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I try not to get to get my hands dirty. I never have the burning desire to get too close to nature — to plant seeds or tend to roots or play in the dirt. But when a friend told me about Project Grow, a student-led community gardening initiative sponsored by the WKU Office of Sustainability, somehow my curiosity was piqued.

“Project Grow is basically our method for turning this landscape into a sustainable, edible landscape,” sustainability coordinator Christian Ryan told me.

Under Ryan’s leadership, the Project Grow program has done just that. It has grown.

“There are seven Project Grow fellows, and they serve one year terms, and they’re committed to five hours a week,” Ryan said. “That five hours can be researching a best landscaping practice. It can be putting in a garden. It can be shopping for heirloom seeds. It can be anything that lends to the development of the landscape.”

The primary task at hand for those involved in Project Grow is maintaining the community garden, located on Regents Avenue behind the WKU Office of Sustainability. While the seven fellows each play a large role in the process, the whole campus community is invited to participate in the Project Grow through weekly community workdays, held each Friday from 1-3 p.m.

Frankly, I didn’t know what to expect. I have never been much of a gardener. The most experience I have with fresh fruits and vegetables is eating them.

That all changed when I rolled up my sleeves to test my green thumb and give one of the Project Grow workdays a try.

I, along with several other eager volunteers, was greeted warmly at the Office of Sustainability, a small brick house turned sustainability best practice demonstration home. We were given a quick tour of the office, where we saw a means of sustainable transportation, various growing methods and a pantry stocked full with free food.

After the brief tour, we were each assigned projects to work on.

I was tasked with pulling weeds, a job that may sound easy at first. However, before one can plunge her fingers into the earthy soil and begin, she must first be able to distinguish unwanted weeds from blooming horticultural gems. A Project Grow fellow noticed my hesitation and gave me a quick lesson in plant identification.

During my remaining two hours in the Office of Sustainability’s backyard, I picked tomatoes and peppers, stocked the shelves of the food pantry and thinned out a plant bed.

Other students turned compost, mowed the lawn and helped Campbellsville senior Alex Hezik transform the front yard — the basis for her Project Grow-centered Honors Thesis.

Hezik summarized Project Grow growing community of volunteers and fellows quite simply.

“It’s kind of like we each have our own niches in that way, and then we can also learn from each other too,” she said.

We got our hands dirty. We planted seeds and tended to roots and played in the dirt. We cultivated a growing garden, and we fostered life.

It’s easy to get involved at the Sustainability Office. You may just be growing plants, but you could end up growing a little yourself too.

 

Correction: Alex Hezik’s name was misspelled at the time of publication. This error has been corrected.