UWF Community Garden kicks off first volunteer workday of the semester


Lily Plum, Staff Writer

Early Saturday morning, students came together to kick off the gardening season for the UWF Community Garden. The event was the first volunteer gardening day of the semester.

 Despite the heat, dirt and bugs, students were on their knees from 9 -11:30 a.m shoveling dirt, pulling weeds or moving rocks to prepare the garden for the new season. Throughout the event, students praised the garden for its ability to bring people together. 

“The Community Garden is a fantastic way to get involved at UWF,” said UWF sophomore Steven Wiktorski. “It’s a great opportunity to learn about nature, meet new people and give back to the campus community.”

And the community garden does in fact give back. Not only does the garden provide healthy produce for students, it houses several solar panels that give back energy to the university.  The solar panels, along with many of the garden’s other features, are primarily funded through the UWF Student Government Association and the “green fee” that students pay upon acceptance to the university. 

Since this workday was the first of the semester, many returning students used it as a way to re-engage on campus following the social distancing of the last few semesters. New UWF students commented on how the garden provided a way to feel more at home on campus.

 “I have a garden back home,” said UWF international student Deren Watts, “so it’s nice to get my hands dirty out here and meet new people.”

While it may not be evident upon first glance, there are many hidden gems throughout the garden. During a much-needed water break Saturday, Kugelman Honors Program Director and Faculty Garden Director Dr. Gregory Tomso took students on a tour of the garden’s hidden features. 

Along the garden’s walkway are plants for all of the garden’s helpful pollinators. Tomso hinted at future “bee research” that he said he hopes they can implement in the future. 

In the far corner of the garden, students are growing plants for tea. According to Tomso, the tea plants were obtained in Alabama from one of the few people to harvest tea leaves in the South. 

Hidden in some trees, small logs hang from cords to grow mushrooms. Near the center of the garden, grape vines twin around the trellis of rainwater collectors. 

“I am especially excited to work on the new grape project,” added Wiktorski.

During his tour of the garden, Tomso explained that the garden’s success relies heavily on student involvement. He says that when the garden was first started, it was little more than a small clearing littered with random pallets of wood and tires.

It is for this reason that Tomso said he was happy to see so many new faces volunteering. 

“Without you, nothing will happen,” said Tomso. 

  Community Garden volunteer workdays take place the first Saturday of every month. Additional workdays are to be announced. For more information on how to get involved or support the UWF Community Garden, click here.