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UTC garden helps feed & teach the community

Students, staff, and volunteers work on the UTC garden near Engel Stadium.

"I have noticed youth in these days have no idea how to grow one plant," said Jose Barbosa, UTC Associate Professor. Barbosa said that was one of the main reasons he wanted to turn the undeveloped plot of land near Engel Stadium into a garden. UTC students, staff, and volunteers planted, watered, and harvested the garden.

"It's nice to figure out actually how plants grow because I had no idea it actually took so long. I kind of had an idea until I came out here and found out this had been growing for four months and I was like, 'wow, I had no idea,'" said Maggie Dempsey.

Joe Wilferth, an English Professor at UTC and the Associate Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences explained it is not a community garden, but more of a learning space in the middle of a food desert.

"It's [a food desert] a place where you can't get locally grown or whole foods. Food is for the most part a 'food-like' substance that comes from a plastic bag or out of plastic bottles," said Wilferth.

Students in the Urban Gardening class work extensively with the dirt and plants, but professors hope to garden across the curriculum. They plan to integrate the garden into courses ranging from sociology to the fine arts. In addition to the lessons, there is another benefit to the garden -- an abundance of fresh veggies go straight to people who would likely not receive garden-fresh produce.

"In principle, one third of everything we produce here will go to the Community Kitchen--the Chattanooga Community Kitchen," said Barbosa.

Students and staff already made a few deliveries of yellow squash and butternut squash.

"That sweet potato -- I intend to flood the Community Kitchen with sweet potatoes for Thanksgiving," said Barbosa.

Beyond the main goal of teaching the younger generation how to produce and care for their own food, students and volunteers are learning lessons staff never expected.

"It's not as difficult as it looks to help out the Community Kitchen or help out your neighbors. A lot of food has already helped. We hope to have more corn and stuff for Thanksgiving," said David Ingham, a senior UTC student working in the garden.

If you're interested in volunteering in the garden contact Lisa Darger. Her email address is Lisa-Darger@utc.edu. Staff want to give special thanks to the Georgia Department of Agriculture, especially Brenda Jackson who is the Agriculture and Natural Resources Agent for Murray County, because they helped them plan how to successfully set-up the garden.

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