summer months,” Hemphill said. “Sometimes it depends on the fall because of the weather, but we do not have fresh food during the winter.”

The Central Pantry is used by students and community members an average of 300-350 times each week, but Hemphill said that the most the pantry has seen was 800 times within a week.

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