Story by Mackenzie Grimes
Photos by Luke Nankivell
The garden, over a year in the making, was possible only by the support of multiple community partners of Drake, including the State Farm Youth Advisory Board (YAB), whose $45,000 gift led development.
Drake students from several departments actively contributed to the project throughout, including involvement in city permits, publicity plans, environmental curricula for outdoor classes, design of the garden and translation for multilingual garden signage.
Drake design students were responsible for developing a suitable logo along with the garden’s nickname: Sprout.
“(This project) is rooted in the pedagogy of service learning,” said Madison Johansen, the project’s service-learning coordinator.
Johansen serves as a member of the Youth Advisory Board in addition to studying environmental policy at Drake.
“There are a lot of community gardens for kids everywhere, but the fact that this is a shared space with the university and the community and centered on service learning, makes (the garden) a very special place.”
YAB describes two main purposes of the service-learning garden: a unique classroom environment for kindergarten and graduate students alike and access to fresh, locally grown produce for neighboring communities.
With service-learning techniques of teaching, students “learn civic responsibility and develop meaningful leadership skills” by connecting service and curriculum through hands-on experiences.
The Aug. 15 launch was made possible by a variety of partnering organizations.
Fruit trees were donated by Trees Forever and planted by Drake facilities, the Boys & Girls Clubs, and other volunteers.
Seed Savers Exchange donated all the garden’s seeds, the DMACC Youth Build program built a garden shed for the storage of supplies and C. Green Construction volunteered to cement the design of the garden.
“State Farm is proud of what’s being accomplished with the garden at Drake University,” said Kelly Pargett, a State Farm public affairs specialist. “The University’s commitment to serving and educating the community is admirable.”
Featuring fruit trees and native Iowa plants as well as an outdoor classroom for 30, the community garden embodies the growing partnership of Drake and the Boys & Girls Clubs. Drake will use it throughout the school year for anything ranging from a fresh outdoor setting for class lectures to meditation classes. During the summer, the Boys & Girls Clubs will tend to the garden and build new horticultural (and life) skills.
“Everybody was super cooperative, but there was a lot of little details that needed to be kept track of and worked through,” Johansen says of the logistics of completing such a large project. “You know, it’s something you think about and organize (but then) you realize, ‘Oh! These are things we have to actually do.’”
Sprout is located on the corner of Forest Avenue and 25th Street, on the easternmost edge of campus.