Memorial establishes community garden

By Janet Harron | Nov. 1, 2010

Students, staff, and faculty at Memorial’s St. John’s campus now have a great excuse for getting their hands dirty. The Memorial University community garden was launched with the help of more than 80 volunteers during Make Midterm Matter Oct.11-12.

Located in an ideal spot between Queen’s College and Long Pond on the north side of Prince Philip Parkway, the 72 by 95 foot garden is the result of a university-wide team effort lead by Dr. Rodolphe Devillers of the Department of Geography, Sustainability Co-ordinator Toby Rowe and Kim Kelly of Career Development and Experiential Learning.

“The garden could not have happened without a collective effort,” said Ms. Kelly. “This is an example of what can be achieved when people and units unite for a common purpose. Indeed, service-learning experiences that foster opportunities for students to learn about community needs and issues bring us back to the very roots of why universities were originally created. The garden is also a great example of a project that exemplifies four of the five pillars in the strategic plan: students, community service, resources, and responsibility.”  

The extended “garden group” also consisted of students, staff members, representatives from Facilities Management and University Horticulturist Chris Baird. This group was instrumental in developing both the proposal and final garden design.

According to the organizers, the momentum for a campus community garden has been building for some time and a planning committee was formed to complete a detailed proposal in the spring of 2010. The Senior Executive Committee approved the proposal in July and, as the St. John’s campus sits within Pippy Park, the park commission gave their official go ahead in September.

The garden is designed for use by all members of the Memorial community, including students, staff and faculty. Dr. Devillers envisions the garden operating on a leased basis or co-operative approach where people rent plots on an annual basis and  common spaces and infrastructure (such as tools) are available to be shared. He also hopes to see some of the garden kept communal for teaching and research purposes or even used to grow food for the campus food bank.

“As an island, Newfoundland is one of the most sensitive places in Canada regarding food security as we, unfortunately, import almost everything we eat. As the only university on the island, Memorial has a unique responsibility to contribute to the food security needs of the province,” commented Dr. Devillers. “This is a great opportunity to give students, staff and faculty exposure to gardening and growing their own food.”

For her part, Ms. Rowe said the garden project fits perfectly with Memorial’s sustainability declaration.

“It brings together many factors that involve sustainability such as composting, water conservation, and growing food locally. It will provide space for students and others who might not have access to a garden and be a place where people can learn in a fun and supportive atmosphere. It was important that the garden site be on campus so that it is easily accessible for all.”

Further work on the garden took place on Kindness Friday (Oct. 29) and on Community Service Learning Day (Oct. 30) when beds were prepared and the communal garden shed was built. The carpentry unit of Facilities Management was a huge help during the construction process, according to the organizers.

The next step in the evolution of the garden is the establishment of an elected board of directors. Once this is determined, registration for plots will be open in order for gardening to begin in spring 2011.

Those interested in receiving more information about the Memorial community garden can e-mail, leave the subject line blank and type “subscribe community-garden-l” in the body of the e-mail. A link to the garden website will shortly be posted at






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