Teaching gardens continue to have big impact on community

Sep 2, 2014

Teaching gardens continue to have big impact on community

Since being awarded a $2,500 grant from Embassy Suites and its corporate owner, John Q. Hammond Hotels & Resorts earlier this year, the garden project spearheaded by Chef Mark Bergstrom at Culinard, the Culinary Institute of Virginia College in Greenville has become a community affair.

Chef Bergstrom says the garden and the sustainability methods used to create and maintain it are having a big impact on the campus. Culinard students are taking what they have learned in the gardens to create raised beds and container gardens using sustainable methods at home.  Culinard and Virginia College are working to change over all their light bulbs from incandescent to more energy efficient CFLs. Composting and cardboard recycling are now commonplace on campus, with some students even bringing in recyclable materials from home. Rain barrels were added recently, which can hold 130 gallons of roof run-off water that is in turn used to water the gardens.

The Greenville gardens are also influencing the community at large. Members of the community have donated their time to working in the gardens and, in one case, 600 terracotta pots to the project. "It's turned into a true community event," Chef Bergstrom says.

In addition to the benefits Culinard and the community get from the garden, the $2,500 grant also helps to educate the hotel team on sustainable practices. Chef Bergstrom leads seminars at the hotel, training the staff on how to be sustainable at work and at home. The hotel staff has also become very involved in the gardens at Culinard. "The hotel staff members come over every other week," says Chef Bergstrom. "They do the watering and weeding, picking and planting. They really want to learn and help out." He says the staff is taking what they're learning and putting those methods to work at home as well.

In the past few weeks, students and hotel staff have harvested a few hundred pounds of produce to donate to Harvest Hope Food Pantry, a local non-profit. Fall planting has begun, and a newly completed greenhouse will soon be installed. A plant sale is planned for next spring, in the hopes of making the gardens self-sustaining.

Even with all the hard work involved, Chef Bergstrom says everyone connected to the garden project is having a great time. "Everybody wears their 'Generous Grant' t-shirts we had made (pictured below) and just has a good time," he says. "It's a really exciting time and it feels great to give back to the community."

Teaching gardens continue to have big impact on community

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