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Georgia Tech Community Garden Grows on West Campus

Students Organizing for Sustainability group will host a Fall Festival on Friday, Nov. 16 at the school's relocated garden off Ferst Drive.

Staff Report

You don’t have to go far to find fresh food on the Georgia Tech campus. In fact, on the southeast side of the Instructional Center lawn, a plethora of fresh produce grows from six garden beds maintained by Students Organizing for Sustainability (SOS)

Last spring, SOS took its community garden from a nook on East Campus to the new West Campus location off Ferst Dive near 6th Street. In a few weeks, the group will have its inaugural fall crop. 

Stephanie Kehl, vice president of SOS and a second-year chemical engineering major, oversees the garden – equipped with a “green thumb” acquired by watching her dad take up gardening in recent years. She and others who tend the garden hope to provide both food and knowledge to the community.

In a school news release, Kehl said she hopes the Tech community can learn more about their foods’ sources by participating in the garden. “People are confused about where their food comes from, but it’s something you should know,” Kehl explained.

Those who take up tools in the SOS garden will be able to take whatever produce they want, and SOS will donate leftovers to a soup kitchen. Most of the garden’s seeds have been purchased online, thanks to funds from the Student Government Association and Student Foundation, and a few came from the Kehl family garden in Rome, Ga. The garden is tended almost entirely by students, but SOS is looking for more involvement from the entire campus community.

“Faculty and staff have the ability to support the community garden by providing continuity and historical perspective as the garden achieves a longer history on campus,” Chrissy Spencer, academic professional on the faculty in the School of Biology and a faculty mentor for the garden, said in the release. Spencer has a personal interest in sustainable and local food production and has taught seminars on current literature around those topics; she currently teaches evolution, ecology and genetics.

“While these inform my own personal motivations, there are lots of reasons why faculty and staff should support and enjoy a community garden on our urban campus, such as the delicious produce to take home and eat.” 

SOS participants gather to tend the garden about once a week. It’s home to more than a dozen crops – all grown without chemical fertilizers – giving gardeners an array of take-home options.

“Diversification is more interesting than having just one variety,” Kehl said. She expects most crops to last until at least the first frost of the season. Gardeners recently pulled up radishes and will soon harvest cabbage and spinach. 

SOS will host a Fall Festival at the garden on Friday, Nov. 16 from 4-6 p.m., giving the community a chance to see what goes on and even plant something of their own. More details can be found here.

In the future, SOS plans to fence off and add signage to the garden to make it more distinct. SOS also intends to construct a toolshed for supply storage, and members have discussed starting a campus Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program once the garden is more established. 

- The Georgia Institution of Technology contributed to this story

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