The University of Indianapolis has come together this semester to provide produce for students, faculty and the UIndy community through UIndy Garden. Professor of English Kevin McKelvey said the goal of the garden is to engage those on campus and give back to the community by addressing food security issues.
McKelvey said he and his spring term class in 2019 started cultivating a fresh produce garden on Standish Avenue. Director of Contact Tracing Gurinder Hohl said he used to collaborate with the garden and started it about four years ago.
Associate Dean of Students Steven Freck said the main focus has been communication to the larger campus community about the gardens. Once the produce is harvested, it gets delivered to Freck’s office and is then distributed, according to Freck. Then the produce is washed and gets delivered to the Students Affairs Office in Schwitzer Student Center, and they are in charge of informing the campus community about availability.
According to McKelvey, they went to two different churches in nearby neighborhoods last year to distribute in their food pantry and food security initiative. This year, most of the food has been distributed on campus on a first come first serve basis through student affairs.
“We’re following the model of Indy Urban Acres, which is a project at the Indy Parks Foundation and they donate 100% of their produce, and so since the beginning, we wanted to donate 100% of our produce,” McKelvey said.
McKelvey said a primary goal for the garden is to keep it community-oriented and free to the public, whether it be people on campus or those within the neighborhood.
“We’ll be out working and we see a lot of neighbors stop by and pick a few tomatoes and or peppers,” McKelvey said. “So we know people are stopping by, using it, even if we’re not fully documenting how many people are out there getting food and stuff. But we know neighbors know it’s there and check in on it and to get some vegetables as they walk by or they drive and stop by.”
McKelvey said he sees the gardens as a community engagement project because students from all different departments and majors. It has been like a partnership with the College of Health Sciences and Community Health as well, according to McKelvey, because of the abundance of student volunteers in those departments, as well as interns who help with daily maintenance.
“We have a lot of students in sustainability or sociology that come out and work, or criminology. There’s a lot of ties to the majors in Shaheen College [of Arts and Sciences] . . . ,” McKelvey said. “We’ve had a lot of public health and other kinds of health sciences majors who’ve worked in the garden as well, and so we want it to be that place where a lot of different majors and disciplines can come together.”
According to Freck, UIndy Garden is currently a seasonal harvest that runs from March to October, with a long-term goal of being able to grow indoors during the winter months.
“It is more seasonal, so we kick off in the spring I would say mid-April, normally that’s when a lot of stuff, like planting and getting the soil ready and stuff happens,” Freck said. “Main harvest is like midsummer, but then we do have some fall crops as well. But it will be getting ready to winterize at the end of October, so there’s nothing really happening during the winter months necessarily.”