New garden plants campus unity

Temple Community Gardens, a new student organization, plans to unveil a fruit and vegetable garden on Main Campus.

Temple Community Gardens, a new student organization, plans to unveil a fruit and vegetable garden on Main Campus.

Members of Temple Community Gardens work to assemble Main Campus’ first fruit and vegetable garden at 11th and Berks streets.

Temple’s freshest symbol of sustainability is taking root on the corner of 11th and Berks streets, as plans and plants are underway for the Temple Community Garden.

Dan Feeser, senior sculpture major, first conceived the idea for an on-campus garden last spring.

Feeser said part of the inspiration for establishing TCG were his fears about technology taking over.

“We all should have this connection to nature, which we try to get away from with technology,” Feeser said. “We have to take a step back and decide if all the effects of technology are really better than all the benefits. We need to start using nature as a means of technology.”

To get back to nature, Feeser cultivated the logistics all summer, ironing out proposals and seeking corporate sponsorship, but it wasn’t until this past weekend that TCG got to cultivate some soil, thanks to some of its sponsors.

Organics Mechanics provided organic coconut husk soil for the large bed, which is a more sustainable alternative to peat moss, and Primex Garden Center gave TCG a mix of mushroom compost for the small bed.

For the first season, cool weather crops like beets, turnips, spinach, kale and even kiwis are on the menu.

If all goes as planned, the ultimate goal of TCG is to first grow the crops on campus, then sell the crops to students on campus and finally send the proceeds to the SHARE (Self Help and Resource Exchange) food program, a Pennsylvania-based non-profit that helps people get a break on their grocery bills.
The initial intention of this project was a garden in the open lot adjacent to Tyler.

“Something needs to be added to this art facility that’s just naked and raw, and it needs some life,” Feeser said he remembers thinking.

He decided that life should come in the form of a fruit and vegetable garden and drew up a 15-page proposal for Temple’s Facilities Management to review.

Andy Riccardi, the associate vice president for Facilities Management, turned down the initial proposal for the Tyler courtyard.

“School is the first priority,” Riccardi said. “We don’t want students looking out the window and seeing something half done…and anyway, they’ll be able to expand more in the future at the new location.”
There were also concerns that the garden would interfere with the architect Carlos Jimenez’s design of the new building.

After this disappointment, Feeser revamped the proposal and offered to take any space on Main Campus that was available for the garden. Riccardi offered the 11th and Berks streets location, and Feeser gladly accepted.

This meant Feeser wouldn’t get the chance to see his initial aesthetic ambitions for Tyler come to pass, but his motives for establishing the garden were deeper rooted.

“I wanted to start something on Main Campus to create awareness about the importance of sustainability,” Feeser said.

“Tyler really emphasizes finding your voice and valuing ideas,” Feeser said. As a sculpture student, he found his voice in sustainable art. He adopted a utilitarian ethic for most of his work and said he aims to make his pieces functional as opposed to something purely visual.

Though he said the ideals of the sculpture department played a large role in securing the space for TCG, one of his main objectives is to solicit the involvement and integration of students from different schools and colleges throughout the university.

Feeser also said he wants to use the garden as a learning mechanism to teach people the basics of gardening.

“I want total participation,” he said, “but I also need dedication from students.”

“I’m interested in gardening, but I’ll probably kill plants if I touch them,” said TCG Treasurer Nicole Wilson, who has a self-proclaimed black thumb.

“[The garden] has the ability to bring people closer even if we don’t have similar interests,” she added.

“[TCG is a] great initiative to let people pass the torch,” Director of Temple’s Sustainability Task Force Sandra McDade said. “Working a garden builds fellowship among people, good neighbors and good students…it showcases what you can do with gardens in the city.”

Feeser said he hopes the garden will continue to grow after he graduates.

“In the future, I think all the food served on campus should be coming from campus,” he said.
“A very unlikely dream,” said McDade in response to Feeser’s inspiring idealism, “but we are always free to dream.”

Mary Hagenbach can be reached at

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