DescriptionThe urban campus of American University in Washington, DC is known for its green spaces. Its grounds serve as an arboretum, caring for nearly 400 different species and varieties of woody plants. During this Spring’s Campus Beautification Day, a new edible garden was planted. Aided by the campus’ grounds facilities management department, and in partnership with Smithsonian Gardens, the students of Professor Graddy-Lovelace’s International Food & Agricultural Policy and Professor Menke-Fish’s Visual Literacy courses were allotted a space in between the library and School of Communication for this ecological experiment.
All flora planted here are either edible or intended for medicinal use. Each plant is accompanied by a sign to explain why it was chosen for the garden. Students will be encouraged to responsibly take resources from the garden. The simplicity of the garden’s variety is also meant to be a lesson that students can grow their own food in their dorm/apartment windows or off-campus housing.
The focal point of the garden is an exhibition of Milpa, a symbiotic Mesoamerican system of growing corn, beans, and squash together without any artificial structures or additives. The beans add nitrogen to the soil, the cornstalk serves as a pole for the beans to grow upwards, and the leaves of the squash protect the roots and prevent any weeds from receiving sunlight.
Already, this garden has become a popular gathering space. On nice days the chairs are usually full of people in conversation enjoying the outdoors. It is nice to see the garden benefitting our campus community. The current location of the garden is temporary while construction on campus is underway. The plant beds and chairs will be moved to a new home on campus when appropriate. It is the hope of all involved that this garden can be used as a teaching resource for future lessons in anthropology, sociology, and environmental studies.
-Story contributed by American University students of of Professor Graddy-Lovelace’s International Food & Agricultural Policy and Professor Menke-Fish’s Visual Literacy courses.