The historic grounds of what was once one of the world's largest greenhouses will soon grow into a community garden and teaching field lab thanks to a new partnership between Ivy Tech Community College—Wabash Valley and Westminster Village.
Eight acres east of Westminster Village, on what used to be the site of Davis Gardens, have been lent to Ivy Tech. "We're always looking for ways to give back to the community," said Kyle Exline, executive director of Westminster Village. When a board member suggested a partnership with Ivy Tech for the unused land, "we saw it as a neat opportunity with it having been Davis Gardens to return it to growing purposes."
Seven acres have been planted with ten different cover crops for the winter season. The planting, done by Ivy Tech agricultural students under the direction of Program Chair John Rosene, will give way in spring to row crops of corn and soybeans. Proceeds from the sale of those crops will provide seed money to help establish a community garden on a half acre of that land and support Ivy Tech Agriculture Program projects for students.
"Seven acres are serving as a field lab and demonstration plot for our students to learn about cover crops," said Rosene. That project is a collaboration of the Vigo County Soil and Water Conservation District, Natural Resources Conservation Services, Purdue University and Ceres Solutions. "We’ll also evaluate no-till planting of corn and soybeans for best yield next year."
Eventually, plans call for the development of a Community Learning Garden that will serve as a place for learning, growing and giving as well as interaction between students, Westminster Village residents and neighbors.
The Garden will provide a variety of skill development and reinforcement opportunities in the areas of math, reading and writing. Improving community health through the giving of produce to those in need and enhancing environmental stewardship are two important byproducts of the project.
"It will take a little time to develop the Community Learning Garden," said Becky Miller, Ivy Tech's executive director of resource development. She is currently seeking grants, gifts and other funding sources for the project. But she sees tremendous potential in the long-term. "This is a unique mentoring opportunity between our students and Westminster Village residents."
"A lot of our residents are former farmers who can really help with education," said Exline. "This is good for the environment and good for our community."