There is no denying the price of healthy eating can be expensive, but University of Memphis students have access to a garden full of free organic produce right on campus.
Located behind the Elma Roane Field House off Zach Curlin Road lies the Oasis Garden, a part of the Tiger Initiative for Gardens in Urban Settings (TIGUrS).
Founded in 2009 by Karyl Buddington, director of the Animal Care Facility at the U of M, all produce yielded in the garden is free to students and the surrounding University District community.
“The garden shouldn’t belong to one person; the garden should belong to everyone,” Buddington said. “I think the reason the garden has been successful is because we run it as a committee.”
Buddington got the idea for the program after noticing what she felt was the under utilization of flowerbeds throughout the U of M grounds.
“I come from rural Mississippi so I’ve always loved gardens,” she said. “When I got here, I walked all around campus from building to building, and it was just a little bit frustrating for me to see how we would plant flowers in a bed and then we would rip them all out. Then we would put more flowers in, when we could use that space to actually grow food.”
Funding for the garden and the student caretakers’ salaries comes from the Sustainable Campus Green Fees, which are divided among all green initiatives programs at the U of M. The roughly 12-member TIGUrS committee, consisting of students and faculty, meets once a week to discuss upcoming garden events and plantings for the next season.
“We are hoping it is going to catch on,” Buddington added. “If you have a lot of students in a building and they want to build something, then we are going to partner with them and help them do it.”
The Oasis Garden is currently in transition between seasons, but garden frequenters can expect broccoli, cauliflower, radishes, carrots and various types of greens to start growing soon.
One of the people responsible for crop upkeep is junior anthropology major and Green Intern for the TIGUrS program, Vanezia Hamilton.
Hamilton started volunteering in the garden her freshman year and was hired as the green intern in January of 2013. The junior said she sees a fair amount of foot traffic while working in the garden and said there is never a dull moment.
“I enjoy helping out and getting to see the fruits of my labor when things go well as we planned them to, and things actually grow and produce into something beautiful,” Hamilton explained.
Hamilton is not the only one enjoying the garden’s splendor.
Sarah Frew, a native of New Zealand who is visiting the U of M to collaborate with professors on brain dynamics and cognitive neuroscience and spiritual values, said she stops by the garden almost daily.
The garden's initiative at the U of M is a great model for universities and communities around the world, Frew said.
“When you are busy all day in the world living in your brain and in your mind, when you come to a natural environment like this it helps to bring you back to your heart center and to find that inner peace,” she said.
In an effort to create more community interaction and garden awareness, the TIGUrS program has two upcoming events aimed at accomplishing this goal.
The Students Learning Urban Gardening (SLUGS) will sponsor a Jamin in the Garden event on Oct. 2 at noon in the Oasis Garden. Anyone interested can bring a lunch and enjoy some tunes, while musically inclined individuals are encouraged to bring their instruments and join in the session.
The second major event is the Let’s Grow Tiger Expo on Nov. 2., which will include a day of entertainment, crafts and garden education.
Buddington said she is hopeful the activities in the garden serve as a reminder to students of where their food comes from and how it is possible to grow fresh organic produce in small places.
“We have become a society that doesn’t see vegetable gardens every day,” Buddington said . “We hope it is going to get people outside to be a little bit more active, and we hope it is also going to encourage them to eat fresh food. I think it’s the University’s responsibility to give our students a choice.”
Anyone interested in volunteering in the garden can contact the garden coordinator, Art Johnson, for more information.