Photo courtesy of Isabelle Musmanno

When grocery stores are miles away, eating your portion of healthy fruits and vegetables can seem like an unattainable goal. The Georgia Tech community garden aims to not only provide a way to get these nutrients but also bring people together through common interests of gardening and sustainability.

The community garden, located adjacent to the Instructional Center, includes several long plots for gardening, a hand-built shed for tools, composting bins and lots and lots of love. About ten students can be found out working early on Saturday mornings at least once a month.

“We thought it would be a really great place for us to gather and have fun growing organic produce, where people know they can go to learn about sustainability in a nice environment,” said Clare Trively, first-year CS and Vice President of Students Organizing for Sustainability. “A lot of times sustainability is forced down people’s throats, and I think that’s part of the reason people are a little turned off by it.”        

Trively says that working in the garden is a great way to destress after a long week, as well as an opportunity to get service hours for Greek life or service organizations. On a given work day, around ten students can be found getting their hands dirty in the garden.

As an initiative started years ago by Students Organizing for Sustainability (S.O.S.), the garden has been slowly but steadily growing. Currently, the club is working on constructing picnic tables out of colorfully painted wood, as well as a fence in anticipation of future bee hives to be added.

Trively hopes that new picnic tables will make the space inviting and a more obvious place for students to spend time hanging out or studying by the community garden.

“A lot of people don’t actually know that it’s there,” says Trively.

S.O.S. has rather ambitious plan to expand the community garden over the next few years. Students in the future could potentially enjoy a greenhouse and other larger projects that would utilize the resources and technology that Tech can provide.

Funding for continuing improvements and work on the garden comes from both the Serve  Learn Sustain initiative on campus and the Student Government Association.

As of this semester, S.O.S. has a new executive board of first years who were chosen to take over the group, all of whom are passionate about the environment and sustainability.

“I lived in Scandinavia for two years. Over there, the attitude towards sustainability is a lot more serious,” Trively said. “When I came back, I was still really passionate about it and I wanted it to be more of a practiced thing.”

The garden isn’t all flowers and trees; the group grows organic foods that they use in their diets.

“We usually get lots of upperclassmen on the workdays, and they want to use the food in their kitchens,” Trively said.

The group is always looking for new ideas for what to grow, and is excited to welcome interested individuals or groups to join their work days. They make a deal with their attendees — help garden or help with other projects, and in return, take home the literal fruits of their labor.

Small plots of the garden are also available for individual or group use, and a few married couples in the Tech community already take advantage of this.

In addition to their work with the garden, S.O.S. tries to raise awareness about everyday sustainability issues. Last semester, they tabled on Skiles Walkway and handed out free Blue Donkey coffee grounds and reusable K-Cups.

Their biggest commitment and passion, however, seems to remain with the garden. “The community garden really does function like the heart of our organization,”  Trively said.

This semester, S.O.S. is organizing a group of students to attend the March for Science Atlanta, a celebration and support of science on April 22 for Earth Day. Their goal is to incorporate sustainability into as many parts of campus as they can and show easy ways to incorporate it into people’s lives.

“If you walk up to us and just say that you’re interested in gardening, we will just be excited that you’re there,” Trively said. “Honestly, it means the most to us that people just want to come and learn.”

All students and other community members are invited to keep up with S.O.S.’s events on their Facebook page and to attend work days.