Community garden can be ‘applied education,’ adviser says

Eva Monheim acts as an adviser for the Temple Community Garden.

Students who garden in the local urban environment are able to plant a seed of healthy eating awareness in the surrounding community, as well as harvesting fresh produce.

Since its formation in 2009, the Temple Community Garden, located on Broad Street, has been run by a tight-knit group of students who operate with the intent of fusing the joy of gardening with spreading healthy produce to students and the surrounding community.

Advising the team is Eva Monheim, an instructor in landscape architecture and horticulture at Temple’s campus in Ambler, Pa. Although the garden is run by a group of students, Monheim advises them on what to plant and how to obtain supplies. She also works in unison with the students to help ensure the garden’s success.

“If anyone were to ask me what my No. 1 mission is, it’s the students,” Monheim said. “If there’s any way I can help the students or there’s a problem, that’s my mission. Students are clients. I am working for the student, and if the students weren’t there, I wouldn’t have a job.”

In conjunction with teaching classes and advising the community garden on Main Campus, Monheim also advises students in maintaining the medicinal garden at Temple’s medical school and the John Paul Endicott Memorial Garden in Ambler.

She also volunteers with Philadelphia Urban Creators, a group comprised of people who help to build sustainable communities in the city.

“If we have anyone wanting to start a community garden, we have to help each other and connect with each other in order for things to move forward in the green industry and in order to keep a pulse on what’s happening,” Monheim said.

Students work together to plant and grow the produce, organize dinners for the community using food from the garden and coordinate a small farmers market where the produce can be sold.

Not only is TCG a way for students to have a hands-on learning experience, it’s also a chance for the students to share their knowledge with others. The garden is used as an educational experience and as a way to enrich the environment around North Philadelphia.

The students also work with Penrose Playground to teach children how to garden and make healthier eating choices.

“In order for students to apply what they learn, they want to start projects that they could put their mark on,” Monheim said. “Students want to make a mark on the university while staying connected to the students, helping other students and the surrounding community – it’s applied education.”

Monheim often gives students advice regarding their involvement in the community and what they should plant next.

“The students consult me on what plants they want to grow,” Monheim said. “I tell them where to go and give them connections. It’s about having someone there to listen or to advise in some capacity and having someone there to give you the connection to other connections.”

TCG was sprouted by a group of Tyler School of Art students when the art school moved to Main Campus. The switch from a tree-lined campus in Ambler to inner city Philadelphia was a harsh transition for those students and the garden was a way to “soften it up” and give the art students more inspiration, Monheim said.

In its original stages, with the help from the Office of Sustainability and companies like Organic Mechanics and Primex Garden Center, Monheim was able to acquire money and supplies, enabling the community garden to become the established cultivation it is today.

“I helped to create a framework for the students,” Monheim said. “The timing was right for the garden to happen, and at the same time the movement for healthy eating and the idea of a raised consciousness within the student body was right. Those were all things that had to be in place before the garden was born, so having a group of students that had a similar desire actually pulled it together. I’m just one of the little cogs in the wheel that helped it get moving along.”

The students who run the community garden have a variety of majors, making it a diversified collaboration.

“These little garden pop-ups are really important,” Monheim said. “There are now more permanent places to take students to a site and show them something specific.”

Shayna Kleinberg can be reached at 

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